Whenever I bake or serve an apple pie and my grandmother is around, she always tries to convince me to put cheese on top of it. Cheese – especially cheddar cheese – and apples are a great combination general, so even though it might sound like an odd pairing as far as pie goes, the salty flavor of the cheese goes pretty well with the sweet apple filling of the pie.
That being said, I always just gave my grandmother a slice of cheese to eat alongside her pie and kept mine cheese-free. I simply like pie crust too much to adulterate it by letting cheddar cheese melt all over the top. I’m open to using the cheddar cheese and apple match in other foods, so I opted to include a cheddar cheese layer on top of this apple pie-inspired coffee cake.
The coffee cake has a base of vanilla cake that is topped off with some apples cooked into a kind of homemade apple pie filling. The cake base is tender and has a good flavor, with an almost pound cake-like density that supports all the layers of topping extremely well. The apples are not fully cooked before they are added as a layer to the cake, but getting them started on the stove ensures that they will be fully cooked and tender when the cake is done. It also gave me the opportunity to add some cornstarch to the apples and thicken up their natural juices, preventing them from making the base of the cake soggy. The coffee cake is finished with a crumbly oat topping and, of course, cheddar cheese. The cheese should be added just before the cake comes out of the oven so it has just enough time to melt onto the streusel topping and hold everything together.
If you want to leave the cheese off of this coffee cake, go right ahead. The cheese is a nice change and does go well with apples, but I have to admit that I just can’t help liking the cake (not to mention my apple pie) just as much without the cheese on top. If you leave the topping off, consider serving the cake with a little whipped cream or ice cream to finish it off.
Apple Pie Coffee Cake with Cheddar Cheese
1 1/2 – 2 cups apple slices (3-4 apples)
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp butter
2 tsp cornstarch
1 tbsp water
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp apple pie spice
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated
In a large frying pan or saucepan, combine apple slices with sugar and butter (I cut each apple into 12-15 slices). Cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes, until apples are slightly softened and juices are bubbly. In a small bowl, whisk together cornstarch and water. Pour into apple mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until sauce is thickened and no longer runny, about 1 minute.. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature
Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a 9-inch springform pan.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg.
In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Beat in eggs, one at a time, followed by vanilla extract. Stirring by hand or using a mixer on low speed, stir in half of the flour mixture, followed by the milk and the rest of the flour mixture. Mix only until no streaks of flour remain.
Spread batter into prepared pan. Top with cooled apple mixture, laying slices into an even layer.
In a small bowl, make the topping. Cream together butter and sugar. Blend in oats, flour and spices. Sprinkle topping mixture evenly on top of the cake.
Bake for 50-55 minutes, until a tester inserted into the cake comes out without any cake crumbs attached (it may still be a bit sticky from the apple mixture). 5 minutes before the cake is done, sprinkle cheddar cheese in an even layer on top and return cake to oven to allow it to finish baking and give the cheese time to melt.
Cool completely in pan on a wire rack before slicing.
Note: Here’s the coffee cake without the cheese topping, if you want to go that route with the recipe: