From France to Russian Grandmothers, with love

You realize I couldn’t resist saying that right?

This week we round out the apple-o-rama with a cake that is really a pie.  I found this recipe while looking for another in Dorie Greenspan’s Baking from My Home to Yours.  It was one of those recipes that I knew I had to try the moment I saw it.  She’s named it Russian Grandmothers’ Apple Pie-Cake after a version her own grandmother made when Dorie was a child.  And it has a secret weapon: cookie-like crust.  For those of us who continue to fear pie crust, this version is almost as easy as press-in dough.

The dough is very much like a butter or even sugar cookie dough.  After it is pulled together, it gets a nice cool-down in the fridge and then you roll it out (as always, I suggest this method).  But, let’s talk about apples first, shall we?

Ms. Greenspan recommends a mix of apples.  I concur.  I used a couple of Granny Smiths, some Gala and a Golden Delicious or two to round-out the selection.

This recipe calls for 10 apples in all (you can never have too many apples, especially in this recipe).

The instructions say to slice these babies in 1/4 inch slices and then halve them if desired.  I left mine just a tad chunkier.

Before they are set aside to marinate for a bit, the apples get tossed with raisins (I used golden), a little sugar, and some cinnamon.  After making this recipe once, I decided that the next go around will include dried cranberries.  I think dried cherries would also be fantastic in this recipe.

Back to the dough.  As you can see, the original version of this recipe utilized a 9X13 inch pan, and you’ll see why in a minute.  Rolling out a perfect 11X15 inch rectangle of dough isn’t all that easy.  However–because the dough has a leavening agent (aka baking powder), any little cracks or patches in the dough fuse together as if they never happened.  For this reason, you can easily piece the dough of the bottom or even top layers together.

During the baking process the sugar dough and apples sort of mate.  The juices soak into the crusts and the result really is a bit like a pie-cake hybrid.  Or at least hybrid enough to cut into squares and still have the pieces maintain their integrity.

Of all the apple treats I’ve baked over the last month, this one has had the most recipes requests by far.

Because of it’s portability and sheer volume of final product, I think this pie-cake would make a perfect potluck dessert (think Thanksgiving).  According to Dorie, this recipe can easily be converted to a deep-dish pie; which I will be doing for my own Thanksgiving.  The dough instructions stay the same but the filling changes as follows: 8 apples, a squirt of lemon juice, 3/4 C raisins, 3 TBS sugar and 1 tsp cinnamon.


The Katy Perry station on Pandora.  It’s not my fault, TD set it.  And, he’s passed blame-off to the fluffy Kitchen God.  Apparently Balu enjoys the occasional bubblegum pop tune.

Russian Grandmothers’ Apple Pie-Cake

from Baking from My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan


for the dough

  • 1/2 LB unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 C sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 TBS baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • juice of one lemon
  • 3 1/4 to 3 1/2 C all-purpose flour

for the apples

  • 10 medium assorted apples (or all of one kind, your choice)
  • squirt of fresh lemon juice
  • 1 C moist, plump raisins
  • 1/4 C sugar
  • 1 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon


to make the dough

  1. In a standing mixer fitted with a paddle, beat the butter and sugar together on medium speed until smooth, about 2 minutes.
  2. Add the eggs and continue to beat until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 3 more minutes.
  3. Reduce the mixer speed to low, add the baking powder and salt and mix to just combined.
  4. Add-in the lemon juice (don’t worry if the dough curdles).
  5. Still working on slow speed, slowly but steadily add 3 1/4 C of flour, scraping down the bowl as needed.  While the dough is meant to be soft, if it looks more like batter than dough, add remaining 1/4 C flour.  When properly combined, the dough should almost clean the sides of the bowl.
  6. Turn the dough out onto a work surface, gather it into a ball and divide it into half.  Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for at least two hours, or up to 3 days.

To make the apples

  1. Peel and core the apples and cut into slices about 1/4 inch thick then cut the slices in half cross-wise if desired.  Toss the slices in a both with a little lemon juice and add the raisins.  Mix together the cinnamon and sugar, sprinkle of the apples and stir evenly.  Taste and apple and adjust sugar as needed.

Putting it all together

  1. Center rack in the oven and preheat to 375 degrees.  Generously butter and line with parchment a 9X13 inch baking pan.
  2. Remove the dough from the fridge.  If it is too hard to roll and cracks, let it sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes or give it a few bashes with your rolling pin to get it moving (I did both, very satisfying).
  3. Spread the dough between two layers of parchment and carefully roll dough to about 1/4 inch thick.  You can go for the gold and try to roll-out an 11X 15 inch rectangle or you can roll out smaller pieces and patch them together in the pan.
  4. Transfer the dough to the pan.  In a perfect world you want the dough to come up the sides a bit–but in the end it doesn’t matter because of the magic and forgiving puff-factor.
  5. Give the apples another toss in the bowl, then turn them into the pan and evenly spread them across the bottom.
  6. Roll-out the second piece of dough and position it over the apples.  Cut the dough so you’ve got a 1/4 to 1/2 inch overhand and tuck the excess into the side of the pan, as though you were making a bed.
  7. If prepping in advance, you can stop here and refrigerate overnight. Otherwise…
  8. Brush the top of the dough lightly with water and sprinkle sugar over the dough.  Using a small, sharp knife, cut 6 to 8 evenly spaced slits in the dough.
  9. Bake for 65 to 80 minutes, or until the dough is nice and golden and the juices are bubbling up through the slits.  Transfer the baking pan to a cooling rack and cool to just warm or room temperature.  Cut into squares, diamonds.