French Apple Cake Recipe

This French apple cake recipe will have you exclaiming, “Where have you been all my life?!” The texture, the spices, the crumble, the creaminess of it all…it’s pure bliss. If there is one apple dessert I’ll be making every year from now on, it’s this cake. Read below for the recipe.

French apple cake slice with creme anglaise and streusel

What is French Apple Cake?

French apple cake consists of Granny Smith and Honey Crisp apples, tender cake batter, and some spices.

Traditionally, this cake has sugar on top to give a crisp coating. It usually contains Calvados, but my recipe is more of a modern take.

There is no alcohol in my recipe (I didn’t miss it), and there is a cinnamon crumble instead of sugar. The crumble adds the perfect texture and flavor to the already amazing cake.

If you make the creme anglaise in the recipe, you are in for an extra luxurious dessert!

I first learned about French apple cake from Milk Street. Chris Kimball is one of my very favorite food personalities, and he always delivers on recipes. My recipe is adapted/inspired by the Milk Street French apple cake recipe, and it’s amazing and delicious!

Best Cake Pan for Apple Cake

Use a 9″ springform pan for this apple cake recipe. This is not a cake you want to turn upside down to transfer it because it can fall apart.

A springform pan cuts out the fuss and makes it super easy to cut and serve with ease. I don’t even remove the cake from the metal plate. It’s just as easy to set the metal plate on a cake stand and serve from there, so you don’t have to worry about breaking the cake.

apple cake with cinnamon crumble

What Apples are Best for Apple Cake?

There are many great baking apples. For this recipe, I chose one of the best: Honey Crisp apples. I also use Honey Crisp apples in my French apple tart with Frangipane.

The apples need to hold their shape so they won’t get mushy during baking. You don’t want to use delicious red apples, for example, because they won’t hold up during baking.

As an alternative, you can also use Braeburn or Golden Delicious apples instead of Honey Crisp.

french apple cake inspired by Milk Street

How Do You Store Apple Cake?

Apple cake isn’t fussy at all. Once it has cooled completely, cover it with plastic wrap or place it in a cake container.

This cake is best eaten within 1-2 days, but it can be stored at room temperature for up to a week. The texture of the cake, apples, and crumble softens quite a bit and diminishes in quality after a couple of days (much like an apple pie).

3 Tips for Making the Best French Apple Cake Recipe

1. Use a Large Skillet

The pan size isn’t such a big deal for browning the butter, but it makes a big difference when you add 2 1/2 pounds of apples to the pan. I highly recommend a 12-inch skillet (this is my favorite), but a 10-inch skillet will also work.

If you use a 10″ skillet, carefully move the apples around in the pan. The apples start out in a tall mound until they cook down.

2. Slice the Apples First

Prep the apples before browning the butter so that they are ready to go into the hot pan as soon as the butter finishes cooking.

If you worry about the apples oxidizing, squeeze some lemon juice and stir.

Also, I highly recommend using a mandolin to get all the apples 1/4″ thick. I have cut the apples by hand, and it’s not too hard to do, but a mandolin makes the process so much faster.

I had my apples sliced in less than 5 minutes with a mandolin, and it was so easy!

3. Don’t Slice the Cake

Don’t slice the cake while it’s warm. I learned this last bit from Milk Street, and the reasoning is that the cake won’t be firm enough in the center until it’s fully cooled. It’s similar to an apple pie in that you want it to “set” after baking so that it holds its shape.

Slice of French apple cake with cinnamon crumble and creme anglaise
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French Apple Cake Recipe

french apple cake recipe on a white plate with creme anglaise, against a tan backdrop

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5 from 2 reviews

  • Author: Camille
  • Prep Time: 45 minutes
  • Cooling Time: 2 hours
  • Cook Time: 40 minutes
  • Total Time: 3 hours 25 minutes
  • Yield: 10 servings 1x
  • Category: Cake

Ingredients

Units Scale

For the French Apple Cake

  • 2 pounds Honey crisp apples, cored, peeled, and sliced into 1/16″ – 1/8″ pieces
  • 1 Tbs unsalted butter, for cooking the pples
  • 141 g unsalted butter (10 Tbs)
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 150 g granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 108 g all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 large eggs, room temp
  • 1 Tbs vanilla

For the Cinnamon Crumble

  • 42 g unsalted butter, cubed into small pieces
  • 70 g all-purpose flour
  • 80 g light brown sugar
  • 25 g granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp kosher salt

For the Creme Anglaise

  • 60 ml heavy cream
  • 60 ml whole milk
  • 50 g granulated sugar
  • 1/2 vanilla bean
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1/8 tsp kosher salt

Instructions

To Make the French Apple Cake

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Coat a 9-inch spring form pan with butter and flour and set aside. In a large skillet (either 10 or preferably 12 inches), add 141 grams of butter and cook until the butter begins to brown.
  2. Once it begins to brown, pour the butter into a heat-safe bowl, then add the cinnamon to the hot butter. Clean out the pan for the next step.
  3. Add 1 Tbs butter, apples, salt, and 25 grams of the sugar to the pan. Cook over medium heat for 15-20 minutes, or until the apples are tender and all of the juices have evaporated.
  4. Transfer apples to a sheet pan, spread them out into an even layer, and place in the refrigerator to cool down for 15-20 minutes.
  5. Next, make the cake batter. In a small bowl, combine the flour and baking powder and stir.
  6. In a separate (large) bowl, combine the eggs, brown butter, remaining sugar, and vanilla and whisk to combine. Add the flour and gently stir with a spatula.
  7. Add the apples to the cake batter and gently fold to combine. Pour into the spring form pan and spread out evenly.

To Make the Cinnamon Crumble

  1. Combine all dry ingredient in a bowl and mix.
  2. Melt the butter and add to the dry ingredients. Gently combine until the dry ingredients are wet, sandy, and form clumps.
  3. Pour over the French apple cake batter and spread evenly.
  4. Bake the cake on the middle rack for 40-45 minutes, or until very golden brown.
  5. Remove from oven and let cool completely before cutting and serving (at least 3 hours).

To Make the Creme Anglaise

  1. Combine the heavy cream, milk, and half the sugar in a small pot and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat, add vanilla bean paste or extract, and allow to sit for 5 minutes so that the vanilla bean flavor develops.
  2. Meanwhile, combine the remaining sugar, egg yolk, and salt in a bowl and whisk. 
  3. Slowly pour the cream into the eggs while whisking continuously.
  4. Return the custard back to the pot and cook over medium heat, whisking continuously until the cream anglaise thickens and reaches the “a la nappe” stage. This means you can coat the back of a spoon with the custard, run your finger down the middle, and the custard won’t run back together. 
  5. Strain the custard into a container and cover. Refrigerate for at least an hour or until cold. Pour over individual slices of cake and serve. This cake is best eaten within 1-2 days. After a couple of days, the texture diminishes and the cakes loses its crispness on top.

Notes

The French apple cake was inspired by Milk Street.

4 Comments

  1. This cake has quickly become one of our favorites!






  2. I loved this cake and everyone else did as well!
    I will definitely be making this again, a true crowd pleaser.






  3. Pingback: Vanilla Bean Madeleine Cookies - Baker Street Society

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