French Apple Cake

Tested & Perfected Recipes

With chunks of sweet apples nestled in a tender and buttery rum cake, this French apple cake is the essence of simplicity.

french apple cake

The summer after my junior year in college, I worked in Paris as an au pair for a family with three little boys. My host mother, Valerie, was a pharmacist by day and bon vivant by night. She was always entertaining and would frequently enlist my help in the kitchen once the kids were in bed. Baking was her specialty and I can still picture her standing over the sink, coring and peeling apples for her French apple cake.

I didn’t think to get her recipe back then, but this cake made with chunks of sweet apples nestled in a tender, buttery rum cake is pretty close to what I remember. Like so many French home baking recipes, it is the essence of simplicity.

What you’ll need to make French Apple Cake

how to make french apple cake

Be sure to select baking apples for this recipe. Baking apples hold their shape when baked, so the chunks of fruit won’t turn into applesauce in the oven. Tart-sweet varietals such as Granny Smith, Honey Crisp, Pink Lady, Braeburn, and Jonagold are all good options. Feel free to combine different varieties for a more nuanced flavor.

How To Make French Apple Cake

how to make french apple cake

Begin by combining the flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl. No need to sift; just whisk well.

how to make french apple cake

Set aside. Then, in the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

how to make french apple cake

Add the eggs one at a time.

how to make french apple cake

Beat in the vanilla extract and rum.

how to make french apple cake

It will look a little grainy at this point; that’s okay.

how to make french apple cake

Add the dry ingredients.

how to make french apple cake

Mix until just combined.

how to make french apple cake

Add the chopped apples.

how to make french apple cake

Use a rubber spatula to fold the apples into the batter.

how to make french apple cake

Have a 9-inch springform pan greased or a 9-inch cake pan greased, lined with parchment, and greased again.

how to make french apple cake

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and even the top.

how to make french apple cake

Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar.

how to make french apple cake

Bake the cake for about 40 minutes, until golden and crisp on top.

how to make french apple cake

Serve warm or room temperature, plain or with lightly sweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

french apple cake

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French Apple Cake

With chunks of sweet apples nestled in a tender and buttery rum cake, this French apple cake is the essence of simplicity.

Servings: 6-8
Prep Time: 20 Minutes
Cook Time: 40 Minutes
Total Time: 1 Hour

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, spooned into measuring cup and leveled-off
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar, plus more for sprinkling over cake
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons dark rum
  • 2 baking apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (I like Honeycrisp, Fuji or Granny Smith) (3-1/2 - 4 cups chopped)
  • Confectioners' sugar (optional), for decorating cake

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and set an oven rack in the middle position. Grease a 9-inch springform or regular cake pan with butter or nonstick cooking spray. If using a regular cake pan, line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper and grease again.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.
  3. Using a handheld mixer with beaters or a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well and scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and rum. Don't worry if the batter looks grainy at this point; that's okay. Add the flour mixture and mix on low speed until just combined. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the chopped apples.
  4. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and even the top. Sprinkle evenly with 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until the cake is golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool on a rack in the pan. Once cool, run a blunt knife around the edges of the cake. If using a springform pan, remove the sides. If using a regular cake pan, carefully invert the cake onto the rack, remove the parchment paper, then gently flip the cake over and place right-side-up on a platter. Using a fine sieve, dust with confectioners' sugar (if using). Cake can be served warm or room temperature, plain or with lightly sweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
  5. Freezer Friendly Instructions: The cake can be frozen for up to 3 months. After it is completely cooled, wrap it tightly with aluminum foil or freezer wrap. Thaw overnight on the countertop before serving.

Nutrition Information

Powered by Edamam

  • Per serving (8 servings)
  • Calories: 279
  • Fat: 13g
  • Saturated fat: 8g
  • Carbohydrates: 35g
  • Sugar: 22g
  • Fiber: 2g
  • Protein: 3g
  • Sodium: 66mg
  • Cholesterol: 77mg

This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Edamam.com. Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.

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Reviews & Comments

  • What can I use instead of rum to make a non-alcoholic version of this cake? Any recommendation is most welcome!

