French Apple Cake


It’s interesting that there are so many views of Paris, which you notice if you follow the variety of voices that write about life in the city. I tend to find all the quirks and report on the sardonic side of things, which for some reason, always find their way into my life. But the main reason is that I live here full-time and deal with not just sampling my way through the lovely pastry shops and meeting chocolatiers, but also spend a fair amount of time wresting with perplexing bureaucracy and other idioms of life in the City of Fight Light.

For example, last week I went to the largest fabric store in Paris where I always buy étamine (cotton gauze), which I couldn’t locate so I asked a salesperson. He was having a nice chat with his co-workers but was kind enough to take a moment to tell me “Non”, they didn’t carry it, and went back to his conversation. After I raised an eyebrow and asked a few more times just be sure, he and all the others in the group shook their heads, confirming with absolute certainty that they definitely did not have that in stock.

Because I was absolutely certain that they did, I went down one level and, of course, found a huge bolt of it right on top of the pile of other rolls of fabric.

eggs and peels

So to keep things in perspective (as best I can…) I like to read other voices from Paris, such as Dorie Greenspan, whose latest book, Around My French Table, is a massive collection of her favorite recipes and stories about our shared city. She lives on the opposite side of Paris, in a different neighborhood. And where I am often hardened and resigned, and sometimes cry in private, she manages to see the good in everything and is always happy and beaming.

Although I do sometimes get the last word in around here: When I did find the étamine and mentioned to the salesclerk I was going to make Apple Jelly with it, he told me that if he sold it to me, I had to bring him an échantillon (sample).

Fortunately painted on the walls of the fabric store, in very large block letters, were the words “Pas d’échantillons!” (“No samples!”) which I pointed out to him—and we both had a good laugh. Me more than him.

This is a very typique recipe of Dorie’s: not a lot of ingredients, relying on no special techniques or hard-to-find equipment (like, say…regular cotton muslin in an enormous six-story fabric store), but producing simply spectacular results. The cake is easily mixed up in a bowl, scraped into a cake pan, and in less than the time it takes to run to the pâtisserie for a store-bought cake—or a seemingly simple length of fabric—you can have an authentic French cake right from your own oven.

apple cake pan

It takes a lot of moxie and pluck to get workable recipes out of French cooks and chefs. It’s not that they don’t work, it’s just that often they’ll just cook things au pif, or “by the nose”, adding a little of that and not measuring. I’ve had my share of experiences trying to extract recipes out of cooks here and often they just say, “Just tell readers to add however much flour it takes until it forms the right batter.” And I know how much you’d all love that…

Dorie Greenspan seems to have a gift for making those recipes work for home cooks, especially those in America who don’t gave the same batterie de cuisine that a French cook might have. But as you’ll see if you flip through the recipes in Around My French Table, everyday French cooking doesn’t depend on fancy equipment and most dishes aren’t meant to be followed to the letter, but are actually quite forgiving. They’re authentic but approachable. And the next recipe on my plate is Coeur à la crème, so I can use my vintage molds and line them with my precious new étamine that I worked so very (very) hard to get.

creme fraiche

Dorie was kind enough to thank me for sharing her table with her in the book. And when a journalist interviewed me for an article about her, she ended the interview with; “So David, what is it like to sit around Dorie’s French table?”

I sat there for a few moments scratching my head to remember, then not sure of what to say, I finally replied, “I’ve not sat around Dorie’s French table.” Which was true. When she comes to Paris, we generally go out exploring. The idea of sitting indoors while Paris awaits just isn’t as interesting to me as sharing pastries on a park bench or hitting an outdoor market with her.

If you want to sit at Dorie’s table, the line starts here. However while you wait, you can feast on her recipes, just like I’m doing.

dorie's apple cake

French Apple Cake
One 9-inch (23 cm) cake

Adapted from Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan

Dorie doesn’t specify any type of apple but instead advises that you should use a mix of them. I don’t know what kind mine were since I’d picked them myself (they’re pictured at the top). The rum is really vital for the taste, and the cake would be not as interesting without it. If you’re avoiding alcohol, you could double to triple up on the vanilla to compensate.

I also like this recipe because you can make it with ingredients easily on hand. Being American, I was tempted to add a dusting of ground cinnamon to the apples, but then it wouldn’t be authentically French. Hence I decided a dollop of crème fraîche alongside to be rather nice.

