Szarlotka Polish Apple Cake

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Juicy, delicious apples grated to create a lightly crunchy layer over soft dough. This is why Szarlotka is better than an Apple Pie. To top it all, let’s mention the crumb topping dusted with powdered sugar.

front view of two pieces of szarlotka stack on top of each oterh, glass of tea and vase with pants in the background

Making Szarlotka, traditional Polish apple cake (sometimes called Szarlotka Polish apple pie), does not require any special equipment and most likely you have all ingredients at home. It comes together quickly and it will fill your home with the delicious smell of cinnamon and apples.

What is also great about Szarlotka Pie, that it is not a very sweet dessert. We are using little sugar and relying on the sweetness of apples. The final touch, dusting with powdered sugar is very minimal and it just adds a festive look. 

Adding raisins, sliced almonds, chopped nuts or meringue topping will make this Szarlotka looking festive.

szarlotka on a serving stone tray with powdered sugar applied, knife, few serving plates, bowl with powdered sugar, glasses with tea, plate with apples,

Why you will love Szarlotka Polish Apple Cake?

  • It is better than an apple pie
  • No rolling of dough required 
  • Easily adaptable to a vegan version
  • Perfect to use extra apples
  • Taste better the second day, let the apple juices infuse the dough to create another layer of flavor
  • Not very sweet
  • You can prepare the dough ahead of time

Ingredients, variations and substitutions

Apples – What is apple pie without apples? Polish apple pie is no different. Choose a mix of sweet apples and tart apple varieties for a balanced flavor. Experiment with varieties to find what you like most. Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, Fuji or Gala are popular choices.

Honey – natural sweetness and depth of flavor. Adjust the quantity based on your sweetness preference and also the apple you used. Sweeter apples will need less honey. Maple syrup or agave nectar are great substitutes. 

Cinnamon – warmth and a cozy aroma. Adjust to taste, keeping in mind the intensity of your cinnamon. Experiment with other spices like nutmeg or a blend of cinnamon and cardamom for a unique twist.

Lemon juice and zest – delicious acidity to balance the sweetness, while zest brings a burst of citrusy aroma. Lime or orange juice and zest can be an interesting alternative. 

For the Dough

All purpose flour – for a lighter texture, consider sifting the flour before use. Whole wheat flour or a mix of all-purpose and whole wheat can add a nutty flavor.

Baking powder – it helps the dough rise. Ensure it’s fresh for optimal leavening. If you prefer a denser texture, you can use baking soda, but adjust the quantity accordingly.

Salt – it enhances the overall flavor, balancing sweetness and richness. Use sea salt or kosher salt.

Sugar – to sweeten the dough. Adjust to your preference. Brown or coconut sugar can offer a different sweetness profile.

Butter – using very well chilled (from the freezer), grated butter ensures a flaky texture in the dough. Great options are part coconut oil or shortening.

Eggs – and egg yolk – helping create structure and richness to the dough. Use fresh, room temperature eggs. If needed, you can use a flaxseed or chia seed egg substitute.

Yogurt – Plain yogurt adds moisture and a slight tang to the dough. Sour cream or buttermilk can be used as substitutes.

Vanilla extract – enhances the overall flavor profile of the dough. Almond extract or a combination of extracts can provide an interesting twist.

szarlotka on a serving stone tray with powdered sugar applied, knife, few serving plates, bowl with powdered sugar, glasses with tea, plate with apples, four pieces cut out

Equipment you will need

  • Large mixing bowl
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Vegetable grater
  • Vegetable peeler
  • Cutting board
  • Chef’s knife
  • Parchment paper
  • Zester

Top Tips when making Szarlotka Polish Apple Pie

Apples – grate them if you don’t want to cook them; this will give you a nice, soft but lightly crunchy texture. They will also bake quickly.

Butter – freeze and grate it; this form is easier to incorporate with the flour using hands only

Cut the apples into cubes – if you like chunkier texture

Freeze the smaller part of the dough; it will be easier to grate it

If you like the filling to be softer, smoother in texture simmer the apples for 10-15 minutes

slices of Szarlotka on a serving board, cups and tea kettle in the background

Apples, which ones to use when making Szarlotka?

