Welcome to the land of Eastern European desserts, where a history of scarcity when it comes to foodstuffs has never meant a lack of flavor. Yes, we Poles are a resourceful bunch. When life did not give us much butter, sugar, or other “rich” ingredients, we made do, and we made do deliciously.
And while I can’t honestly say I have faced much material hardship in my life, I have benefitted from the desserts of my frugal ancestors. Today, I introduce you to the apple sharlotka, an apple cake that is about ninety-five percent apple. I almost hesitate to call it a cake, but “pile of apples held together by a thread of eggs, sugar, and flour” just doesn’t sound as appetizing. Suffice it to say, this is a classic Polish dessert consisting of a whole bunch of apples with just a touch of batter and a generous dusting of powdered sugar that does an excellent job of disguising the dessert’s simple nature.
While the classic sharlotka contains no more than the basic ingredients listed in my no-go of a title above, I have gussied this one up a bit for the fall. That is, if you can really call adding a touch of cinnamon and nutmeg gussying something up. With spices or without, I am sure the ease of this recipe will have you repeating it over and over again.
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
6 large green apples, peeled and cored
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
Powdered sugar, for dusting
Prepare a nine inch springform pan by lining the bottom with a piece of parchment paper, and buttering the bottom and sides of the pan lightly.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cut the apple into small chunks, and 1/4 of an inch wide at most. Evenly layer the apple chunks in the prepared pan.
In a medium bowl, beat together the eggs and sugar until the mixture appears to form ribbons on top. Add the vanilla extract and continue to beat. Finally, add the flour, cinnamon, and nutmeg, and mix with a spoon, just enough to combine.
Pour the batter into the pan. Use a spatula or large spoon to press down on the apples and batter, until the apples and batter are about level.
Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until the cake is browned and a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes, and then remove and allow to cool completely. Dust with powdered sugar, and additionally cinnamon, if desired.
Enjoy as a light dessert after a typical hearty potato-and-meat-laden Polish meal, or any time you are in the mood for an easy fall dessert.