From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...Sharlotka is an apple cake that is very popular in Russia. It is simple and inexpensive to make, and it is undeniably delicious. It is a marvelous fall dessert that can be made well ahead of serving and requires only 30 minutes to prepare. The version I'm featuring tonight is a riff on the classic cake. I was fortunate enough to find Canadice grapes in one of the markets I frequent and I love to bake with them. This is an early ripening seedless grape that is unique because its wonderful grape flavor also carries a hint of spiciness. It is smaller than most supermarket varieties, and, while it is small, it can stand up to mixing without bleeding into the surrounding batter. I decided to make the cake with grapes as well as apples to see what would happen. The sharlotka is a sponge type of cake that typically envelops an apple filling, and I thought the grapes would make a good cake really interesting. It worked. I really like this version of the cake. I prefer to serve it warm from the oven, but the cake can be made early in the day and reheated for serving if you know you will be pressed for time. In Russia the cake is served as is, but a scoop of ice cream will do it no harm. I do hope you'll try this simple peasant-type dessert. I suspect you'll really enjoy it. Here is how the cake is made.
Grape and Apple Sharlotka ...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite inspired by Food and Wine magazine
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus more for the pan
2 tablespoons plain dry bread crumbs
3 large eggs
1/4 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1-1/4 cups granulated sugar, divided use
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
12-oz. small seedless grapes + grapes for garnish
4 large Granny Smith or other firm tart apples—peeled, quartered, cored and thinly sliced crosswise
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting
1) Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter a 10-inch cast-iron skillet and dust bottom with bread crumbs.
2) In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat eggs with milk, vanilla and 1 cup of the granulated sugar. Beat in 6 tablespoons of melted butter until incorporated, then beat in flour until a thick batter forms.
3) In another large bowl, toss grapes with sliced apples, cinnamon and remaining 1/4 cup of granulated sugar.
4) Spread one-fourth of batter in prepared skillet and top with apple-grape mixture. Using an offset spatula, spread remaining batter over fruit in an even layer. Garnish top of cake with extra grapes, pressing them lightly into batter. Bake in center of oven for about 1 hour, until lightly golden and a toothpick inserted in center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached. Let cool completely, then dust with confectioners' sugar. Slice into wedges and serve. Yield: 6 to 8 servings.
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