Polish Apple Cake or Szarlotka

What is the Polish Apple Cake known as Szarlotka

The Polish apple cake, known as "szarlotka" or "jablecznik" could be placed somewhere between apple pie and crumble and it is not surprising that everybody loves this autumn treat. However, when you ask Poles what is an apple cake, you would discover that there are as many Polish apple cake recipes as the people you would ask. The more the better I think!

I love a good apple crumble, its sweetness broken by apples' tartiness and for the speed we can whip it up. However, my favourite apple cake is my Mum's trusted recipe - an apple cake on a shortcrust pastry that is rich, liberally smothered with a very thick layer of an apple sauce and topped with a golden crumble.

Sweet and Rich Pastry Base

You start making this cake by preparing a very decadent shortcrust pastry! You will need to separate six eggs and put whites away in the fridge. In a mixing bowl combine two cups of flour - I use white spelt flour - one teaspoon of baking powder plus a small pinch of fine Guerande fleur de sel, then combine the ingredients well.

You need 200g of a cold butter, straight from a fridge. An easy and fastest way to incorporate a butter into a flour is simply grating butter on a vegetable grater. It is less messy than dicing it with a knife also. Once butter is in, add six egg yolks and combine all ingredients together quickly.

Pastry's Secret Chemistry

It is vital not to overwork a shortcrust pastry dough, just make ingredients bind together quickly. You may add a tablespoon of cold water to help it combine faster. Never overwork the dough as it needs to be prepared while it is cool: transfer too much heat from your hands and you might end up spoiling it because butter may separate while you pre bake a pastry.

When the shortcrust pastry is done, shape it into a ball, wrap in a cling film and put in a fridge for about an hour. Then grease a large cake pan with butter.

Start Baking

When the pastry became solid in a fridge, it is ready for baking. You need to dust a worktop with flour and roll the dough to about 1cm thickness. Transfer it into a cake pan by wrapping around a rolling pin and unfurling it in the pan. Use your fingers to push it around, making sure to create some edges to hold an apple sauce inside the cake. Using a fork poke the pastry around and transfer it into a preheated oven, Gas mark 6 for about 20min.

How to Make Polish Apple Sauce

For an apple layer you will need at least two jars of apple sauce or more, but leave enough space for crumble on the top. I use home made apple sauce, with no added sugar, which can be prepared ahead using cooking apples like Bramleys.

To make an apple sauce for this cake, you will need 1.5 - 2 kg of cooking apples, preferably. Other apples might be used, however it might take longer to turn them into a sauce and you might end up with a few lumps. Peel apples, core them and cut in same size pieces. Transfer chopped apples into a big pot and add about 3-4 tablespoons of water.

Bring the apples to a boil, then steam them slowly under cover, checking regularly if sauce is not sticking to a bottom and topping with a bit of water if necessary. The rule is to steam apples and let them fall apart into a thick sauce, water is only necessary to steam them and to prevent sticking. Be careful not to add too much water or you will end up with a watery sauce. This apple sauce does not need any sugar and it can be canned easily to store for later.

Crumble Topping

While the shortcrust pastry is in the oven, it is high time to prepare a crumble topping! My family loves a generous layer of a crumble, besides it covers the apple sauce with a nice blanket, keeping it lush and moist.

In a mixing bowl combine 200g of spelt white flour, 100g of demerara sugar and 120g of diced cold butter. Work all the ingredients with your fingers until they become crumbly.

Finishing Touches

Once the pastry base is becoming slightly golden, take it out from an oven. Top the pastry with a thick layer of an apple sauce. Next, scatter the prepared  crumble topping over it rubbing the mixture between your fingers to create lumps. Those lumps will turn into yummy crunchy and sweet clusters after baking, balancing the apple sauce and a crumbly pastry base.

Once the apple sauce is well covered with the crumble, put the pan back into an oven for about 25 minutes. When the crumble is golden take the cake out of the oven and let it stand to cool down for a bit. You may serve the cake plain or with a helping of an ice cream or clotted cream.

Pastry Ingredients

2 cups of spelt white flour

200g of cold  butter

1/8 cup of caster can sugar

6 yolks

1 teaspoon of baking powder

1 pinch of Guerande fleur de sel - available in our shop, here

1 tablespoon of cold water (optional)

Crumble Ingredients

200g of spelt white flour

100g of demerara sugar

120g of cold butter

Apple Sauce

2 jars or 1.5 or 2kg cooking apples to make sauce from a scratch


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