    • — Regina on March 22, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Regina, You can replace the rum with apple juice, apple cider, or milk. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on March 22, 2021
      • Reply
    • Hi, I have used orange juice instead of Rum since it was the only thing I had on hand. It makes the cake a bit more fruity. Sooo good !

      • — Anja on March 22, 2021
      • Reply
  • This cake is so good! Not too sweet and it is very elegant to be served at all occasions. My family love it.

    • — Margarete on March 20, 2021
    • Reply
  • Never fails, delicious to the last bite

    • — Hills on March 19, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Jenn, thank you for sharing this recipe. It has been a hit this past weekend when I brought it to our friends house. Had to make another cake the next day. I only used 1/3cup of sugar because we like it tart. I used Orange juice instead of rum (forgot to buy some) and I marinated the apples in lemon juice which I do for all apple cakes. I am sure we will make this cake many more times. Absolutely delicious.

      • — Anja on March 22, 2021
      • Reply
  • I’d like to try this recipe without folding the apples into the batter, but fanning thin slices on top instead. Would the batter lend itself to this approach? I love natural designs like this so I’m hoping it would work. Thanks

    • — Mallory on March 17, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Mallory, I’ve never tried it, but I think it should work. If you make it, would you send me pic?? My email address is [email protected]. Thanks!

      • — Jenn on March 19, 2021
      • Reply
      • Hi Jenn!
        Update. I actually tried this for st paddy’s day and instead of fanning them out I kept the skins on and made a flower pattern with a few reserved chunks of apple skin side up. It came out very pretty with pale green granny smith skins visible as flower/clover like petals and a little rustic which is just my style. Will send a photo to your address and will definitely try the fanning method next time. I also replaced the rum with whiskey since I was irishing this French dessert and it was a big hit with some vanilla custard on the side. Highly recommend!

        • — Mallory on April 17, 2021
        • Reply
        • I love the idea of the green skin for St. Paddy’s day – look forward to seeing the picture! 🙂

          • — Jenn on April 19, 2021
          • Reply
    • So light and delicious! I’ve been reading some of the reviews and seeing what others have tried and it has my wheels turning!! The blueberry and lemoncello sounds superb.
      I did not have rum so I subbed Jim Beam Bourbon, and used turbinado sugar for the top. Everyone was a fan!!

      • — Chole Purvis on March 19, 2021
      • Reply
  • La tua torta di mela è delizioso. Ma penso che 4 tazze di mele siano troppo. 2 è abbastanza. Grazie mille!

    • — Tristano on March 15, 2021
    • Reply
    • Did not rise much, if at all. Is that what should be expected?

      • — KJ on March 20, 2021
      • Reply
      • Hi KJ, this isn’t a high-rising cake. Typically it’s about 1.5 inches deep for me. Was yours flatter than that?

        • — Jenn on March 22, 2021
        • Reply
  • Can this be made a day ahead?

    • — Linda on March 15, 2021
    • Reply
    • Sure – hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on March 15, 2021
      • Reply
  • My husband can’t have gluten. I gave up early trying to a make a GF cake–GF pie crust, yes, but not cake. I saw this recipe and thought what the heck! Try it. I substituted a good GF flour and used almost 4 cups of apples. It was delicious! Yay! Thank you!

    • — Jennifer on March 14, 2021
    • Reply
  • I found this to be an impressive looking cake but the taste was underwhelming, and slightly eggy.

    • — Glory on March 14, 2021
    • Reply
  • I’m confused about the quantity of apples. It says 2 apples and then in parentheses, it says 3 1/2 to 4 cups. Which is it? I cut up two decent size apples and it was a little over two cups.

    • — Barb on March 12, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Barb, there’s a lot of variation in the size of apples. You’ll want a total of 3-1/2 to 4 cups apple cubes. Hope that clarifies!

