russian apple spice cake – sharlotka

apple spice cake - sharlotka

When it comes to farmer’s market wares, my eyes are often more bigger than my stomach. I forget that I’m shopping for two and go overboard, returning home with bags practically overflowing with the market bounty even with the greenmarket’s current modest showing. I worry what will happen once strawberries and asparagus hit the market, along with their friends, artichokes and fava beans.

A few weeks back was no different. Forgetting that there are only so many apples two people can eat in one week before the apples are past their prime, I wound up with a few too many. And given that we were going away for Passover, I knew that by the time we had returned, these apples would’ve grown mealy.

too many apples in the house!

When I wind up with too many apples (which happens more often than you’d think) – I am loathe to let them waste and always try to cook them into something. Apple sauce often seems fitting and since I have enough friends with babies and toddlers, this has historically worked out to be a good proposition. But I was feeling nostalgic, and remembering an apple cake my mom used to make when I was little called “Charlotka” and wanted to channel that instead.

apple chunks

Because my mother operates according to the “a little bit of this, and a little bit of that, and cook until ready” school of cookery, I always need to test her recipes to come up with exact proportions. This is particularly true of baking – the woman cooks “by hand” and I, for the most part, weigh and measure. So armed with her ingredients and rough proportions, I cross-referenced one of Dorie Greenspan’s recipes that’s pretty much identical to that of my mother’s, and set out to make my own version of a childhood favorite, swapping in some whole wheat flour and adding cinnamon and cardamom into the mix.

grating nutmeg melted butter

The batter, almost too liquidy to be a cake, and barely covering the apple chunks went into the oven only to emerge, an hour later, puffed up and dimply, the latter being very good if you’re describing an everyday cake, or a baby.

to the oven!

Warm and perfumed, it took some time to cool – and we had to exercise a lot of patience not to dig into it right away. And when we did, it was just like my mother’s cake, only a bit more toothsome, thanks to the whole wheat addition. We’ve been treating ourselves to a slice after dinner, and one with our morning tea.

sharlotka slice

Not bad for a project that was only intended as a rescue mission. Perhaps I need to go and buy too many apples again.

Dimply Apple Spice Cake
Liberally adapted from Dorie Greenspan and my mother

1/4 cup (32 grams) whole wheat flour
1/2 cup (64 grams) all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon (1 gram) kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
4 large apples (900 to 1000 grams), preferably all different kinds, peeled, cored, and cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks
2 large eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated sugar
2 tablespoons (29 grams) dark rum
1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) vanilla extract
1 stick (8 tablespoons, 113 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled


1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Generously butter an 8-inch springform pan and place it on a baking sheet line with parchment paper.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.

3. In another large bowl whisk together the eggs until they are foamy. Add the sugar and whisk until well blended, about 2 minutes. Whisk in rum and vanilla. Whisk in half the flour and when it is incorporated, whisk in half the melted butter, followed by the rest of the flour and the rest of the butter. Mix gently – so that the resulting batter is smooth and thick. Using a rubber spatula, fold in apple chunks making sure that each piece is coated with the batter. Scrape the mixture into the springform pan and smooth it out as best as you can with a spatula. The raw cake will look lumpy, almost as if you don’t have enough better.

4. Place the pan into the oven and bake for 55 to 70 minutes, or until the top of the cake is golden brown and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. You might see the cake pulling away a bit on at the sides. Transfer to a cooling rack and allow to rest for 15 minutes.

5. Using a butter knife, carefully run it around the edges of the cake and carefully remove the sides of the springform, being careful not to pull away any apple bits. Allow the cake to cool to room temperature before removing it from the bottom of the springform (same process as removing the sides). Serve at room temperature. The cake will keep for a few days – best to over it with a kitchen towel rather than plastic wrap.


  • Molly

    Hooray for farmer’s market asparagus peeking over the edges of canvas sacks. I can’t wait until spring is in full swing here in Boston.

    I’ve never seen a cake like this before, so I’m rather excited for something new. One question, should the kitchen-towel-wrapped cake still stay on the counter in the kitchen at room temperature, or does this need to be refrigerated?

  • Brian @ A Thought For Food

    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve made this cake… the recipe from Dorie Greenspan is just pure deliciousness. And you described it perfectly! It really is just a little liquidy batter tossed together with a bunch of apple chunks. I think the butter and rum are really what makes this magical.

