Who knew you could make a soft fruit cake like it was a pie? Have you ever blind baked sponge? This is such an awesome idea I keep baking this cake again and again.
A pie is a pie is a pie
Pies with soft fruit filling, apple, cherry or blueberry are made from shortcrust pastry. Be it plain pie crust or sweet pasta frolla Italian style, or cornmeal pastry, it is still shortcrust of one type or another.
It’s basically flour and fat – sometimes sweetened, other times plain – bound with a little water, milk or egg, crunchy and crumbly but meltingly tender.
Banish soggy bottoms!
There are several tricks to avoid soggy bottoms in a pie which invariably threatens when juicy fruit is about. Blind baking is one way, pre-cooking the fruit another; my own trick is to spread some cream cheese over the pastry case to seal it before the fruit flows in.
What are other soft fruit bakes?
The other type of bakes with soft fruit is a buttery or airy sponge which fruit is delicately folded into, or else arranged on top, to half-sink gently amidst the billowing batter. Of course it often ends up sinking all the way to the bottom, thus taking us back to the same problem as in the case of pie: soggy bottom, a wet mess of a fruit layer covered by a depth of boring plain cake.
Soggy bottoms - begone!
Here, too, we can hack it: chop the fruit small or toss it with a little flour before plunging into cake; use smaller fruit with lighter batters and the chunky ones atop more substantial sponge.
Reduce the thickness of cake base so the fruit has less depth to sink into, or perversely place the fruit at the bottom to be covered with cake mix like in the upside down, Tatin-style confections.
A new type of cake
But this is a new phenomenon: twice baked cake! Blind baked sponge! Layer cake baked with filling! Sponge pie! Double decker with baked-in fruit layer! It is an awesomely simple idea and the only trick is to get the first (blind?) bake just right, or we risk getting the opposite to soggy bottoms – burnt base.
Szarlotka is not a charlotte cake
I found the recipe at Moje Wypieki (My Baking), a lovely Polish cake and bake site, where it is described as a kind of charlotte cake, but this is the typical lost in translation misnomer. Charlotte cake in the rest of Europe means a sponge palisade surrounding a pile of cream and fruit, no bake, just chill.
Poles though apply the term (szarlotka) to a kind of tray bake apple pie: two layers of pastry with cooked fruit filling between them. And they allow the pastry to be other than shortcrust too.
So here we have it: half the light and airy, egg-beaten batter lines the bottom of the tin and bakes till set. Then the fruit comes on – I roasted it to minimise the runniness – flooded with the remaining pastry and returns to the oven.
You can ice it when ready, cleverly using the juices left after roasting fruit, or you can just dust over uneven top with icing sugar. And it’s an impossibly delightful impossible cake.