Sharlotka – Russian apple cake

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

Sharlotka cake recipe. Russian apple dessert / pie / sponge cake

Apple Charlotte (or Sharlotka, as Russians call it) is probably the most popular sweet cake in Russia. 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.

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.

Apple Charlotte recipe. How to cut apples for Russian
Apple Charlotte recipe. How to cut apples for Russian

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. Alternative to this is a Charlotte Royale, has the same filling as a Charlotte Russe, but replaces the ladyfinger lining with Swiss roll.’ The etymology of the name of the Charlotte dessert is not clear. Among the versions are: the Old English charlyt meaning ‘a dish of custard’, the name of Queen Charlotte, wife of king of England George III Charlotte of Prussia, sister-in-law of Alexander I’s, Tsar of Russia.

Soviet / modern Russian Sharlotka with apples

As you will see, all of the versions mentioned above have little to do with the popular Russian dessert called Sharlotka – Apple Charlotte today. Sharlotka recipe actually is for the sponge kind of 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.

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

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 sharp variety of apples.

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 flour (1 cup)

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

Russian apple Sharlotka, instructions:

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 scotch pancakes batter or about that. *

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 among the apples.

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.

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

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.

8. Serve Sharlotka warm or cold. If desired, accompany with whipped cream, custard or vanilla ice cream.

Russian apple Charlotte will make a perfect breakfast if you are not too picky about the fact that you eat a cake in the morning. We, Russians, aren’t!

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
Apple Charlotte recipe. ‘Sharlotka’ Russian dessert, pie, cake

Variant 1: 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

Variant 2: Try to make Russian Sharlotka dessert with plums, cooking cherries or rhubarb instead of apples. It is very good too!

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