  • Radish

    Molly – great question, i keep my ‘everyday’ cakes at room temperature, it should last a few days without any problems.

  • Judy

    Did you use cinnamon and nutmeg or cinnamon and cardamom or cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom? Looks delicious no matter what the spices, but I’m just checking.

  • Foodiebia

    Looks delicious! I always wish I made more “everyday” cakes but for some reason I never end up trying them out. This one looks like it will get me in the kitchen!

    Do you keep your extra apples in the fridge? That definitely helps them keep a lot longer than they do on the counter. Mealy apples are pretty darn gross.

  • Radish

    Foodiebia – I don’t – because we tend to go through them quickly and because, to be honest, the fridge is so packed, apples and other non-fridge musts reside on the counter. Now – get thee to the kitchen – you’re gonna love this cake!

  • Robin

    This is just so cozy, comforting, delectable and I have to make one! It has been just ages since I’ve made an apple cake of any kind. We’re mostly a pie house ’round here and I do like adding a bit of cardamom to apples. You’ve enticed me to give it a try with your excellent post!

  • Sarah

    While I can’t say I’m sad you made this gorgeous cake, if you refrigerate your apples they will last for much, much longer and stay juicy and crisp. Orchards put apples in cold storage precisely for this reason – so that by spring you can still buy “fresh” apples!

    Which is why when we go apple picking even if I get over a bushel, I can stick them in the bottom of the fridge and keep them a while before what’s left has to be turned into sauce.

  • Radish

    Sarah – if we ever have a lot of apples, we put them in the fridge. But we go through them very quickly and our fridge is over-capacity. Which is why they’re not refrigerated.

  • Zack

    Thanks for sharing! This was a great cake! Just made it last night and there might be some crumbs left on the pan but that’s about it. Will have to make it again!

  • Shawna

    I cannot wait to try this cake (it will be Baby’s first birthday cake)! I just found your site today and absolutely loved reading this post. I think your words are just as delicious sounding as the cake. I look forward to reading more!

  • Shawna

    I cannot wait to try this cake minus the rum (it will be Baby’s first birthday cake)! I just found your site today and absolutely loved reading this post. I think your words are just as delicious sounding as the cake. I look forward to reading more!

  • Elizabeth

    Delicious cake! Just made it for my hubby to take to work. Contemplating making another one just so I can get more than the crumbs left over on the spring form pan since I doubt there will be much left when he comes home tonight. Very good recipe.

  • Lorna D.

    I made this for my Chekhov class and there wasn’t a crumb left! I didn’t have any whole wheat flour so I used 3/4 all purpose, I added a little more cinnamon and some cardamom as you described. Fantastic and really unique! My favorite comment from one of my classmates was “better than pie.”

    One small omission, you didn’t mention when to add the baking powder so I added it to the flour… pretty obvious but I’ve been known to omit an ingredient if it isn’t mentioned in the preparation.

    Thanks for sharing!!

  • Radish

    Lorna D. – Thank you re baking powder. I thought I had fixed it, but clearly that wasn’t the case. Fixed now! Happy Thanksgiving!

  • Jacqui

    Just made this cake and it’s fantastic!!! I will make this again, especially in the fall when I have fresh apples from the orchard. Thanks for sharing!

  • Graham

    Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Generously butter an 8-inch springform pan and place it on a baking sheet line with parchment paper.

    Does this mean that there is no metal bottom to the pan and you just use the parchment paper?

  • Radish

    Graham – no, it means you use the baking sheet in case anything leaks out of the springform. Does that help?

  • Marcia

    I love your blog and your articulate and informative and funny advice–not to mention your delicious recipes, always something new. I just made the Russian apple cake, using all ‘white whole wheat’ flour from King Arthur Flour. The batter was not at all liquidy, rather stiff like a muffin. Is this because of the flour?

  • olga

    Marcia – my one guess might be that your baking powder might be old? It goes bad relatively fast, so it’s always good to keep a fresh supply or buy a small jar if you’re not a frequent baker. Could that have been the culprit behind the lower rise?

  • Little Cooking Tips

    We were experimenting with a very similar old recipe this winter Olga. The difference was, it also had ground cloves. Yours looks amazing! Mouthwatering pictures, loved them.
    Great work!
    Panos and Mirella

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