  • 3/4 cup (110g) flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 4 large apples (a mix of varieties)
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup (150g) sugar
  • 3 tablespoons dark rum
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 8 tablespoons (115g) butter, salted or unsalted, melted and cooled to room temperature

1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC) and adjust the oven rack to the center of the oven.

2. Heavily butter an 8- or 9-inch (20-23cm) springform pan and place it on a baking sheet.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

4. Peel and core the apples, then dice them into 1-inch (3cm) pieces.

5. In a large bowl, beat the eggs until foamy then whisk in the sugar, then rum and vanilla. Whisk in half of the flour mixture, then gently stir in half of the melted butter

6. Stir in the remaining flour mixture, then the rest of the butter.

7. Fold in the apple cubes until they’re well-coated with the batter and scrape them into the prepared cake pan and smooth the top a little with a spatula.

8. Bake the cake for 50 minute to 1 hour, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool for 5 minutes, then run a knife around the edge to loosen the cake from the pan and carefully remove the sides of the cake pan, making sure no apples are stuck to it.

Serving: Serve wedges of the cake just by itself, or with crème fraîche or vanilla ice cream.

Storage: The cake will keep for up to three days covered. Since the top is very moist, it’s best to store it under a cake dome or overturned bowl.

Related Posts and Recipes

Sauce Gribiche, Au Pif

Tuesdays with Dorie


French Tart Dough

American Baking Ingredients in Paris

Apple Spice Cake


Apple Jelly


  • Unfortunately I won’t be a Paris anytime soon.

    I too would LOVE to sit at Dori’s table, so I will be baking this cake…..

    Happy Thanksgiving!

    PS. Yes, it will be difficult to put the cinnamon down, but I can do it.

  • I made this last night, and it’s divine. The rum really does give it that something extra. I wouldn’t omit it for the world! Maybe play around with different alcohols, but NEVER–I repeat–NEVER omit it! Thanks David!

  • I made an apple cake from Leite’s Culinary that had no cinnamon and it too added rum to the batter. It was so nice to eat an apple cake where the apple flavor wasn’t overwhelmed by cinnamon. I couldn’t taste the rum, but that was my fault (fault? I am rather glad I couldn’t taste it, after the fact!), I used a medium bodied rum that didn’t have much flavor by itself, The apples were coated with heavy cream and layered between layers of batter, an unusual technique, but quite nice! I do like chunks of apples, and they certainly are easier to mix into a batter!

  • I pre-ordered Dorie’s book and the apple cake was the first thing I made. Great minds…I am not a fan of rum or rum flavored things, so I used Calvados and it was delicious. I used 3 or 4 different apples and really loved the different flavors in each bite. Such a simple idea, and a great touch.
    Wow, I’m watching BBC right now and Unesco has given “intangible national treasure” status to the Mediterranean diet and French cooking. I guess that gives those of us who love red wine, hummus, olives, crusty bread, yummy cheeses etc etc a new reason to keep on truckin’…as if we need an excuse!

  • I love that recipe. Yum

  • This is my first post here; I’m just writing to thank you for your blog– every recipe I’ve tried has been wonderful (and, wonder of wonders, realistically achievable for the frazzled home cook). Oatmeal raisin cookies, those amazing chouquettes, ginger snaps… and tonight, this fabulous cake.

    It turned out perfectly, even looking more or less like the lovely cake in your photo — a big achievement for me. Thanks also for restraining me from adding the cinnamon (how did you know I was reaching for it?). A special bonus: My two-year-old devoured a piece and then said, with great seriousness, “I found it very yummy.” Me, too.

  • Made it with pear, mix of brown and white sugar, and spiced rum instead of dark rum. Great flavor! Sadly it fell apart when I tried to flip it out of the pan. I will make it again soon but leave it in the pan to serve. Yum!

  • I made this cake the other night — it turned out lovely and delicious, although didn’t have the caramelized appearance on the sides that you had (I buttered it generously). No worries. & I added a sprinkling of coarse sugar on the top (because we bakers can never just leave the damn thing alone) — it came out nice and sparkly, and my co-workers were very pleased. Were your apples still a bit “al dente”? Mine were, or maybe one or two of the four diff types were. Kind of a nice contrast.

    I’m going to tackle those Baked Apricot Bars next — yeow!!

