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Polish Apple Cake – Szarlotka

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In America, we may be awfully proud of our apple pie, but we promise you the Polish Szarlotka gives us a good run for our money. More like a cake and a little reminiscent of a cobbler, Szarlotka (“cake with apples”) is less sweet than apple pie and has a denser, cakey crust with a crumbly top.

Polish Apple Cake is found all over Poland, in restaurants, in bakeries, and in homes throughout the country. The cake seems to have as many variations as it does bakers. Some use plain apples that are uncooked, while others use spices or raisins or nuts. Some use a crispy crumble on the top, while others simply top it with another layer of cake… some even have a meringue topping!

We like ours with a thick, cakey bottom that’s similar to shortbread and a simple topping of more of that delicious dough. The secret is to freeze the dough for the topping while you’re working on the rest of the cake and grate it over the top. This ensures that the topping comes out lighter and more crumbly than the sturdy cake beneath it. We think this is one of those cakes that’s best baked the day before you need it. It gives it a chance for the cake on the bottom to absorb some of that wonderful apple and cinnamon flavor. Leave your rolling pin in the cupboard and give this a try; we don’t know if you’ll go back to old-fashioned apple pie again!

Polish Apple Cake

1 hour to prepare serves 8-10

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar, divided
  • 4 apples, peeled, cored, and very thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cubed
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
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Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F and lightly grease a 9-inch springform pan with butter or non-stick spray.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, salt, and 3/4 cup of the sugar. Cut in the butter, using a pastry blender or a fork until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
  3. Add eggs and mix until evenly moist. Add the milk, mixing with your hands until dough is firm but sticky.
  4. Divide the dough in two, roughly 2/3 and 1/3. Wrap the smaller section in plastic wrap and chill in freezer while you assemble the rest of the cake.
  5. Press larger portion of dough into prepared pan. Place in oven and bake until puffy and starting to turn golden, about 15 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, cook apples, 1/4 cup sugar, and cinnamon in a large pan over medium heat until apples have softened, about 5 minutes.
  7. Remove pan from oven and spread apples evenly over the top of crust. Remove remaining crust from freezer and grate it evenly over the top, or crumble it with your fingers.
  8. Return pan to oven and bake until top is golden, 40-45 minutes.
  9. Remove from oven and let cool completely on a wire rack before serving.

Adapted from The Spruce.

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