There are many variations of Sharlotka Apple Cake out there. This recipe is light, fluffy, moist and delicious. It's a basic apple sponge cake made with only 5 simple ingredients. An easy cake to whip up at the last minute when guests pop over unannounced for tea. Simple and unpretentious, a classic Russian dessert.
Sharlotka was created by a French chef Marie Antoine Careme. It was made in honor of the wife of Tsar Alexander I of Russia. Early names for the recipe was Charlotte a la Parisienne, and then became known as Charlotte Russe. There are many different versions of this recipe, some using lady fingers, others crushed cookies. It has evolved to a simpler cake recipe with ingredients that everyone has in their pantry. In Poland, this recipe is known as Szarlotka, and is made differently.
This is my wife Rita's Sharlotka recipe, and I'm grateful she shared the recipe and baked it all for me. Apples and cinnamon are an amazing combination together, one that must not be tinkered with, even in the simplest of cakes. The apples aren't coated in cinnamon and sugar like they are in a pie, but are delicately sprinkled on top of the cake just before serving. The flavours aren't overpowered, but are separate and complement each other.
I remember my grandmother baking Sharlotka cake. Her recipe was even simpler, and didn't use cinnamon sugar. She always served it plainly without any sugared topping. As a teenager, I remember thinking it wasn't sweet enough for me, but not all recipes from the old country were drenched in sugar like most modern recipes are now.
The other difference is that babushka's Sharlotka was never flipped upside down. She always poured the batter over the apples, baked it, and served it as it came out of the oven, right side up. It's not traditionally an upside down apple cake, however, it looks nicer when serving. Modern Sharlotka's are commonly sprinkled with icing sugar which looks a bit fancy. However, I still love this cinnamon sugar recipe, my all time favorite.
What Apples Are Best for Apple Cake?
You can use any apples you have when making Sharlotka Apple Cake. Traditionally, many Russian people used tart apples like the Antonovka Apples, which seem almost impossible to found outside of Eastern Europe. It's a common apple grown in Russia that tolerates cold climate well. The Granny Smith Apple is an easy substitute, or Bramley in the UK. That being said, I prefer apples that are sweeter, so I mix together Granny Smith with a sweeter apple. Which apple? Any apple is sweeter than Granny Smith! 🤣 Fuji, Golden Delicious, Pink Lady, Gala, Honey Crisp...
How to make Sharlotka
There's a delicate balance of getting the apple and batter ratio correct. Adding too many apples and the cake will fall apart. Too few apples, and it's just a glorified sponge cake. That being said, this is an apple cake, so we use 5 apples. It seems like a lot of apples, but they do shrink as they cook down, making just the right amount.
This recipe is like an Upside Down Apple Cake, using a spring form pan. You need some parchment paper, or baking paper to line the base of the pan. Grease the paper and the sides of the baking pan. Butter is always tastier than cooking spray, but use what you got!
To make Sharlotka batter, start by beating the eggs and sugar in a bowl, until the sugar is dissolved. Add vanilla, and mix the flour with a spoon until batter is thick and smooth.
Peel and slice the apples thinly. Lay the sliced apples into the buttered spring form pan first, and the batter poured over top. As it cooks, the cake batter covers the apples all the way down the bottom of the pan. It takes about 50 minutes to bake, use a toothpick to check if the cake is baked. Insert the toothpick in centre of cake, and if it comes out clean without any cake sticking on the toothpick, then it's ready! Allow cake to cool for about 10 minutes, remove from pan and carefully flip it over upside down, then removing the parchment paper. Sprinkle with brown sugar or icing sugar before serving, it's that easy to make!
How Long Does Sharlotka Last?
It depends on how you store it. I use an airtight container and place it in the fridge for about 5 days without any problems. It also freezes well. Wrap the apple cake in plastic cling wrap first, then place it in a Ziploc bag into the freezer. It's an easy recipe to make, and it should be made and eaten on the same day when possible!
Sharlotka Recipe Tips
- Don't get hung up on what apples you need, use what ever apples you have, even if they getting softer, they are still ok to use for baking
- Instead of apples, use pears, plums or even canned cherries in syrup (without the syrup)
- It's not a mistake, there is no baking powder in this recipe, trust me, you don't need to add any!
- Don't use an electric mixer when adding in the flour. Just mix it in with a wooden spoon. If using a mixer, you can over beat the batter, resulting in a dense cake.
- Serve Sharlotka with creme fraiche or with sour cream sweetened with sugar
Other Autumn Apple Recipes You'll Love
This version of Sharlotka Apple Cake requires a bit longer cooking time due to the apple-batter ratio, but it's still a simple, quick and delicious cake to whip up at a moment's notice. My wife has been baking Sharlotka Apple Cake for 20 years and it's a family favorite. Simple food done well, is perfection. Bon Appetit! Приятного аппетита!
Sharlotka Apple Cake + VIDEO (Шарлотка)
- Butter or nonstick spray for greasing pan
- 5 large apples
- 3 large eggs
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1 teaspoon real vanilla extract
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- cinnamon sugar to top your cake before serving
- Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C. Line a 9x3 round cake pan or springform pan with parchment paper. Butter or spray both the paper, and the sides of the pan. I believe butter gives a better aroma whilst baking instead of an oily chemical aroma.
- Peel and core the apples, chop in quarters, then slice into thin bite size pieces.
- Place the apples into the buttered cake pan.
- Using a mixer or whisk, beat the eggs and sugar in a bowl until the sugar dissolves (around 5 minutes).
- Add the vanilla and mix throughout mixture.
- Gently add the flour and mix with a spoon until batter is thick and smooth.
- Pour over the apples in the cake pan, spreading it evenly over the apples. Gently shake the pan to allow the batter to go down to apples.
- Bake in the oven for 40-50 minutes. Check cooking time at 40 minutes with a toothpick to see if cake is ready (Some ovens this is enough cooking time). Tip: Don't rush the cooking time, or the centre will remain raw.
- When cake is ready, allow to cool on a baking tray for 10 minutes.
- Using a knife, run along sides of the cake pan. Carefully flip upside down onto a baking tray. Peel off the parchment paper, revealing the apple base (now the top of your cake).
- Sprinkle generously with cinnamon sugar to taste, and transfer to a cake stand or plate. Serve with thickened cream or vanilla bean ice cream.