Torta invisibile di mele, like many other rustic European classics, is simple in terms of ingredients and preparation. However, once sliced, its cross section reveals beautifully complex layers of apple that seem to almost disappear into a buttery, clafoutis-esque batter.
The first time I ate this cake, it brought me right back to cozy memories of the warm, custardy apple pancakes my Oma used to make for breakfast. This connection isn’t surprising given that the dessert originates from Bolzano, a city in Southern Tyrol with both Italian and Germanic influences.
I have flavoured this cake with vanilla bean, lemon zest and freshly ground nutmeg, all of which pair perfectly with its brown-buttery edges, but you could swap in almond extract, cardamom or cinnamon to suit your own tastes.
Related: Magic 3-Layer Custard Cake
This cake can be stored in an airtight container for 1 day at room temperature or in the fridge for 3 days. Bring to room temperature before serving.
Preheat oven to 375°F. Generously butter and flour a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan. Cut a parchment sling that can fit the width of the pan and hang approximately 2 inches over the sides. Secure parchment with clips. The sling will make it easy to remove the cooled cake from the pan later on.
Warm butter, milk, vanilla beans and the scraped vanilla pod in a small saucepan. Once the butter has melted, set mixture aside and allow to cool slightly.
In a small bowl, thoroughly whisk together flour, baking powder, lemon zest, nutmeg and salt. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment (or in a large bowl with a hand mixer), beat eggs and sugar together for 1-2 minutes on medium-high until the mixture becomes pale and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Add half of the dry ingredients to the bowl and whisk on low until just incorporated. Remove vanilla pod from the milk. Slowly whisk in the milk and then add the remaining flour. Mix on low until smooth.
Peel, core and quarter your apples. Slice them thinly using a mandolin or a very sharp knife (approx. 1/16-inch thick). Gently fold the apple slices into the batter with a rubber spatula until they are evenly coated.
Tip: I recommend working one apple at a time to prevent them from browning.
Using a large spoon, gently ladle a cupful of batter into the prepared pan at a time, taking care to flatten out apple slices as you go. Once finished, tap the pan to knock out any air. Pour any excess batter on top of the apples.
Optional: You can arrange the last layer of apples in a decorative pattern. You will need to reserve approximately 40 slices for this.
Dust the top of the cake with a tablespoon of granulated sugar. Bake for 60-70 minutes until golden.
Cool cake in the pan for 1 hour on top of a wire rack.
Run a butter knife along the sides of the pan, remove the cake and allow to cool for another hour before slicing with a sharp, serrated knife. Dust the cake with powdered sugar and serve with whipped cream.