As I wrote in our November Newsletter, Apple Sharlotka had become our favorite winter dessert. This “…labor-saving, timesaving and space-saving [cake]” is how author Darra Goldstein, author of “Beyond the North Wind: Russia in Recipes and Lore” described sharlotka to Olga Massov, who wrote about it in the Washington Post.
This wonderful cake has become our go-to early winter treat and I was making it all the time. To the apples I often added a cup of last year’s quince preserves, before making the new batch. Now that we have plenty of quince from our trees, I adapted Darra’s basic recipe for these fragrant fruit.
It takes a bit more time, since the quince need to be poached or slow-baked to soften, but the result is worth the extra effort, as you can attest if you try it…
For a 9-inch round cake –or equivalent square, or 1 large or 2 small loaves
3 medium or 2 large quince, washed, halved through the equator, then quartered to cut-off the pips (do not peel)
1 cup sweet wine, such as Mavrodaphne or Madeira
Olive oil for rubbing the pan
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt (or kosher salt)
1 tablespoon vanilla essence
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cup raisins
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
Place the rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350F degrees (180 C).
Arrange the quince pieces in a pan, preferably a clay or glass one, that holds them snugly in one layer. Pour the wine over the quince pieces and add some water, as much as needed to come up to 2/3 of the quince pieces. Cover with parchment paper and then with aluminum foil and bake for about 45 minutes, or until the quince are easily pierced with a knife or fork. Transfer the quince to a colander placed over a bowl to collect the juices which you can add to flavor tea or any tisane. Transfer the quince pieces to a large bowl or platter and let cool while you prepare the batter. Do not turn off the oven.
Line with parchment paper the pan (or pans) that you will use, and lightly rub with olive oil, then sprinkle with cinnamon.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer, beat the eggs, sugar and salt on medium-high speed until thick and pale yellow, about 5 minutes. Beat in the vanilla extract.
Gradually add the flour into the egg mixture, and gently fold with a spatula until just combined and no flour streaks remain. The batter will be quite thick.
Chop the now cooled quince in somewhat thin slices and mix with the raisins.
Spread the walnuts, then half the quince in an even, compact layer at the bottom of the pan. Cover with half the batter and use an offset spatula to spread the batter evenly over the quince. Repeat with the remaining quince and batter. Gently tap the pan a few times against the counter to get rid of air bubbles, and transfer to the oven.
Bake for about 50 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out almost clean and the top of sharlotka is golden brown.
Let the cake cool in the pan for about 10-15 minutes, then gently run a knife around the perimeter to loosen and carefully invert the pan on a platter and let cool completely before cutting to serve.