Thursday, October 27, 2016

Slovak Apple Cake at Last

Okay, I have a little story to tell. My background is from Slovak and Yugoslav roots. My maternal grandparents came to the US from what was Czechoslovakia in the very early 1900s sometime. Grandma Pramik used to make something she called "Apple Cake", though it was not a cake, and it was also not - quite - a pie. I absolutely loved this Apple Cake, even more than apple pie! One time in my early days of being married and homesick, I asked Mom if she had Grandma's recipe for Apple Cake and she gave it to me.

Okay, as a young kid just out of teenage (I married the first time at age 20, just barely), I was totally inexperienced in the kitchen. I made the Apple Cake once, felt it was nothing as good as Grandma's, and never tried it again. Somewhere along the way, I lost the recipe, so I was completely without any real idea of what was in it and how it was made. My first thought was to ask my sisters if they had the recipe. Grandma had passed way before I was married, so there was no going back to the source. None of my sisters had the recipe, nor did any of them know what might have happened to Mom's recipe box. Drat!

My first try at Apple Cake
My first try at Apple Cake
At this point in my thinking, just now as I write, I realize there are also cousins that I might have asked!

But back to the point. So this was a couple of years ago or so, and I started looking on the internet. Any result for Apple Cake or Slovak Apple Cake just gave me pictures and recipes for a cake with apples in it. And Grandma's recipe was so NOT a cake! 

So, what IS this Apple Cake?

My first try at Apple Cake
My first try at Apple Cake
I guess here would be a good place to describe what this Apple Cake was. It consisted of a bottom crust, similar to a pie dough, but not quite a pie dough. Grandma's crust was always set into a rectangular baking dish and the crust went up the sides of the pan about 1 to 2 inches or so. Into this crust went an apple mixture. What made it different from an apple pie mixture, I had no idea. And then the top part gets tricky, because my memory of this dessert is about 50 years old, with no intervening tastes or views. I "think" there might have been a lattice type crust on top. And I "think" there might have been a drizzle of icing. I know absolutely there was no full crust on top.

So now back to present day. I have been reworking some old "cookbooks" (not published - just recipes that are either family recipes, recipes I have tried elsewhere and liked and recipes I have created. I had made them for my sisters and my kids, quite a few years ago. My son recently divorced his wife (whom I love dearly) and took the cookbooks with him when he moved out. My daughter in law was devastated. So I immediately went to work updating and re-making the cookbooks for her. And then I got thinking it might be good to make a copy for myself, but when I got to the specific ethnic recipe chapters, I have a huge amount of Indian recipes amassed, and a whole lot of Guatemalan recipes. but ultimately, not all that many from my own ethnic background. Years ago I had searched for some of the names of recipes I knew and had eaten, such as my paternal Grandma Hromish's "Machanka," a sweet-sour tomato gravy. Nothing I searched came even close. A couple of days ago I went searching again and Eureka! I found it! With that little win, I felt it was time to search for Apple Cake once more and - once again, Eureka! I found it. 

That said, I am not at all sure how close to Grandma's the recipes I saw might be. Even though I can sort of still imagine eating that Apple Cake, 50-ish years is a really long time for a taste memory to hold up. But I found recipes, and that is a start. Yesterday I set about trying one recipe out. It comes from a site called When I went to make the crust I found that I had run out of all-purpose flour! So instead I used half white whole wheat flour and half cake flour. Because of the white whole wheat, which is "thirstier" than all purpose, I had to use 6 tablespoons of milk to get the dough to come together. The flavor of the crust is excellent. The apples in the recipe I found were grated and called for no thickening. I felt it might need some thickening so I added 2 tablespoons of flour, and since Grandma always used sliced apples, I did too. There are so many photos of this out there now, and the photos show  grated apples or sliced apples. There are photos with no top crust, a lattice top crust and full top crust, and some even used streusel. 

Because of looking up such things, I also encountered a wonderful blog site. A woman from Canada is living in Slovakia with her husband and 4 children. So interesting! Check it out at

Meanwhile, here is my first try at making Apple Cake, or Jablkový Koláč.

My Apple Cake
My Apple Cake

Apple Cake - Jablkový Koláč

Makes one 9 x 13-inch pan

4 cups all-purpose flour (or 2 cups white whole wheat + 2 cups cake flour)
1 cup cold unsalted butter (2 sticks / 1/2 pound)
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs 
2 tablespoons milk, or more as needed
2 pounds apples
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1 tablespoon milk

Preheat oven to 375. Lightly spray a 9 x 13-inch baking dish with cooking spray.

Stir or whisk together in a  large bowl the flour(s) confectioners' sugar, salt and baking powder. Cut in, as for pie dough, the butter. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk, then pour into the flour mixture and toss with a fork. If the mixture does not come together, add more milk, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough comes together. Allowing the mixture to set for 15 minutes will make the dough more workable.

Peel, core and slice apples. Place in a bowl and add in the sugar, flour, vanilla and cinnamon. Stir well and set aside.

Divide dough in half. Dust a surface with flour and set one half of the dough onto the surface, and dust top with more flour. Roll out to fit the baking dish with edges of dough up to top of pan (both dough and filling are generous!). Pour in the apples and smooth into place. Roll out the remaining dough and cut into long strips about 1-inch wide. Set them diagonally onto the apples, spaced about an inch apart. Then set more crosswise to these first strips. Brush the top of the dough with more milk if desired. 

Bake the Apple Cake for about 45 to 55 minutes, or until the apples are bubbling and the crust is golden.  

Cool the Apple Cake before drizzling with a glaze made from mixing the half-cup confectioners' sugar and milk. Cut into squares for serving.

I tasted the Apple Cake and while my memory is poor, it seems to have some resemblance to Grandma's. I feel that the crust is far too generous. I may have to reduce it by about a third. More experimentation is needed. For now, I am well-pleased!  

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. I am also on a spiritual journey and hope you will join me at my new blog, An Eagle Flies.