My baking is often dictated by what I have in abundance in my kitchen. My husband and I order from a local produce co-op, which forces me out of my comfort zone with produce that I would not normally buy on my own. Things like eggplant and rhubarb, fresh ginger and blood oranges, which are delicious, are not on my everyday shopping list and sometimes aren’t even available at our local grocery store (we have to shop within a budget so I don’t tend to shop at the higher end stores except for occasionally when I need a special ingredient!).
This weeks’ overabundance, though, is not an uncommon ingredient for a special occasion recipe. It’s apples. Yep, plain ‘ole apples. I have several varieties and love to eat them fresh at least once a day. But last weekend we had a going away luncheon for a very special teacher at my kids’ elementary/middle school. My kids have all three attended Zion Lutheran School in Bethalto, Illinois from Kindergarten to 8th grade. My youngest has just completed 7th grade there and we have become so attached to the school and the staff. My husband and I are both very involved in both the church and the school and have met some of the most amazing people there! One of them is the fabulous Kindergarten teacher, Trella. Seventeen years ago, my oldest, shyest, most clingy child started Kindergarten with Trella. From the second we walked in the door, I knew my baby would be more than just OK. I have trusted all three of my babies to this wonderful woman and will be eternally grateful to her for all that she has taught my children!
The church basement was decorated last Sunday for Trella’s retirement luncheon with pictures of all 37 Kindergarten classes she has taught, tablecloths made by the entire school covered with students memories of being in her class and, of course, APPLES! Apples on all of the tables with balloons and flowers. Many of the apples ended up at our house after the luncheon and I ate as many as I could but I knew I would end up baking with some of them! I have a wonderful recipe for an apple coffee cake but it is full of butter and sugar and I just wanted something lighter and a bit different.
So I went to pinterest of course to look for some apple recipes! When I saw a pin for a Russian Apple Cake by a lady with an entire board of Homeland Russian recipes, I knew I had to give it a shot. The cake is called Sharlotka and it is known as a Russian Apple Pie but, in truth, it’s not a pie because it has no crust. It is sort of cake-y but it isn’t really a cake either. I wanted to try the most authentic recipe I could find so I searched and searched and found what looked like a basic, old world recipe on several different sites.
It was very egg-y and called for the apples to be thinly sliced and layered in the bottom of the pan, like in apple pie. I was doubtful of the recipe just because it has very few ingredients and the ratio of eggs to flour seemed odd to me. But I went with it and made it with the traditional recipe. Below are a few pictures from my first Sharlotka.
You can see in the last image that the apples stayed firm and layered. I shook the pan a bit after adding the batter to the apples so that the batter would sink in between them a bit. But even though I baked it longer than the recommended time (recipe called for 50 minutes, I baked for 60) and a toothpick inserted in several spots came out clean, the cake is very dense and appears to not be baked enough. This seems to be the result that most people got with several very similar recipes so I am assuming that the dense cake is the way the cake/pie is meant to be. Unfortunately, my family did not like the texture or the egg-y flavor! So I got to work on my own version!
I really wanted something more cake-y instead of dense almost-pie. So I cut the number of eggs in half, used a little less flour and diced the apples instead of slicing and layering. Oh, yeah – and I added some spice. I mean, what goes better with apples than a little cinnamon and nutmeg?? The end result of my second attempt was exactly what I was looking for! Maybe not authentic Russian Sharlotka but I gotta’ please the masses! And it IS INSPIRED by a traditional recipe!
A bit rustic, but very delicious! Try it out and let me know what you think! It is super easy to throw together and doesn’t have very many ingredients, even though I added a few to the original list!
- 3 medium tart apples, peeled, cored and diced
- 1 tbsp. lemon juice
- 3 eggs, at room temperature
- 1 cup plus 2 tbsp. granulated sugar
- 1/2 almond extract
- 3/4 cup all purpose flour
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp salt
- powdered sugar for dusting
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 9 inch spring form pan, line the bottom with parchment paper, flour the sides and the spray the top of the parchment paper with baking spray.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream together the eggs and sugar until lightened in color and doubled in volume, about 8 minutes.
- While the eggs are missing, peel, core and dice your apples. I used Honeycrisp apples because that is what I had on hand. Any tart, firm apple will do.
- Put apples in a bowl, mix in the lemon juice and about two tablespoons of the sugar. Stir together and set aside.
- Add almond extract to the egg mixture and mix together briefly.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.
- Add about 1/2 of the flour mixture to the eggs and sugar and very gently fold in with a silicone spatula. When that is incorporated, add the rest of the flour and fold in gently. Be very careful not to over mix because this will knock the air out of the mixture.
- Place about 1/2 of the diced apples in the bottom of the prepared pan. Gently add the remaining apples to the batter in the bowl and gently fold them in. Pour the batter into the pan on top of the layer of apples.
- Bake for about 50 minutes of until a toothpick or cake tester inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean.
- Run a knife around the edges of the pan to make sure that the sides don’t stick. Let cake cool for about 5 minutes in the pan then remove the ring of the spring form pan. Let cool for another 10 minutes then flip the cake onto a cooling rack and remove the bottom of the spring form pan and the parchment paper.
- As soon as you remove the parchment paper, turn cake back over with the top side facing up. Let cake cool COMPLETELY.
- Once the cake is cool, dust liberally with powdered sugar.
Perfectly spiced, perfectly cakey, delightful chunks of apple. The perfect treat!