Last updated on July 14th, 2024.

Polish apple cake is a beloved dessert that combines a buttery crust with a sweet cinnamony apple filling. 

Sliced polish apple cake.

This classic recipe has been passed down through generations and is also known as Szarlotka, but for me, it is known as Mom’s apple cake. My mom is not Polish; she was born in Morocco and raised in Israel. And this Polish apple pie is one of a few recipes she has not managed to smother with hot, spicy peppers (plus this sweet Compote, and this Orange Chiffon Cake). It’s a recipe passed down, in writing, or through the rotary dial phone from neighbor to neighbor. One of those generous/friend neighbors was born and raised in Poland.  

This recipe reminds me a lot of this Israeli cheesecake because the base and topping are made of delicious buttery shortbread dough, and the filling is made separately. The fact that this cake does not have a cake-like crust makes it so unique and much more delicious. It is closely in competition with my favorite Jewish apple cake.

It’s hard to explain what this cake tastes like, but the buttery short dough soaks up all the apple flavors and somehow manages to keep its tender, crumbly texture. It’s one of those simple, rustic, and nostalgic recipes we easily fall in love with.

For more apples and Polish recipes, check out this Italian apple cake, this Caramelized Honey Apple Cake, and this Karpatka (Cream Puff Cake).

Ingredients

For the Dough

The dough can be made in a food processor, a large bowl, and a pastry cutter.

  • All-purpose flour
  • Sugar
  • Cold butter cut into small pieces; make sure to use unsalted butter/
  • Egg yolks.
  • Baking powder
  • Vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt

For the Apple Filling

I do not use thickeners like corn or potato starch in this recipe because I like the dough to soak up some of the apple liquids. This way, the dough gets slightly softer (like a cake) and soaks up some of the flavors.

  • Apples (Granny Smith or other tart varieties)
  • Sugar
  • Fresh lemon juice
  • Cinnamon. Feel free to customize the spices with ground clove, nutmeg, and pumpkin spice.
  • Confectioners’ sugar. For dusting the top of the cake.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Make the Apple Filling

  1. Prepare the Apples: Peel, core, and slice the apples into thin pieces, and toss the apples in the lemon juice.
  2. Cook the Apples: In a large saucepan, combine the apple slices, sugar, and cinnamon. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the apples are tender and the mixture is thickened. If the filling is too watery, mix the cornstarch with a little water and add it to the saucepan. Cook for an additional few minutes until thickened.
  3. Cool the Filling: Remove from heat and let the filling cool while you prepare the dough.
Apply cinnamon filling, before and after cooking.

Make the Dough

  1. Mix the Dry Ingredients: In a food processor, process the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. Add the chilled butter pieces and pulse until the butter is the size of coarse crumbs.
  2. Add the Wet Ingredients: Mix in the egg yolks and vanilla and process until a dough forms.
  3. Chill the Dough: Divide the dough into two parts, 2/3 and 1/3. Wrap the small piece with plastic wrap and place in the freezer, and use your hands to press the large piece into the bottom of a greased springform pan, or use a rolling pin, then use a fork to prick the dough.
Steps to make shortbread dough in the food processor.

Assembling and Baking

  1. Par-bake the dough for 10 minutes, and remove from the oven.
  2. Add the Filling: Spread the cooled apple filling evenly over the dough.
  3. Remove the remaining dough from the freezer and crumble it with your fingers or use a grater over the layer of apple filling
  4. Bake: Bake until the top is golden brown.
  5. Cool: Allow the cake to cool completely in the pan before slicing.
Assembling Polish Apple Cake.
Szarlotka on a serving dish with coffee cups.

Tips

  • Topping the cake. The traditional Polish recipe tops the cake with streusel-like crumbs, but I remember my mom rolling and cutting the dough into stripes, then arranging them in a lattice pattern, like this Apple Crostata Recipe.
  • Apple Variety: For this recipe, I prefer sweeter apples like golden delicious ones. However, I will add and say that the tart apples will hold thier shape better; you can learn more in my post on The Best Apples For Baking. Tatse the apples and adjust the amount of sugar to your likening. 
  • Dough Consistency: If the dough is too dry, add a tablespoon of cold water until it comes together.
  • Prevent Soggy Bottom: To prevent a soggy crust, ensure the apple filling is not too watery. There is such a thing as too much water. In this case, add two teaspoons of cornstarch mixed with one tablespoon of water and cook until thickened, or strain the apple filling through a sieve.
  • Topping options: Dust the top with powdered sugar or drizzle with a simple sugar glaze for extra sweetness. Top the cake with a thin meringue layer for a more sophisticated dessert, as I did in this Apple Meringue Bar
  • Pans and sizes: A springform pan is best for easy release. For a quick release, line a regular pan with parchment paper hanging over the edges. Use a nine-inch pan for a thinner cake that resembles apple bars.

