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French Apple Cake has diced apples in a simple buttery cake infused with rum. Simply delicious!
Big kudos to the French chef (or home cook) who originally came up with the idea of adding rum to a simple apple cake recipe. It’s a winning flavor combination that makes this easy French Apple Cake something truly special!
What is French Apple Cake?
It’s a rustic cake with chopped apples stirred into a buttery batter – no mixer required. The batter is infused with dark rum, adding a distinctively-intense flavor to every bite.
French Apple Cake bakes up incredibly moist with a nice, tender crumb texture. A simple sprinkling of powdered sugar tops things off before serving – but that is an optional step.
There are many French Apple Cake recipes online – and quite frankly, they all seem to be adapted from the same apple cake recipe originally shared by cookbook author Dorie Greenspan, who learned the recipe by watching her friend Marie-Hélène bake the cake. Dorie’s version has less flour than ours, making it a softer cake.
Key ingredients and Substitutions
- Apples – We used Granny Smith apples, but any other tart, firm apple can be used in this cake. We felt the tart-sweet taste of Granny Smith complements the sweet cake, plus they have a firm perfect texture that holds up well when baked.
- Dark rum – An essential ingredient in this cake. Don’t swap in light or spiced rum, or rum-flavored extracts – it just won’t be the same. (The alcohol in the rum will cook off as it bakes, leaving only the flavor behind.)
- Other cake batter ingredients – Like many other cake recipes, you’ll use butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla extract, all-purpose flour, salt and baking powder to create the cake batter.
- Demerara sugar – This is optional. We sprinkled this coarse, raw sugar over the top of the cake batter before baking. It adds a nice glisten to the top of the cake after it bakes.
- Confectioner’s sugar – Another optional topping for serving.
Special supplies needed
- A 9” cake pan is best but a similar-sized springform pan will also work.
- 9” parchment round, or a sheet of parchment paper cut into a 9” circle
Chef’s Tip –
Wait until the batter is mixed before cutting the apples. This will prevent the apples from turning brown due to oxidization.
How do I make French Apple Cake?
- Butter a standard 9” cake pan. Place a parchment circle on the bottom of the pan, then butter that as well.
- Whisk together flour, salt and baking powder in bowl.
- Whisk eggs, sugar, rum, vanilla and melted butter in a separate, large mixing bowl.
- Core, peel and dice your apples.
- Add dry ingredients to bowl with wet ingredients, then fold in the diced apples.
- Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, then sprinkle the top with demerara sugar
- Bake until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.
- Cool slightly, then invert the cake onto a rack and cool some more.
- Dust with powdered sugar before serving if desired.
Frequently asked Questions
- Can I make French Apple Cake ahead of time? Yes – you can bake the cake, then wrap and refrigerate, then serve within two or three days.
- How do I store leftovers? – Store covered and refrigerated for up to two or three days.
- Can I freeze this cake? Yes – once cooled, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and freeze for up to two weeks. Thaw before serving.
- What kind of apples are best for apple cake? For baking, choose apples that keep their shape even after they are cooked. Examples of this include Granny Smith, Cortland, Braeburn, Honey Crisp, Jonagold, and Pink Lady.
You might enjoy these other apple recipes:
- Apple Slab Pie
- Apple Dapple Cake
- Cream Cheese Apple Cake
- Best Apple Cake Ever
- Torta di Mele (Apple Cake)
Butter to coat a 9” cake pan with 2” sides
1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 stick butter (1/2 cup), melted
2 large eggs
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons dark rum
3 ½ cups peeled, cored and half-inch diced Granny Smith apples, about 2 large or 3 small apples*
1 tablespoon Demerara sugar (Raw sugar)
Powdered sugar to sprinkle on finished dessert
*Wait to peel and cut the apples until ready to add to the batter.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. with rack in center of oven.
Butter a 9” cake pan, bottom and sides. Place a parchment circle over buttered bottom then butter the parchment. Set aside.
In a small bowl whisk flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
Melt butter to a liquid then cool. Set aside.
In a large bowl, beat eggs with a whisk for about one minute or until fully beaten.
Add granulated sugar and beat again.
Add vanilla and rum and beat again.
Slowly add melted butter as you whisk. (Place a wet paper towel under the bowl to keep it from spinning as you whisk in the melted butter.)
Whisk in the dry ingredients just to combine then remove the whisk. The batter will get thick as the dry is absorbed into the wet.
Now peel, core and cut the apples into half-inch pieces and as you prepare each apple, fold into the batter. The cut apples should be 3 ½ cups total which is about two large or three small to medium apples. Make sure the apples are fully mixed into the batter.
Scrape the thick batter into the prepared pan and with a rubber spatula, spread evenly to the edges and smooth the top.
Sprinkle on the Demerara sugar and bake in the center rack of the preheated oven for 40-45 minutes or until a tooth pick inserted into the center comes out clean and the top is golden brown.
Place the pan on a cooling rack for 15 minutes.
Place a parchment circle over the top then a rack and quickly invert. The parchment is to stop the top from getting lines from the rack.
Peel off the bottom parchment, place another rack or serving platter over the inverted cake and flip again so the cake is now facing up.
Cool or serve warm with powdered sugar dusted over the top.
The cake is moist and delicate with a slightly crunchy top so use a very sharp serrated knife to cut through into eight slices. Try not to press down as you cut, but saw back and forth to get through the top crust. Sounds silly, but that extra step yields a beautiful finished slice with a nice crunchy top and moist apple filled slices.
Dust with additional powdered sugar as you serve.
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This cake is delicious on its own but feel free to serve with whipped cream or ice cream if you’d like.