  • you’ll want to use apples that offer a balance of sweetness, tartness, and firmness to hold up well during baking. Some varieties that will work well are:
    • Granny Smith: tart flavor and firm texture, 
    • Honeycrisp: sweet and juicy with a crisp texture, 
    • Fuji: are sweet, juicy, and firm, making them versatile for baking.
    • Jonagold: A cross between Jonathan and Golden Delicious apples. Jonagold offers a balanced sweet-tart flavor and a firm texture. Ideal for baking.
    • Braeburn: sweet and slightly tart flavor with a firm texture.
    • Gala: are sweet and crisp, adding a pleasant sweetness to Szarlotka.

Do I need to cook apples beforehand?

The decision to cook the apples beforehand or let them bake during the baking process depends on personal preference and the desired texture of your Szarlotka. Here are some considerations for both methods:

Cooking Apples Beforehand:

  • Texture – pre-cooking the apples results in a softer and more tender texture. If you prefer a smoother filling with fully softened apples, this method is ideal.
  • Flavor – Cooking the apples in advance allows them to absorb the flavors of the added ingredients like honey, cinnamon, and lemon juice more deeply.
  • Reduced Baking Time – since the apples are partially or fully cooked before baking, the overall baking time for the Szarlotka might be shorter.

Leaving Apples Raw for Baking:

  • Texture Contrast – if you enjoy a contrast in textures, leaving the apples raw and allowing them to bake during the process provides a mix of softer and firmer apple pieces.
  • Freshness – baking raw apples preserves their natural freshness and flavor, offering a more crisp taste.
  • Juiciness – raw apples release more juice during baking, contributing to a moist filling.

Tips:

  • Thin Slices: Whether you cook the apples beforehand or let them bake during, slicing the apples thinly ensures more even cooking or baking.
  • Preventing Sogginess: If you opt for raw apples, dusting the apple slices with a bit of flour or breadcrumbs before layering them over the dough can help absorb excess moisture and prevent the crust from becoming soggy.

How to make Polish apple cake (step-by-step instructions)

For the cake/pie crust

  • In a large mixing bowl combine flour, baking powder and salt
  • Add grated (or cubed) butter, sugar, eggs and yolk. 
  • Mix vanilla extract with yogurt and add to the batter.
  • Process everything by hand or you can add to the food processor and pulse a few times to combine. If the dough seems too dry, add more yogurt. 
  • Divide the dough into two parts, ⅔ and ⅓. Store in the fridge and the smaller piece you can put in the freezer.

For the filling

  • Wash, peel and core the apples
  • Grate the apples; you can also cut them into bite size chunks or slice them

  • Let the grated apples sit in a sieve to drain any excess juice and moisture. You can dust the apples with a bit of flour or breadcrumbs. This will absorb excesses moisture

  • Transfer the apples into a medium size bowl. Add lemon juice and zest, honey, cinnamon and sugar, mix well to combine.
  • Optionally you can cook the apples for 5-10 minutes to soften them a little more.

Assembly

  • Place the large pieces of dough on a cutting board. Using knife slice it into 5mm pieces
  • Arrange the slices on a prepared baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  • Press the slices lightly so they can connect with each other. Fill any gaps with pieces of dough

  • Spread the apple filling in even layer over the dough
  • You can press lightly to fill in any gaps but it is not necessary
  • Remove the smaller piece of dough from the freezer. Coarsely grate it over the apple filling

  • Preheat your smoker to 375F
  • Place the baking pan in the smoker and cook for about 50 minutes

  • You can also cover it with aluminum foil to prevent the top from becoming too dark
  • Remove and cool before slicing
  • Dust powdered sugar over it and serve as is or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream

Oven instructions

  • Follow all the instructions for making the dough, filling and assembly of the Szarlotka
  • Preheat your oven to 350F
  • Place the baking pan in the oven and bake for 40-50 minutes
  • Keep an eye on the top. When you notice it is browning too much, cover it with aluminum foil
  • Remove and cool (15-20 minutes) before slicing
  • Dust powdered sugar over it and serve as is or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream
Slices of Szarlotka on a serving plate, vase with flowers in the background

