A tender, buttery, rum-flavored crumb nestled with big chunks of apples makes the Classic French Apple Cake a delicious staple. It bears a signature crackly top that makes it even more unique, all while letting the apples shine beautifully.
It is a simple, honest and timeless recipe that I think all French lovers should have in their repertoire.
So what makes it a French Apple Cake?
Unlike in US/Canada, a French Apple Cake doesn’t call for any spices like cinnamon or nutmeg, nor a crumble top, nuts or glaze. The fame of this French cake rather relies on its simple crumb made from a generous amount of butter and flavored with dark rum, making it incredibly fragrant. In texture, it is reminiscent of the German Versunkener Apfelken or the Russian Sharlotka, both made in similar ways, with more fruit than actual cake dough – but really, I think the buttery crumb and dark rum truly makes the difference here.
How to make this Classic French Apple Cake
The recipe begins by selecting your apple variety for this cake: choose apples well-suited for baking such as Fiji, Honeycrisp, Mutsu, Jonagold or Braeburn. This cake requires 2 large apples (or 3 small) and you can opt for just one variety or a mix to create a contrast of texture and flavor. Peel and core the apples, and dice them in small cubes. Set aside while you make the batter.
For the batter, you have to start by ribboning together the eggs and sugar. “Ribboning” is achieved by beating the eggs and sugar together for a long period, until the sugar crystal dissolves and the mixture becomes pale, thick and forms a ribbon when falling from the whisk. You can watch this video for more instructions. This step is essential to achieve a tender, airy cake crumb.
The recipe continues by adding the vanilla extract and dark rum to the mixture. The dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt) are then whisked in, alternating with cooled melted butter.
Once the batter is homogeneous, the diced apples are folded in. The batter will be thick and you will require a big spatula to spread it out in a spring-form pan. To finish off, you sprinkle some sugar on top of the batter, which will create that signature crackly cake top that makes this cake so unique.
My Cooking tips:
- Choose baking apples, such as Fiji, Honeycrisp, Mutsu, Jonagold or Braeburn. You can opt for one variety, or mix it up so you can have different textures (soft or crunchy) and tastes (sweet and tart).
- I also love to substitute the dark rum for Cognac. For a non-alcoholic version, you can substitute the rum for apple juice; although I really recommend you use rum or Cognac – it truly makes the cake!
- The cake is rather delicate in texture, so I recommend using a well-greased springform pan so it is easier to remove it from the pan (flipping it onto a plate may break it).
I hope you’ll love this Classic French Apple Cake as much as I do! It is simple, quite elegant and truly a delicious French staple. Serve it warm or cooled down, with a big dollop of crème fraiche on top in true French fashion.
You may also like:
- Spelt French Apple Cake
- Skillet Caramelized Apple Cake
- Apple Calvados flan from Normandy
- Classic Tarte Tatin
½ cup (125g) unsalted butter
1 cup (125g) all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
2 large eggs
2 large baking apples (or 3 small)
¾ cup (150g) sugar + 2 tbsp for sprinkling
1 tsp Vanilla extract
3 tbsp (45ml) dark rum (or Cognac)
Make sure you read the cooking notes before you start.
Preheat your oven to 350ºF (180ºC) with a rack in the middle. Line 8-inch or 9-inch (20-22.8cm) springform pan with parchment paper at the bottom and grease the sides with butter.
Step 1 - Melt the butter in a sauce saucepan and set aside to cool.
Step 2 - Peel and core the apples, then dice them into 1/2-inch (1.25cm) pieces.
Step 3 - In a small bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, baking powder, and salt.
Step 4 - In a large bowl, beat the eggs and sugar together until pale and a ribbon forms from the whisk. Whisk in the dark rum and vanilla extract. Whisk in half of the flour mixture, gently stir. Add in half of the melted butter, gently stir. Stir in the remaining flour mixture, then the rest of the butter.
Step 5 - Fold in the apples until they are evenly coated with the batter (it will look like there is too much apple and not enough batter, but this is normal). Scrape the batter into the prepared cake pan and smooth the top a little bit, with a spatula. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of sugar evenly on top of the batter.
Bake the cake for 45 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool for 15 minutes and remove it carefully from the pan.
Enjoy warm or cool, served with crème fraiche.
Did you make this recipe?
I’d love to know how it turned out! Please let me know by leaving a comment below, rate the recipe and/or share a photo on Instagram: tag @pardonyourfrench and hashtag it #pardonyourfrench. Bon Appetit!