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.
What is French Apple Cake?
French apple cake consists of good baking apples (see section below), a very tender cake batter, and a couple of spices.
Traditionally, this cake sprinkled with 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 at all), and the topping is a cinnamon crumble instead of sugar. The crumble adds the perfect texture and flavor to the already amazing cake. Also, if you choose to make the creme anglaise written in the recipe, then 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 a 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 easy. 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 that you don’t have to worry about breaking the cake.
What Apples are Best for Apple Cake?
There are a lot of great baking apples you can use, but for this recipe I chose two of the best baking apples- Granny Smith and Honey crisp. I also use these same apples in my French apple tart with Frangipane.
You want apples that hold their shape and won’t turn mushy during baking. You don’t want to use red delicious apples, for example, because they won’t hold up during baking.
You can also use Braeburn apples or golden delicious apples instead of Honey crisp. It’s easiest to find honey crisp and Granny Smith apples, however, and I wanted to make this recipe as accessible and easy as possible.
How Do You Store Apple Cake?
Apple cake isn’t a fussy cake at all. Once the cake has cools completely, cover with plastic wrap or place in a cake container.
Store at room temperature for up to a week, but this cake is best eaten within 1-2 days. The texture of the cake, apples, and crumble soften quite a bit and diminish 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 size of the pan 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 work as well.
If you use a 10″ skillet, be extra careful moving the apples around in the pan because they will be piled high 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 are worried about the apples oxidizing, squeeze some lemon juice on them and stir.
Also, I highly recommend using a mandolin to get all of 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 my 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.Print
French Apple Cake Recipe
- Prep Time: 45 minutes
- Cooling Time: 2 hours
- Cook Time: 40 minutes
- Total Time: 3 hours 25 minutes
- Yield: 10 servings 1x
- Category: Cake
For the French Apple Cake
- 1 1/2 pounds Granny smiith apples, cored, peeled, and sliced into 1/4″ pieces
- 1 pound Honey crisp apples, cored, peeled, and sliced into 1/4″ pieces
- 141 g unsalted butter (10 Tbs)
- 1/8 tsp allspice
- 1/8 tsp ground cloves
- 150 g granulated sugar (12 Tbs)
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 108 g all purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 2 large eggs
- 1 Tbs vanilla
For the Cinnamon Crumble
- 56 g unsalted butter (4 Tbs), cubed into small pieces
- 60 g all-purpose flour (1/2 cup)
- 66 g light brown sugar (1/3 cup)
- 1 Tbs granulated sugar
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp salt
For the Creme Anglaise
- 120 ml heavy cream (1/2 cup)
- 120 ml whole milk (1/2 cup)
- 103 g granulated sugar (1/2 cup)
- 1/2 vanilla bean
- 2 egg yolks
- 1/8 tsp salt
To Make the French Apple Cake
- Preheat oven to 375 degree. Coat a 9 inch spring form pan with butter and flour and set aside. In a large skillet (either 10 or preferably 12 inch), add the butter and cook until the butter begins to brown.
- Once it begins to brown, pour the butter into a heat safe bowl, then add the allspice and ground cloves to the hot butter. Don’t scrape the brown bits out of the pan. Instead, pour the butter out and leave any remaining brown bits behind in the pan.
- Add the apples, salt, and 25 grams (2 tbs) of the sugar to the pan with the remaining brown bits still in the pan. Return to medium heat and cook for 10-15 minutes, or until the apples are tender and all of the juices have evaporated.
- Transfer apples to a sheet pan, spread them out into an even layer, and place in the refrigerator to cool down for 20-30 minutes.
- Next, make the cake batter. In a small bowl, combine the flour and baking powder and stir. 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.
- 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
- Combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until the texture resembles coarse sand.
- Pour over the French apple cake batter and spread evenly.
- Bake the cake on the middle rack for 35-40 minutes, or until very golden brown.
- Remove from oven and let cool completely before cutting and serving. Cooling takes approximately 2 hours or a little longer.
To Make the Creme Anglaise
- Combine the heavy cream, milk, vanilla bean and half the sugar in a small pot and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and allow to sit for 5 minutes so that the vanilla bean flavor develops.
- Meanwhile, combine the remaining sugar, egg yolks, and salt in a bowl and whisk.
- Remove the vanilla bean from the cream, and slowly pour the cream into the eggs while whisking continuously.
- 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.
- 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.
Keywords: French apple cake, cinnamon crumble, creme anglaise