Fall has a been a tease this year in New England. One day I’m taking out my sweaters and boots and posting about apple tarts and pumpkin spice cake (so basic, I know), the next I’m sweating through my t-shirt and shorts in 110% humidity. These first glimpses into a season are exciting, albeit frustrating at times, and fingers crossed the chill of these next few days is here to stay.
Wardrobe overhauls aside, the change of seasons also tends to coincide in shifts in one’s life—this past year being no exception for me. After my accident in December sent me home to RI for a few months, I finally returned to Charlottesville with the thaw of spring. I’ll never forget that first weekend. I was heading to a small dinner party and on the way, I stopped at a friend’s house to pick him up. Thinking I was arriving to a Keith classically half-dressed, I instead found a whole room filled with my dearest friends welcoming me back. I’m overwhelmed just thinking about that moment.
Soon though—too soon—those welcomes turned into good-byes. The time came to finally put a bittersweet close to my life of seven years in Charlottesville. After a whirlwind cross-county trip with my boyfriend to Seattle, I flew back to RI and moved in with my parents. With no job or real community in the Ocean State, not to mention the emotional and physical roller coaster of surgeries, I wasn’t super crazy about the situation. On the upside, the downtime did allow me to focus more on my writing. I was determined to work on my blog, as well as line up freelance work and something to get me out of the house for the fall.
I’m happy to say that with the turn of leaves, my life has also taken on a different vibrancy. My beet green galette recipe was included in the latest Comestible, a rad quarterly journal that focuses on food and the places and people behind it. I have a piece in the works with a major food website, but I’ll keep mum about that for now. Most exciting, I started an editorial internship with culture, a national cheese magazine based out of Boston. After the relative lull of summer, the internship has introduced a much-needed change of pace in my life. It brings me to the city a few days a week and gives me an actual place to report to, new people to interact with, and deadlines that aren’t self-imposed. When you haven’t worked in over 9 months, having any sort of work environment is pretty refreshing. As an added bonus, my two best friends from college live in Boston, so my social life has taken a welcome turn too.
In light of all these strides, I’m celebrating this year’s arrival of fall by embracing it another way. The apple reigns queen during the cooler months and there is no shortage of cake, pie, and tart recipes to use them in. I haven’t baked a pie this season yet (so behind), but I have made this Russian Apple Sharlotka. Simple and yet so satisfying, it’s an apple dessert that almost every Russian woman I know bakes—sometimes, the only thing they bake. A cake pan’s worth of apples is tossed with lemon (and rum-soaked raisins if you’re feeling up to it) and then topped with a light, airy batter that nestles in and coats every nook and cranny. In the oven, the lemon-scented apples then cook and soften just enough to still retain a satisfying bite, while the batter turns into a soft sponge with an addictive top-crust. It’s a recipe for fall, but also the change of seasons—one you’ll keep coming back over and over again.
makes one 9-inch cake
Not to be confused with an English Charlotte, a Sharlotka is a classic Russian apple dessert that can be whipped up at a moment’s notice with very little ingredients. Perfect for when those unexpected guests or sugar cravings arrive. I’ve oftentimes made it for dessert only to find myself eating it for breakfast and as an afternoon snack the next day. I’ve jazzed up the recipe by adding lemon juice and zest to the apples, along with golden raisins soaked in rum—I love the latter for the texture and warm flavor they bring, but feel free to omit. I recommend using Jonagold, Golden Delicious and Granny Smith apples here. The cake can be baked in a cake pan or a square dish and can be easily scaled up or down. Well-wrapped and stored at room temperature, this cake will last for up to 4 to 5 days.
4 large apples (about 5 cups or 875 grams)
juice and zest of 1 small lemon
⅓ cup (50 grams) golden raisins
2 tablespoons light rum
1 tablespoon water
4 large eggs
1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup (130 grams) all-purpose flour, sifted
1 tablespoon (14 grams) unsalted butter
powdered sugar, to garnish
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform or square pan. Combine raisins, rum, and water in a small bowl and microwave for 45 seconds. Set aside to soak for at least 10 to 15 minutes. Meanwhile, peel, core, quarter and cut apples into ¼-inch wedges. In a medium bowl, toss apples with lemon juice (reserve 1 teaspoon for later), zest, and golden raisins. Set aside.
In a large bowl, beat eggs on high speed until light and frothy, about 5 minutes. Slowly add sugar, and beat until pale, thick and ribbons form on the surface of the batter, another 5 minutes. In a small bowl, combine baking soda with reserved lemon juice. Add baking soda mixture, along with vanilla and salt, to batter and beat to incorporate. Gently fold in flour until just combined.
Pour batter over apples in pan and, with a spoon or spatula, spread and press it down to cover all apples. Cut butter into thin shards and evenly distribute it on top of the batter. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. Serve warm or cooled, dusted with powdered sugar.