And just like that, it’s Thanksgiving weekend. Now, I would imagine you probably have your menu figured out, if not partially prepped. But I couldn’t resist debuting this Invisible Apple Cheddar Cake on the threshold of the holiday. Honestly, after having a slice of this beauty, I felt like I had to shout the recipe from the rooftops. But that’s not a very efficient form of communication, so a quick blog post it is. This cake is a salty/sweet riff on the classic French cake Gâteau Invisible. The cake gets its name from the thin slices of apples that seem to disappear within the cake’s batter. I upped the ante by adding a sharp cheddar to the cake. The cheese does make the apples more discernable but I think the flavor was worth the stylistic sacrifice.
If you’ve read this blog for any amount of time, you know I’m a salty-sweet fiend. Whether it comes in the form of dinner or dessert, I’m always down for the contrast. It’s a powerful juxtaposition that simultaneously provides balance while jarring the taste buds in the best possible way. I’m not sure I’m really explaining the sensation all that well. But if you’ve known the pleasure of a peanut butter cup or a chocolate-covered pretzel, you’re picking up what I’m laying down.
My gateway “drug” to this flavor combo wasn’t chocolate and peanut butter or fries dipped in Coke ( a childhood favorite). It was apple pie with a slab of cheddar on top, arguably the most delicious slice of Americana there is. At the time, I remember being wigged out by the combo. I was only six or so, so the truly terrifying aspects of life hadn’t occurred to me yet. So cheese on top of dessert was my idea of a scandalous move.
My father was the one who introduced me to this classic combo. He’s the OG salty/sweet fiend. I remember him perching a particularly thick piece of aged cheddar on a slice of warm apple pie insisting that I try it. He very kindly offered to finish the slice if I hated it. A selfless move if there ever was one. But no, it was love at first bite. And ever since I’ve been combining salty and sweet things trying to recapture that first taste. I always fall short but sometimes I come tantalizingly close and this Invisible Apple Cheddar Cake certainly falls into that camp.
This Invisible Apple Cheddar Cake is frankly more apple than cake. There are five Honeycrisp apples hiding in this loaf. It’s called an Invisible Apple Cake because the apple slices are so thin, they virtually disappear. I would equate the batter itself to that of a crepe – mostly milk and eggs with a sparing amount of flour. And honestly, this cake is incredibly simple to put together. Slicing the apples is the hardest part, and if you have a mandoline, it’s nothing short of a breeze.
The batter comes together quickly using a hand or stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. And as I mentioned, it’s a lot like making a crepe. First, you whip the eggs and milk to high heaven, then you whisk in the flour. The resulting batter is very thin and when you add the apple slices, it will feel like you’re coating the fruit in runny yogurt. Not the most flattering description but accurate.
From there you pack the batter-coated apples into a very well-greased and floured loaf pan outfitted with a parchment paper sling. Save the most intact apple slices for the top of the loaf. You will need about 40-50. And once you reach the top, get artful with your slices. Fan them out, neatly organize them, or create a funky design. This is arts and crafts time.
Once the cake is in the oven, the waiting game begins. This cake takes a long time to bake. 65-75 minutes to be exact. And once the cake is out of the oven the waiting isn’t over. Sure, you can carefully extract the cake from the pan but you have to leave the cake to cool for about 2 hours before slicing. The cake is too delicate to cut while hot. Serve the cake with whipped cream, caramel sauce, or this Honey Whipped Ricotta. Seriously, it works so well here.
Invisible Apple Cheddar Cake
- 1 mandoline
- 1 hand or stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment
- 1 Loaf pan
- 5 Honeycrisp apples peeled and sliced 1/8" thick
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ cup whole milk
- ¼ cup unsalted butter melted
- 3 large eggs
- ⅔ cup sugar
- 1 tbsp Dijon mustard heaping
- 140g (5oz) + more for sprinkling sharp cheddar **
- Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease and flour a loaf pan and line it with a parchment sling. Set it aside.
- Place the flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl and whisk until well combined. Set it aside.1 cup all-purpose flour, 1 tsp baking powder, ½ tsp salt
- In a large bowl place the milk, butter, eggs, and sugar. Using a stand mixer or hand mixer, whisk the egg mixture on high until pale and glossy. This should take about 2 minutes.½ cup whole milk, ¼ cup unsalted butter, 3 large eggs, ⅔ cup sugar
- Add half of the flour mixture to the egg mixture and whisk until no lumps remain. Repeat with the remaining flour mixture and stir in the Dijon mustard.1 tbsp Dijon mustard
- Add the apple slices and cheddar to the batter and toss to coat the apple slices and disperse the cheese. Set aside 40-50 intact and nice looking batter-coated apple slices for topping your cake.5 Honeycrisp apples, 140g (5oz) + more for sprinkling sharp cheddar **
- Using clean hands, arrange the remaining apple slices in an overlapping pattern along the base of the loaf pan. Continue layering the apple slices on top of each other until you run out of slices.
- Press the apples down and then carefully arrange a final layer with the perfect slices you set aside earlier. Pour any remaining batter on top of the final layer and tap the pan on the counter a few times to remove any air bubbles. Sprinkle the surface with a little more cheddar.
- Transfer the cake to the oven and bake for 65-75 minutes or until a toothpick can be inserted in the center of the cake with little resistance and come out clean.
- Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes before running a knife around the edges of the cake and using the handles of the parchment sling to remove it. Leave the cake to cool completely before slicing and serving with a side of ice cream, caramel sauce, or Honey Whipped Ricotta. ***