  • David,

    This cake looks delish and I’m planning on making it for Thanksgiving. I have lots of baking to do in advance and was wondering, does it freeze well? Given the large amount of apples, I didn’t know if they would get mushy if frozen. Thank you!

  • Okay, so as I was reading, I somehow got it in my head that you were going to use the apple jelly in the cake. I was disappointed, since I had been picturing this cake dripping with apple syrup, so I tweeked it a bit. I made a reduction of apple juice, cutting time and steps by starting with frozen apple juice concentrate, and drizzled the very thick syrup over the finished cake. May I just say that this was brilliant and took an already brilliant cake to another level? Thank you once again for publishing recipes that I actually want to make.

  • Aww, cultural differences – but so much good does come with them. Just be glad that you’re not in Germany where people are not unfriendly but just negative all the time! And it seems like the inspiration is leading to some awesome, awesome food in your kitchen, which we all can appreciate!

  • I made this with half Anjou pears and substituted regular flour for Pamela’s gluten-free baking flour – and yes, it still tastes divine. I am so grateful you posted this recipe, most definitely going to be a regular in my kitchen. Also I’ll be adding Dories’ books to my holiday reading list.

  • Okay, I have a question. I made it again with apples. Excellent. It seems too buttery. What happens if I decrease the butter? What are some substitutes for the butter liquid? Milk?

  • This looks like such a delicious recipe that I absolutely must try it. However, I do not have a 9 inch springform. When baking it’s usually just for myself or a small group, so most of my bakeware is smaller. I do have several adorable 11cm springforms, which habitually produce a variety of tiny cheesecakes, tortes and the like.
    Through much trial and error do I discover the proper cooking times for my itty bitty army. And suggestions as to what time I should aim for with this recipe?

  • David,

    I made this cake the other night and we consumed half of it over the course of 2 days. Then, my French boyfriend welcomed his friends from Normandy and they were gobsmacked. They loved it and requested more! Needless to say, if it’s fine by their standards, it’s more than fine by mine. Thank you for publishing this delicious recipe!

  • I made this today, sort of… I only had one egg… so I substituted with some milk. The result was a quite mushy crumb, still edible when cold. I had also ran out of sugar! I only had 50 grams, but it wasn’t lacking in sweetness at all, I guess because the apples were quite sweet as well. And I didn’t have rum, I had Becherovka! Iiii-haa. This is a czech drink flavoured with 2 milion plants, or so. Next time I’m only going to make sure I have two eggs, I am happy with less sugar and a different alcohol. Oh, and I doubled or even tripled on the vanilla…

  • We made this last night as you’ve written the recipe and it was devine, we served it with a side of custard. It was nice to have a lovely desert that did not require getting out the mixer! Thank you for sharing, besides we needed an excuse to stock up on rum :-)

  • I am also hardened and resigned (if not a bit bitter at times), but perhaps it is just November, because I seem to be having a difficult month French-wise. Coincidentally I also just made this cake before looking at your blog and agree the rum is crucial. I’m also partial to Patricia Wells’ version with the crunchy topping.

  • This sounds and looks delicious. I cannot wait to try out this lovely recipe!

  • Come to Nantes. Granted, it rains all the time, but even the Monoprix clerks are not unpleasant, and the service that I’ve gotten everywhere else has been delightful (so far). Plus, the kouign aman is delicious.

  • I made this yesterday. Super easy and a mega-hit. I used honeycrisp apples. My Dad said, “If you ever need to bring something to a party or a funeral, this is it.” There isn’t much batter; it looks like batter-coated apple chunks going into the oven, but it’s a great cake, especially for non-owners of mixers. Thank you, David.

  • Oh! This is the recipe what I’ve been looking for. Now it’s time to make an Apple Cake. I’m thankful that my dad planted apple tree on our backyard. Now I can simply pick some apples. Fresh apples will make it yummier.

  • Wonderful recipe! Made it this weekend, and making it again for Thanksgiving! Also, couldn’t help but buy Dorie’s cookbook since it was so great. I love simple french recipes.

  • Made this today and loved it, thanks for the recipe! Love that it uses minimal amounts of ingredients and I don’t have to drag out the mixer. The flavor with the rum is really lovely. A cake yummy enough for Saturday night but easy enough for a Monday!

  • Just made the cake this morning. My wife loves me more now.

  • Made this three times (variations included cranberries, maple sugar, and nuts). Just got around to posting it yesterday. Thanks!