Storage and Serving Options

  • Storage: Store any leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days or in the refrigerator for up to a week.
  • Freezing: You can freeze the baked apple cake. Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and aluminum foil, then freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight before serving.
  • Serving: For an extra treat, serve the cake warm or at room temperature with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream. Drizzle with sweet caramel.
Szarlotka cake.

Don’t forget to leave a comment and tag me on Instagram when you make one of my recipes.

Polish Apple Cake Recipe

Buttery dough filled with cinnamon apple filling and topped with dough crumble.

Course Dessert
Cuisine European
Keyword polish apple cake
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Servings 10 people
Author Dikla

Ingredients

Apple Filling

  • 8-10 small Apples, or six large apples. (600g)
  • 1 Tablespoon Lemon juice
  • 1/2 Cup Sugar (100g)
  • 2 teaspoons Cinnamon

Dough

  • 2 1/2 Cups All-purpose flour (300g)
  • 1 teaspoon Baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • 1/2 Cup Sugar (100g)
  • 14 tablespoons Unsalted cold butter (200g)
  • 2 Large Egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla extract
  • 1 extra egg yolk for brushing the dough (optional)
  • Powdered sugar for serving

Instructions

Make the filling

  1. Preheat the oven to 375F and grease the bottom of an eight-inch springform pan, or line a regular pan with parchment paper, making sure there is extra paper hanging over the edges of the pan for an easy invert.

  2. Peel, core, and slice the apples into 1/4-inch slices.

  3. Place the apple slices into a medium-sized saucepan and toss with the lemon juice.

  4. Add the sugar and cinnamon, mix to incorporate, and cook over medium heat for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the apple are tender but still hold thier shape and most of the liquids has evaporated.

  5. Remove from the heat into a container and allow to chill while you make the dough.

Make The Dough

  1. Pulse the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt a few times in a food processor.

  2. Add the butter and process until the mixture resembles coarse sand.

  3. Add the egg yolks and vanilla and process until you have a smooth dough.

  4. Divide the dough into two parts: 2/3 and 1/3. Press the large part into the bottom of your prepared pan. Wrap the small part with plastic wrap and place it in the freezer.

Baking

  1. Prick the dough and bake it for 15 minutes.

  2. Remove from the oven and allow the dough to cool for about 20 minutes.

  3. Reduce the oven temperature to 350F.

  4. Top the dough with the apple filling in an even layer.

  5. Remove the dough from the freezer, and crumble it with your fingers over the apple layer. (or use a cheese grated).

  6. Brush the top crumbs with an egg yolk (optional).

  7. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until the top of the cake is lightly brown.

  8. Remove from the oven and let the cake cool in the pan before inverting and serving.

Recipe Notes

  • Store the cake at room temperature for up to 4 days, or wrap it with plastic wrap, place in a plastic bag and freeze for up to six weeks. When ready, unwrap and allow to reach room temperature.
  • Topping the cake. The traditional Polish recipe tops the cake with streusel-like crumbs, but I remember my mom rolling and cutting the dough into stripes and then arranging them in a lattice pattern. 
  • Apple Variety: For this recipe, I prefer sweeter apples like golden delicious ones. However, tart apples will hold their shape better. Taste the apples and adjust the amount of sugar to your liking. 
  • Prevent Soggy Bottom: Ensure the apple filling is not too watery to prevent a soggy crust. There is such a thing as too much water. In this case, add two teaspoons of cornstarch mixed with one tablespoon of water and cook until thickened, or strain the apple filling through a sieve.
  • Topping options: Dust the top with powdered sugar or drizzle with a simple sugar glaze for extra sweetness. 
  • For the meringue topping, spread the meringue over the crumbs halfway through the baking.

Dee Signature
Spread the love