There is something very romantic about apple trees. I cannot quite tell why or what exactly about an apple tree seems so charming to me; perhaps a credit to Adam and Eve or perhaps because in folktales every foreign fruit is generically termed an apple – earth apples for potatoes, love apples for tomatoes, golden apples for oranges. Or perhaps because apples are a symbol of knowledge, immortality, temptation and even sin.
In late Fall when apples start falling off the trees, I get restless. Driving from one neighbourhood to another, prosperous with short stubby apple tress, I assess the relative negligence of their owners. Apples strewn across, underneath the tree, some rotten, some feasted upon and some giving shelter to bugs – it’s like no one cares, a wasted romance. I move on.
Sometimes, on rare occasions, the ground underneath the apple trees is as bare as the trees themselves. It would be hard to know if the trees belonged to a tidy gardener or someone like me – ready and eager for every bit of fruit from the garden. In such cases, it’s hard not to look at the house that plucked their apples carefully – not wasting, not being frivolous with its tree-borne valuables. Once the house gets noticed, it’s hard not to wonder what they might have done with their apples. Did they make jams, jellies, or chutneys? Did they cook them with pork chops, dip them in caramel, wrap them in pastry, fry them into fritters or bake them filled with oats, nuts and honey. Would they ever try to make the 20 hour apple cake, or even the 10 hour tart? Maybe not.
Here is a cake that celebrates the apples of Autumn, as they are. If you haven’t made a “Sharlotka” before, you absolutely must give it a whirl. Sharlotka is a Russian apple cake. This cake uses no butter nor oil in its base, yet it yields a beautiful moist consistency. The apples, being slightly tart, balance the sugar on the batter quite nicely. An original Sharlotka would not use almonds and is not served with strained Greek yogurt as here. The almonds that I added, however, give this soft cake a much needed crunch and texture. I am partial to sweet apples over tart ones. When I make a sweet apple pie or an apple harvest loaf I go for the Golden Delicious over the Granny Smiths – but that is just my preference. If you like your apples tart, certainly use Granny Smith for the Sharlotka, as is called for. In my mind, a mix of Golden Delicious with the Granny Smiths would be the best of both worlds.
Sharlotka – Russian Apple Cake
- Granny Smith Apples: 4 regular size
- Eggs: 3 large
- Sugar: 1 cup
- Flour: 1 cup
- Baking Powder: 1/2 tsp
- Vanilla: 1 tsp
- Slivered Almonds: 1/4 cup
- Powdered Sugar: For dusting
- Cinnamon: For dusting
- Strained Greek Yogurt: 1 and 1/2 cup, or as per desire
- Preheat oven at 350F.
- Line a 9 inch cake pan with parchment.
- Whip the yogurt until smooth and reserve in fridge until ready to serve.
- Sift the flour and baking powder together, set aside.
- Peel, core and dice the apples into medium chunks.
- Transfer the diced apples ingot he lined baking pan.
- Using a stand mixer mix the eggs and sugar until doubles in volume and has a thick pale yellow and ribbon like consistency.
- Add the vanilla and mix.
- Take bowl off stand mixer and using a wooden spoon or a baking spatula mix in the flour gently by quickly.
- Pour cake batter all over apples and gently press down on the apples so that the batter has an opportunity to reach every empty space.
- Sprinkle the slivered almonds on top and bake the cake for about 60 mins.
- The cake needs to be cooled in pan before parchment is peeled off.
- When ready to serve dust the cake with cinnamon and powdered sugar, and serve with a dollop of strained greek yogurt.