Tips for success

  • Dough Handling:
    • Work quickly and handle the dough gently to maintain a flaky texture.
    • Chill the dough if it becomes too soft during handling.
  • Layering:
    • Press 2/3 of the dough into the base of the pan evenly to form the bottom crust.
    • Evenly distribute the apple filling over the crust.
    • Crumble or grate the remaining dough over the top for a rustic finish.
  • Baking Temperature and Time:
    • Preheat your oven and keep an eye on the baking time. Adjust based on your oven’s characteristics and elevation.
  • Testing for Doneness:
    • Use a toothpick or knife to check if the dough is cooked through. It should come out clean or with a few moist crumbs.
  • Cooling:
    • Allow the Szarlotka to cool in the pan for a bit before transferring it to a wire rack.
    • This helps the flavors meld and ensures the filling sets.
  • Variations:
    • Feel free to experiment with additional spices like nutmeg or cloves for extra warmth.
    • Consider adding a handful of chopped nuts, like walnuts or almonds, to the dough or filling for added crunch.
zarlotka on serving plates, tea, bowl with powdered sugar, bowl with whipped toppin

Best way to enjoy Polish apple cake

  • at room temperature dusted with powdered sugar 
  • at room temperature  with a swirl of whipped cream
  • slightly warm topped with a scoop of ice cream or dollop of yogurt
  • slightly warm dusted with powdered sugar and a drizzle of caramel

You may also like:

Storage and reheating 

  • Room Temperature:
    • Cover Szarlotka with a plastic wrap or transfer into airtight container
    • consume the Szarlotka within 1-2 days.
  • Refrigeration: 
    • Place Szarlotka in airtight container or wrap well with plastic wrap
    • Enjoy within a week
  • Freezing: 
    • Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and then in aluminum foil
    • Store in the freezer for 1-2 months
    • Thaw in the refrigerator before reheating
  • Reheating: 
    • Oven or Toaster Oven:
      • Preheat the oven to around 300°F (150°C).
      • Place the Szarlotka in the oven for about 10-15 minutes or until heated through.
      • This method helps to revive the crispiness of the crust.
    • Microwave:
      • Cut a slice of Szarlotka and heat it on a microwave-safe plate for 20-30 seconds, checking for warmth.
front view of two pieces of szarlotka stack on top of each oterh, glass of tea and vase with pants in the background

Szarlotka – Polish Apple Pie

Juicy, delicious apples, grates to create a lightly crunchy layer over soft dough. This is why Szarlotka is better than any other Apple Pie. Make this recipe and you will agree with me.
No ratings yet
Prep Time 35 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine Polish
Servings 16
Calories 253 kcal

Equipment

  • 1 large mixing bowl
  • 1 measuring cups and spoons
  • vegetable grater
  • vegetable peeler
  • cutting board
  • chef's knife
  • parchment paper
  • zester

Ingredients
  

For the Apple Filling

  • 3 lb apples
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1.5 tsp cinnamon
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice and zest

For the Dough

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 200 g butter chilled and grated
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 3 tbsp plain yogurt
  • 2 tsp vanilla

Instructions
 

Making the Dough

  • In a large mixing bowl combine flour, baking powder and salt
  • Add grated (or cubed) butter, sugar, eggs and yolk.
  • Mix vanilla with yogurt and add to the batter.
  • Process everything by hand or you can add to the food processor and pulse a few times to combine. If the dough seems too dry, add more yogurt.
  • Divide the dough into two parts, ⅔ and ⅓. Store in the fridge and the smaller piece you can put in the freezer.

Making the Filling

  • Wash, peel and core the apples
  • Grate the apples; you can also cut them into bite size chunks or slice them
  • Let the grated apples sit in a sieve to drain any excess juice and moisture. You can dust the apples with a bit of flour or breadcrumbs. This will absorb excesses moisture
  • Transfer the apples into a medium size bowl. Add lemon juice and zest, honey, cinnamon and sugar, mix well to combine.
  • Optionally you can cook the apples for 5-10 minutes to soften them a little more.