  • I made this French Apple Cake earlier in the week when testing Thanksgiving Day recipes and oh my goodness… so delicious and easy! I found the dollop of creme fraiche to be a perfect counter to the cake’s sweetness. I’m making it again this morning. My fiancé has one more thing to brag about me now.

  • I somehow read about this on Pim’s site but then googling to find the recipe ended up with you, which is just as well since hers required a microwave which I don’t have since mine blew up. Anyway – I made it and served it with chantilly (aka whipped cream with sugar) to make the Frenchman give extra special thanks to me. Great recipe, thank you and Dorrie and Pim. I never did get why the French like to sweeten their dairy so anyway?

  • I made the apple cake for my family – we all loved it (served with vanilla ice cream). The grandkids want to know when I’ll serve it again. Soon I’ll try chicken with carmelized shallots that friend Phyllis raves about..


  • Your recipes have never failed me.

    I JUST popped this cake into the oven.

    I couldn’t find any dark rum, so I substituted with some Pineau des Charentes.

    Will let you know how it turns out!

    Thanks for another great post :)

  • I made this for Thanksgiving and everyone really appreciated how light and elegant it was. Thank you for posting this! I’m a big fan of Dorie Greenspan’s but I haven’t picked up the book yet.

  • I made this for Thanksgiving, except I made a rum based sauce to go with it instead of the aforementioned toppings. It was a big hiy and went quickly.

  • I made this and the chocolate idiot cake for Thanksgiving with friends. There were about 12 store- bought pies there, but folks stole the leftovers of my two cakes in the middle of the night and didn’t touch the Vons/Ralphs/Trader Joes pies. :)

  • I don’t bake much, but would like to change that! Your recipes look wonderful so I tried this apple cake today. After 1 hour and 15 minutes, it seems to me the cake is still a bit wet in the center…….what ever did I do wrong?! When told to “whisk”, did I beat too much with my electric hand mixer………..this is why I don’t bake much………..please advise :) I have taken it out after 1 hour and 20 minutes, but honestly, it seems too wet in the center, though browned nicely. My oven is fine to my knowledge.

  • I’ve had my eyes on the book since forever! The cake looks awesome. Got a recipe for creme fraiche?

  • Apple is the best flavor for pie but I never try of making a cake that has a apple flavor. I better try this one to tell if it really taste good.

  • I am in the avoiding alcohol camp, so I did double up on the vanilla but I also substituted some of the sugar for a flavorful honey and it was delicious.

  • OK, I was afraid at how wet this cake was when it came out of the oven, but I must admit it grew on me after it had sat in the fridge overnight. I finally realized it was probably supposed to be a bit wet and clafouti-like and when I ate a piece the second day, I found that it is a delicious cake. I love the cakes one finds in France and Germany and this one helps me not miss them ! I used the rum and was glad I did. Also, it looks SO pretty!

  • I tried the recipe last night. It was simple to make and impressed my dinner guests even though it was my first attempt at making Apple cake. Thanks for sharing the recipe!

  • HI David,

    It’s raining and cold here in San Diego, so I decided to stay in and bake this. It tastes wonderful, smells great and looks really good! I can’t believe how easy this recipe is! Thanks for posting it. I’m one happy gal. =)

  • I made this last week for my family and it was a delightful success. It was subtle and lovely! The slightly custardy texture was a winner and I will definitely make this again. I love David’s books and this website.

  • Je vais l’essayer !!!! C’est une recette très proche du fondant aux poires français, à la différence que nous ajoutons d’abord une couche de caramel à sec dans le fond du moule avant de déposer les poires puis la préparation dessus.

  • i tried the apple cake – it turned out very well, except that we find the base of the cake rather soft and a little moist. Is this the right texture? Just curious..

  • Thank you for posting this recipe. So quick and easy to make and oh so delicous! A firm family favourite.

  • This is the best apple cake ever, maybe because of tje dark rum. It is very easy and quick. The third time i made it I sprinkled the bottom of the pan with brown sugar, added a tiny bit more rum and baked for an additional 10 or 15 minutes .
    Thanks for this fabulous and relatively healthy dessert recipe.

  • So delicious and super easy! I used Braeburn, Pink Lady and Granny Smith apples. It taste fabulous! I had vanilla ice cream on hand but I think vanilla sauce would had been a better pairing.
    Thank you so much for posting.