Charlotte, or in Russian – Sharlotka, was allegedly invented by a French chef working for the Czar and it’s the distant cousin in to Charlotte Russe which is a fancier dessert where the sponge cake in the form of lady fingers surrounds the fruit and cream in the center. In fact, they seem a little too distant to be kissing cousins but nevertheless if you know any Russians they’ll tell you they love Sharlotka so on to the prep!
This cake is easy and fast and will cook up perfectly if you pay attention to a few tips. First tip is to use hard tart apples. They will soften in the oven but will hold their shape. Granny Smith are good. Cortland, McIntosh, and Delicious not good, although I did once make it with Delicious (they were on sale) and it was fairly OK if somewhat mushy. Second tip is to use lemon juice (and a little lemon zest if possible) on them and mix well with the two tablespoons of sugar. This will enhance flavor and the sugar will mix with the juice coming from the apples to create a little caramelization on the bottom during the bake.
Other tip is to beat hard then fold. What that means is that you want to beat the eggs and sugar (along with the flavorings) until pale yellow because without baking powder it’s the egg whites that will lift the cake and cause it to rise. Once that’s done gradually sift the flour by thirds over the wet ingredients and gently fold in until all the flour is combined.
Finally, you’ll want to spoon or pour this mixture over the apples you’ve laid in the bottom of a spring form pan, smooth out the top and let bake for about 55 minutes or until the top is brown and a toothpick comes out clean.
Once cooled it’s good plain or with sweetened vanillaed whipped cream. For extra flavor add some lemon or orange zest.
- Butter or nonstick spray, for greasing pan
- 3 large tart apples
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice (to coat the apples)*
- 3 large eggs
- ½ cup sugar plus 2 tablespoons to coat apples
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ tsp. almond extract
- ¾ cup all-purpose flour
- ¼ tsp. ground cinnamon**
- ¼ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
- pinch of salt
- Powdered sugar, to sift over the top
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper. Butter the paper and the sides of the pan.
- Peel, halve and core your apples, then chop them into medium-sized chunks or you may slice them, whichever you prefer. Toss with the lemon juice and the two tablespoons of sugar and put in the pan.
- In a large bowl, using an electric mixer or whisk, beat eggs with sugar until thick and ribbons form on the surface of the beaten eggs. Beat in vanilla, then sift and fold in flour with a spatula until just combined. The batter will be very thick.
- Pour over apples in pan, using a spoon or spatula to spread the batter & press it down so that it covers all exposed apples. The top of the batter should end up level with the top of the apples. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes or until a tester comes out free of batter. Cool in pan for 10 minutes on rack, then remove springform pan. You may leave the parchment paper on the bottom or ease it sideways out from under and place on a cake stand or plate.
- Dust with powdered sugar and whipped cream if desired.
**Cardamom is a good substitute for cinnamon (or as an addition)