      • — Jenn on March 13, 2021
      • Reply
  • I’ve made this recipe yet again! This time I changed the flavors. I subbed limoncello for the rum, and 1 cup of frozen wild blueberries instead of apples. Sooooo good! The perfect light cake, so quick and easy. One of my go-to recipes. I’m looking forward to experimenting with more fruit and booze pairings. Really want to try Chambord but not sure what to pair it with!

    • — Jennifer on March 11, 2021
    • Reply
    • try paring Chambord and Raspberries 🙂 !

      • — Cami on March 13, 2021
      • Reply
  • Really nice cake all the family enjoyed it so will make it again.

    • — Andrea on March 11, 2021
    • Reply
  • This Apple Cake is A PERFECT “10” !
    I followed the recipe as written and it was AWESOME!!!!
    Try It!!! You’ll LOVE IT!

    • — Maryann Brooklyn on March 10, 2021
    • Reply
  • So easy and delicious. I used margarine and reduced sugar to 1/3 cup. Sweet enough.

    • — Dee Ann on March 9, 2021
    • Reply
  • What do you think of adding sliced almonds on top prior to baking?
    Thank you. I just love all your recipes!

    • — Diane on March 4, 2021
    • Reply
    • I think it would work (and glad you like the recipes)! 🙂

      • — Jenn on March 5, 2021
      • Reply
    • I’ve done this, it’s yummy 🙂 I did the almonds first then sprinkled the sugar on top and they came out with a nice glazed effect.

      • — Jennifer on March 11, 2021
      • Reply
  • Delicious! Every guest was impressed : )
    Thanks for sharing!

    • — angroca on March 3, 2021
    • Reply
  • This is a delicious cake, and not too hard to make. Note: make sure to take the butter out of the refrigerator well in advance… I hadn’t softened mine enough, and it was all over the place when I tried to mix it with the sugar! But all’s well that ends well. This is a very mellow cake, with a rather caramelized crust.

    • — Diane Chehab on March 2, 2021
    • Reply
  • Easy and elegant.

    • — Linda on February 25, 2021
    • Reply
    • I am not the greatest cook, but every time I make this recipe it turns out perfect! I share with friends and they always ask for the recipe, so I know they enjoy it as much as I do. I haven’t experimented with different liquors yet, as some of the reviews show… Because we love it so much exactly as shown!

      • — Rosie on February 26, 2021
      • Reply
  • Hi, your cream butter is not supposed to grain, when it does, it’s because the butter is too cold or tbecause here is not enough butter in the recipe. The cream should be nice and smooth, the cake will taste a lot better. 😉

    • — Liliana on February 24, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi, are you saying there should be more butter in the original recipe? Your comment got me a bit confused.

      • — Karla on March 2, 2021
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn! Do you have any recommendations for brands of dark rum that we should consider for this recipe? Thank you!

    • — Alyssa on February 23, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Alyssa, I use Mount Gay, but any brand will work. Hope you enjoy the cake!

      • — Jenn on February 23, 2021
      • Reply
  • Made this cake for the first time, it was delicious. I did use almond extract instead of vanilla and it still came out great.

    • — Ruth on February 22, 2021
    • Reply
  • Love this cake- to echo every one! We didn’t have any rum but used an apple brandy that we had for a holiday cocktail- soooo delish! I’ll use whatever I have on hand as a sub for the booze once we run out of the apple brandy and I’m sure it will be tasty!

    • — Chris WeFo on February 20, 2021
    • Reply
  • This cake is easy, moist and delicious! I used spiced rum and it gave the cake a wonderful flavor. This is definitely one recipe I’ll be using often! Thank you for the recipe Jen!

    • — Nikki H on February 20, 2021
    • Reply
  • Fantastic cake. Could not get out to get rum on one occasion and used Disaronno Amaretto instead. Equally divine!

    • — Mara on February 19, 2021
    • Reply
  • Made this cake today. The 40 minutes was not sufficient. The sides were nicely brown but the middle was not cooked. Anyone had this problem?

