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Easy Apple Cake: Russian Charlotte Russe Recipe

Marcy writes about cooking, hobbies, and many other topics. She has published hundreds of articles online and in newspapers and magazines.

A Russian Charlotte looks impressive, with its straight-sided profile.

A Russian Charlotte looks impressive, with its straight-sided profile.

Your Family Will Love This Easy Apple Cake!

Traditional charlotte russe is an elegant molded dessert set off by lady fingers positioned vertically around the perimeter—in fact, there are special pans designed to achieve this culinary piece of architecture.

A Russian Charlotte (Sharlotka), though, is much simpler to make, does not require a special pan, and is similarly impressive due to its light, airy appearance. The word "Russe" is French for "Russian," so the dessert name is slightly redundant, but no matter—the flavor will capture your taste buds, no matter what the name!

Some people refer to this dessert as a Russian apple pie because its single-layered profile, especially when prepared in a springform pan, resembles a pie. However, it requires very little flour (so does not have the carbohydrates found in pie crust) and once removed from the pan, it stands alone, like a cake.

The recipe can be made denser with fruit by adding more apples. When the eggs are beaten until very frothy, the crust or cake part of the dessert almost has the consistency of meringue.

For the best effect, use a springform pan. Charlotte Russe with lady fingers can be made in a molded pan (both are shown here), but don't hesitate to use whatever baking pan you have on hand—it will still taste great!

Granny Smith Apples—good for apple cakes or russe recipes.

Granny Smith Apples—good for apple cakes or russe recipes.

Cook Time

Prep timeCook timeReady inYields

30 min

25 min

55 min

Serves eight

Ingredients

  • 3 tart apples such as Granny Smith, thinly sliced (if you have an apple corer and peeler, it will go more quickly!)
  • 1/2 lemon, (juice only)
  • 3 eggs, can use egg substitute (will not be as frothy)
  • 1 cup (236.6 grams) sugar
  • 1 cup (236.6 grams) all-purpose
  • Scant 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • oil or butter, for greasing pan
  • whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, for topping (optional)

Equipment:

  • A Charlotte Russe molded pan (a springform pan will also work!)
  • A cooling rack
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Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (150 degrees Celsius; Gas Mark 4)
  2. Peel apples and remove the cores. If desired, slice into thin half-moon shapes. If you prefer diced shapes, that's fine, too. Sprinkle with lemon juice and toss to cover (the result should be a burst of tart flavor into your mouth before you taste the sweetness of the apple).
  3. Beat eggs with hand or countertop mixer until they're frothy (or whisk by hand).
  4. Add sugar gradually, mixing thoroughly so granules will blend well.
  5. Add flour and scant amount of baking soda, and combine to form batter.
  6. Generously oil or butter the springform pan (or other baking pan). If desired, arrange apples in circular layers, otherwise, place cut apples in the pan.
  7. Pour batter over apples, allowing to seep between spaces.
  8. Bake about 30-45 minutes (check at 25-30 minutes by inserting a toothpick)
  9. Allow to cool completely before removing the springform or (if baked in a skillet) turning onto a platter.
  10. Cut, Serve, and Enjoy! You'll love this moist, tender cake!
  11. If desired, top with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. But this cake is so luscious, it doesn't need any extras!
Russian Apple Charlotte (Sharlotka) may look like pie, but it's considered a cake.

Russian Apple Charlotte (Sharlotka) may look like pie, but it's considered a cake.

Variations for This Recipe

This recipe is given in the traditional amounts and has been a standard 'quick dessert' choice in Russia for many generations. When prepared as described here, it is very sweet (possibly sweeter than you may prefer).

If you're a fan of Downton Abbey, you may have seen elegant desserts like this one. Downton Abbey dining is done in the European tradition and the series' historians add authentic touches in the dishes served, the place settings and costumes.

A traditional version of this recipe uses lady fingers to line the pan (see the video here for tips).

How to Modify This Recipe:

You may wish to adjust some ingredients to adapt to your family's taste or for diet preferences. Here are some suggestions:

  • Reduce the amount of sugar: This will change the overall texture of the cake, but it still tastes good.
  • Add a dash of cinnamon to the apple mixture or when you mix the batter. This will give it more of an apple pie flavor (but the cake tastes excellent without this addition).
  • Use egg whites or egg substitute: The end result may not be as 'light' as the original, but will still hold together and retain flavor.
  • Experiment by adding peaches or another fruit to the apple mixture. You may have to adjust baking times, or add more flour if you use moist fruit.
  • Try using pears rather than apples!

Note: Some versions of this recipe call for four eggs rather than three, or for quite a few more apples. Because the recipe has a heritage of being a standby standard, people have adapted it to fit what they had on hand or the number of people expected for dinner. Feel free to experiment and create a version you and your family will love.

Serving Suggestions

Charlotte Russe makes a great table presentation by itself, but you can also add a few things to make it more interesting.

  1. Serve with hot coffee or hot tea. This recipe begs for a steaming cup of after-dinner coffee.
  2. Serve warm with ice cream. Yes, this is an American tradition, but I guarantee it will be a hit with any diner. This cake is delicious when still warm from the oven, and reheats well, too.
  3. Top with fresh whipped cream. Perfectly chilled and freshly whipped mounds of real cream will complement this dessert beautifully. Since whipped cream is rich and the dessert is sweet, you can cut down (or perhaps even avoid) the sugar you might normally add.
  4. Offer an after dinner brandy or liquor to guests. Since the cake is sweet, choose an aperitif that won't conflict. A fruit brandy can be used successfully.
  5. Serve with a fresh slice or spoonful of the fruit used in the recipe. If you're making the apple version. keep a few slices to one side (sprinkled with lemon juice to retain the color), and garnish the plate or top with fresh fruit just before serving. For the lemon version, a sliver of fresh citrus will look great.
  6. Sprigs of mint. Yes—that's almost a dining cliché, but they do dress up a plate!

Is It Cake or Pie?

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