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Apple Cake as Delicious and Simple as Apple Pie

Daniel Hautzinger
A French apple cake from Milk Street. Photo: Connie Miller of CB Creatives
Photo: Connie Miller of CB Creatives

Christopher Kimball's Milk Street airs Saturdays at 4:00 pm.

It's apple season! Whether you go pick apples yourself in Michigan or buy some from a farmers market or grocery store, this is the best time of year to eat the fruit – and to bake with it. For something different than apple pie, try this French Apple Cake from Christopher Kimball's Milk Street. It's as if you took baked apples and swathed them in a delicious custard, and it's perfect for the beginning of fall.

French Apple Cake

This simple dessert is less cake than sautéed apples set in a thick, buttery custard encased in a golden crust. We liked using two varieties of apples here, one tart and one sweet – the variation in the apples’ sweetness gave the cake a full, complex flavor. The cake is delicious served unadorned, but it’s equally wonderful accompanied with crème fraîche or ice cream.

Note: Don’t use a spatula to scrape the browned butter out of the skillet—simply pour it into the bowl. A skim coat of butter in the pan is needed for cooking the apples. And don’t slice the cake until it has fully cooled; if it is at all warm, the texture at the center will be too soft.

Start to finish: 1 hour (25 minutes active), plus cooling

Serves: 8


8 tbsp (1 stick) salted butter, plus more for pan
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1 1/2 lbs Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4-inch slices
1 lb Braeburn or Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4-inch slices
12 tbsp white sugar, divided
1/2 tsp kosher salt
2 tbsp brandy or Calvados
95 g (2/3 cup) all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
1 tsp baking powder
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract


1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees F with a rack in the middle position. Coat a 9-inch springform pan with butter, dust evenly with flour, then tap out the excess.

2. In a 12-inch skillet over medium-high, melt the butter. Cook, swirling the pan frequently, until the milk solids at the bottom are golden brown and the butter has a nutty aroma, 1 to 3 minutes. Pour into a small heatproof bowl without scraping out the skillet. Stir the allspice into the butter and set aside.

3. Add all of the apples, 2 tbsp of the sugar, and the salt to the still-hot skillet and set over medium-high. Cook, stirring occasionally, until all moisture released by the apples has evaporated and the slices are beginning to brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Add the brandy and cook until evaporated, 30 to 60 seconds. Transfer to a large plate, spread in an even layer, and refrigerate uncovered until cool to the touch, 15 to 20 minutes.

4. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla, and 9 tbsp of the remaining sugar. Gradually whisk in the browned butter. Add the flour mixture and stir with a rubber spatula until smooth; the batter will be very thick. Add the cooled apples and fold until evenly coated with batter. Transfer to the prepared pan, spread in an even layer, and sprinkle with the remaining 1 tbsp sugar.

5. Bake until deeply browned, 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool completely in the pan on a wire rack, about 2 hours. Run a knife around the inside of the pan and remove the sides before slicing.