Assemble Szarlotka

  • Place the large pieces of dough on a cutting board. Using knife slice it into 5mm pieces
  • Arrange the slices on a prepared baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  • Press the slices lightly so they can connect with each other. Fill any gaps with pieces of dough
  • Spread the apple filling in even layer over the dough
  • You can press lightly to fill in any gaps but it is not necessary
  • Remove the smaller piece of dough from the freezer. Coarsely grate it over the apple filling
  • Preheat your smoker to 375F
  • Place the baking pan in the smoker and cook for 50 minutes
  • You can also cover it with aluminum foil to prevent the top from becoming too dark
  • Remove and cool before slicing
  • Dust powdered sugar over it and serve as is or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream

Notes

  • Apples – grate them if you don’t want to cook them; this will give you a nice soft but lightly crunchy texture. They will also bake quickly
  • Butter – freeze and grate it; this form is easier to incorporate with the flour using your hands only
  • Cut the apples into cubes – if you like chunkier texture; 
  • Freeze the smaller part of the dough, it will be easier to grate it
  • If you like the filling to be softer, smoother texture simmer the apples 10-15 minutes

Nutrition

Serving: 1pieceCalories: 253kcalCarbohydrates: 35gProtein: 4gFat: 11gSaturated Fat: 7gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0.4gCholesterol: 60mgSodium: 181mgPotassium: 141mgFiber: 3gSugar: 14gVitamin A: 409IUVitamin C: 5mgCalcium: 53mgIron: 1mg
Keyword apple, apple cake, apple dessert, polish apple pie, szarlotka
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Szarlotka Polish Apple Cake Conclusion

Have you ever tried Szarlotka Pie before? Well, now is your chance to make it. You will not regret it. Treat yourself to this unique Polish Szarlotka Pie. Every bite delivers a mouthful of delicious, soft apples and crumb topping. Lightly sweet this dessert is very delicious.

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FAQ about Szarlotka

Can I use any type of apples for Szarlotka?

Yes, you can use a mix of sweet and tart apples for a balanced flavor. Popular choices include Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, or Fuji. Click HERE to read more about Apple Selection

Should I peel the apples for Szarlotka?

It’s common to peel the apples for a smoother texture in the filling, but if you prefer a more rustic texture, you can leave the peels on.

Can I make Szarlotka Cake ahead of time?

Yes, Szarlotka can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator. It often tastes even better the next day as the flavors meld. Click HERE to read more about Szarlotka storage.

How do I prevent the crust from becoming soggy?

If using raw apples, dusting them with a bit of flour or breadcrumbs before layering can help absorb excess moisture and prevent a soggy crust. You can also transfer the grated apples into a strainer for few minutes. This will allow the excess juice to drain.

Can I freeze Szarlotka?

Yes, Szarlotka can be frozen. Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and then in aluminum foil. Thaw it in the refrigerator before reheating. Click HERE to read more about Szarlotka storage.

What’s the best way to reheat Szarlotka?

Reheat in the oven at around 300°F (150°C) for 10-15 minutes for a crispier crust. Alternatively, use a microwave for a quicker option. Click HERE to read more about reheating Szarlotka

Should I cook the apples before baking or use them raw?

It depends on personal preference. Pre-cooking results in a softer texture, while using raw apples provides a mix of softer and firmer pieces. Click HERE to read more about if you should cook the apples beforehand.

What’s the difference between Szarlotka Polish apple pie and American apple pie?

Szarlotka often has a thinner crust and uses a crumbly dough. The filling may have a higher apple-to-crust ratio compared to American apple pie.

Can I add nuts or raisins to Szarlotka?

Absolutely! Chopped nuts, like walnuts or almonds, and raisins can be wonderful additions for added flavor and texture.

How do I know when Szarlotka is done baking?

The top should be golden brown, and a toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean or with a few moist crumbs.

Is Szarlotka the same as Jablecznik?

Szarlotka is considered to be an Apple Pie when Jablecznik is more of an Apple Cake.

A real apple pie is made on a shortcrust as a base. The apples are chopped or grated into smaller chunks and often stewed. Prepared apples are layered over the pastry crust and topped with crumbled or grated dough 

Jablecznik – an apple cake, with variations when it comes to the base. It can be a yeast cake to a semi-shortbread dough. It can be baked with pieces of raw apple embedded within or feature a layer of stewed apples. 

I hope this helps clarify! It can be tricky – sometimes Polish apple pie and Polish apple cake are used interchangeably, but they technically are different.

slices of Szarlotka on a serving board, cups and tea kettle in the background

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