    • — Vee on February 14, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hello Vee: Is your oven new? I’m asking because every oven is different. Mine, for example, bakes a lot quicker any cake I make. So instead of 40 minutes, I usually end up with a perfect cake after 30-35 minutes. Experiment with the heating options: bottom, up & down, etc. Use different cake moulds – it took me a while before I figured out which one, silicone, metal and what shape, round shallow or rectangular, would work best for this cake. And finally, try using some parchment paper next time, put it over the cake (well, over the mould) if it is getting too brown and crispy too early. The parchment paper will allow the rest of the cake to ‘catch up’. Naturally, it is only a couple of suggestions. I am sure there are wonderful and experienced baking maestros here who can help you out.

      • — Karla on March 2, 2021
      • Reply
  • This cake is superb! I followed the recipe exactly, and it came out looking just like the picture, and was so tasty!

    • — John on February 14, 2021
    • Reply
  • I bake this cake at least twice per month because as Jenn says it is truly easy to make – and it is truly scrumptious! If I have soft pears I use them with apples – I love the pear juiciness and tenderness. Thank you Jenn for this super recipe that makes me look like a baking queen in front of my family!

    • — Amanda Lolli on February 14, 2021
    • Reply
  • hi is there a rum substitute I could use?

    • — Kaylee on February 12, 2021
    • Reply
    • Sure, you can use apple juice or apple cider instead of rum. Enjoy!

      • — Jenn on February 13, 2021
      • Reply
      • Hi Jenn do you think this delicious and elegant cake could be made in advance and frozen whole once cooled? I have an abundance of apples from my tree …

        • — Julie on March 13, 2021
        • Reply
        • Definitely. See the Freezer-Friendly instructions at the bottom of the recipe. Hope you enjoy!

          • — Jenn on March 14, 2021
          • Reply
  • LOVE this recipe and so does my family! I’ve lost track how many times I’ve made it. Didn’t have any rum, so today I used Amaretto. I use a 9 inch non stick cake pan with a removable bottom. No problems ever with the batter leaking. Turbinado raw cane sugar sprinkled on top of the batter gives this cake a bit of a crunch on top. Not sure if my oven is off or the dark pan, but mine bakes in 30 minutes. The most delectable, delicate and moist cake every time! Thank you again Jenn for this wonderful recipe!

    • — Anna on February 10, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Anna, I got a question about Amaretto. Does it work well with apples? I usually stick to rum and brandy so this idea is new to me. Do you get that slight sweet-bitter sensation of almonds? I would imagine pears and Amaretto would go well together. Well, waiting for your reply. And I hope I will learn something new!

      • — Karla on March 2, 2021
      • Reply
  • Great Cake! easy to make.

    • — B on February 6, 2021
    • Reply
    • Easy and delicious

      • — Gacia on February 16, 2021
      • Reply
  • I have used spiced rum in this recipe.

    • — SHEILA M CORNELISSE on February 4, 2021
    • Reply
  • The recipe for the French Apple Cake is exceptional. This recipe can accommodate different varieties of apples which bake consistently in a 325 degree oven in a springform pan. This is an easy recipe for beginner bakers and for those more advanced. The recipe includes rum but one can substitute other liquors such as a French brandy or cognac if one of those is found to be more pleasing to the palette. The French Apple Cake is visually appealing and while baking fills the kitchen with a mouth watering aroma. I make the French Apple Cake just before the guests arrive which adds a extra topic for the conversation before dinner. Most guest will ask for seconds and some want the recipe. While traveling in France, I found simple desserts to be a standard on the menus. When I make the French apple Cake it brings back fond memories of those treasured travels.

    • — Roy Vigneulle on February 3, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Roy, I had the same impressions as you about French cakes and bakes. Very simple, with very few ingredients and seasonal fruit. Basically butter, eggs, flower and you end up with far breton, apple cake, tarte, you name it. If you are a fan of yeast cakes, I highly recommend making kouign-amann. Perhaps Jenn will make her version of this delicious Breton cake?

