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!
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