Sharlotka – Russian apple cake

Apple Charlotte recipe. 'Sharlotka' Russian dessert, pie, cake

Sharlotka, or Apple Charlotte is probably the most popular Russian sweet cake. It is famous for being simple, affordable and quick. No fancy ingredients are needed and the result is hard to spoil. If you need to fix something quickly for pudding you’d think of the apple Sharlotka as it takes no more than 20-30 minutes to prepare and about half an hour in the oven. Here is the recipe for Russian Sharlotka cake.

Sharlotka cake recipe: Russian apple sponge

Typical Charlotte in the UK and around Europe today resembles a classical English bread pudding. The dessert is made with buttered stale bread (or Savoiardi biscuits can be used) which is lined around the cooking dish to make a mould with the centre filled with fruit purée or custard. The Wikipedia also has Charlotte russe: ‘a dessert invented by the French chef Marie Antoine Carême (1784–1833), who named it in honour of his former employer George IV’s only child, Princess Charlotte, and his current, Russian employer Czar Alexander I… It is a cold dessert of Bavarian cream set in a mould lined with ladyfingers.

Apple Charlotte recipe. How to cut apples for Russian

As you will see, all mentioned above has little to do with the modern Russian Apple Sharlotka. Sharlotka recipe actually is for the sponge cake with cut apples baked inside. Russian apple Sharlotka is more a cake then a pie, in my opinion, but I don’t insist if you think otherwise.

In the Russian Sharlotka Antonovka autumn apples are traditionally used. If you don’t know yet,  there is no other apple like Antonovka in the world. This most flavourable and aromatic cooking type of apple is, unfortunately, almost impossible to find outside Russia and former-USSR territory. Hence here in the UK I usually use Bramley cooking apples and they work just fine for Russian apple Sharlotka. If you can’t get them try Granny Smith or any other tarter variety of apples.

Apple Charlotte recipe. 'Sharlotka' Russian dessert, pie, cake

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Yield: 12 Servings

Ingredients for Russian apple Sharlotka:

  • 1 Ts butter (to grease the baking tray)
  • 3 large Bramley apples, cut (skins peeled off if desired but I don’t do it)
  • some cinnamon to powder the apples
  • 4 large eggs
  • pinch of salt
  • 200 g (about 7/8 of cup) sugar
  • 1 ts vanilla extract
  • 150 g (1 cup) plain flour

Apple Charlotte recipe. 'Sharlotka' Russian dessert, pie, cake

Russian apple Sharlotka, method:

1. Begin by cutting up the apples. I cut the apples for my Russian apple Sharlotka into quarters, cut out the core, then cut every quarter into halves and then slice across in 3-4 mm pieces. Powder the cut apples with some cinnamon, shake well and put aside.

2. Grease the baking tray with butter. It is better to use a cake mould with a hole in the middle.

3. Turn on the oven to 170 degrees C (338 F)

4. Make the batter for Sharlotka. Beat the eggs with salt and sugar until all the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is much lighter in colour (about 5 min in high speed), add vanilla. Sieve the flour in and mix quickly on slow speed (don’t beat!). The finished batter should have the consistency of American / Scotch pancakes batter or about that. *

Apple Charlotte recipe. 'Sharlotka' Russian dessert, pie, cake

5. Pour a little batter to the bottom of the baking tray, just to cover the bottom. Put all the apples pieces on top, shake to even up. Pour the rest of the batter on top of apples, try to get it evenly among the apples. The batter will hardly cover the apples up, it’s OK. Shake again to let the batter go down through the apple slices.

6. Bake the Russian apple Sharlotka in the middle of the oven for about 30-35 minutes. Check with the toothpick if the cake is ready.

7. When ready let Russian apple Sharlotka cool in the baking tray a bit. Then run a knife along the sides and the middle of the baking dish to free the cake and take off the side of the baking mould. Now run the knife on the bottom under the cake. Take the cake stand and put it upside down on top of the cake in the baking tray. Now flip over with care and the cake will fall down on the cake stand. The ready apple Sharlotka is now the right side up.

Apple Charlotte recipe. 'Sharlotka' Russian dessert, pie, cake

8. Serve Sharlotka warm or cold. If desired, accompany with whipped cream, custard or vanilla ice cream, clotted cream is great too!

These proportions and the oven temperature will yield for a very moist tender Russian apple Sharlotka. If you prefer it a bit drier use 2.5 apples instead of 3. Baking your apple Sharlotka at 180 C  (356 F) will make the baking time shorter but I find that in my oven the top of the cake (to be the bottom) gets a bit too dry. You might experiment with your cooker if you wish.

Apple Charlotte recipe. 'Sharlotka' Russian dessert, pie, cake

If you have time, try to separate the whites from the yolks and beat the whites with a pinch of salt until soft peaks. Then separately beat the yolks with sugar and vanilla until the sugar is dissolved. Then carefully mix together with a spoon and sieve in the flour, little by little, folding in carefully with the spoon. This method will make the sponge even fluffier and your Russian apple Sharlotka will also look lighter inside. I also find it that using this method the cake takes less time in the oven so take care not to over-dry.

Also try to make Russian Sharlotka with plums, cooking cherries or rhubarb instead of apples. It is very good too!

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