      • — Karla on March 2, 2021
      • Reply
  • We LOVE this cake!!! Can never make just one – has to always be two pans 🙂 We omit the rum but it tastes just as good. It’s such a simple recipe that I make it often and it’s a great company dessert to pull together last minute with ingredients you prob already have on hand. We prefer honey crisp apples as they are sweeter. The first time I made it, I didn’t go by the cup measurement for the apples and it turned out to be too much apple in the cake. Went back to read the recipe again and noticed Jenn had a cup measurement for the apples 🙂 Because honey crisps are so big, that measurement helped. I’ve learned to “follow the recipe” lol.

    Thanks, Jenn, for making us novices look good, even though some of us have been cooking for years. I truly trust your recipes and anytime I’m looking for one, I go to your site first. I love your pictures and detailed instructions, which helps me decide if I’m going to tackle something new. Our daughters also are familiar with your recipes as they’ve seen me use it and are now using it themselves 🙂 We’ve tried quite a few of your recipes but have never left a comment. Thanks for the incentive! Blessings to you and your family!

    • — DJ on February 3, 2021
    • Reply
  • I have made this French Apple Cake several times and everyone raves about them, from my children to her friends and so on. I swap out the rum and add apple juice to the recipe and I swap out the all purpose flour for our gluten free all purpose flour. I typically use Fuji apples but any apple will do. It is an authentic French recipe. When I eat it, I feel like I am dining at a local patisserie or cafe in France. I highly recommend this recipe. It will become one of your go-to cake recipes just as it has become one of mine.

    • — Charlene L-S on February 3, 2021
    • Reply
  • I have made this cake twice. Oh my gosh! It is so good and moist. I was happy to use my new springform pan. One of the cakes was topped with whipped cream. Still slightly warm. The second cake was served with homemade vanilla bean ice cream. Delicious!

    • — Janet on February 3, 2021
    • Reply
  • Great cake, I’ve made it a few times. I used 1/2 C sugar in the batter, cognac instead of rum and 3 small apples and 1 small pear.

    The second time I made it I did exactly the same but used all apples and we all preferred the version with 1 pear. It added another subtle flavor which was really nice! Will make using apple/pear combo from now on, though the apple only version was still very good.

    • — Marie on February 3, 2021
    • Reply
  • This is the recipe that started my fiance and I on a journey with Once Upon a Chef. He made it one day and I was incredibly impressed, especially for someone who doesn’t consider himself a baker.
    We have used honeycrisp apples every time we’ve made this. I could also see how Pink Lady apples would give a nice sweetness as well. Honeycrisp did the trick for us. Over time, we have used more/less apples to make it how we want it depending on our feelings that day. I would suggest to anyone to make this recipe verbatim first and then adjust the apples and rum as you see fit.

    • — Kylie on February 3, 2021
    • Reply
  • Since my kids were little, they have only ever liked ONE apple cake, so I was nervous to see what they would think of this one! They love it!!!! The addition of the rum is a must, we tried one cake without as we didn’t have any and it just wasn’t the same! I find that if you follow all the instructions it will turn out perfectly moist and delicious every time!

    • — Marilyn K on February 2, 2021
    • Reply
  • Absolutely a winner, so gorgeously delicious !
    I tweaked the recipe a wee bit & used whole grade spelt flour and as a substitute for half the sugar I added a very ripe mashed banana & date purée
    The rum is a super addition, thank you x

    • — Madeleine on February 2, 2021
    • Reply
  • The addition of rum takes it to the top! Serve it with rum flavored whipped cream or ice cream and it’s…Perfection!

    • — Mei Harris on January 31, 2021
    • Reply
  • This is such a fantastic recipe and will be a staple in our repertoire. I bake with my 5 year old and the recipe is so easy to follow and it turned out perfectly. Thank you so much.

    • — susan rough on January 31, 2021
    • Reply
  • Do you think it would be possible to bake multiples of this cake and layer it? Or is it too fragile to handle layering?

    • — Dovydas Laurinaitis on January 31, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Dovydas, this cake is pretty heavy so I don’t think it lends itself all that well to a layer cake – sorry!

      • — Jenn on February 1, 2021
      • Reply
  • Good evening! Can dark Rum be omitted or is there a substitute for it? Thanks.

    • — Arya on January 30, 2021
    • Reply
    • I don’t havve rum so upped the vanilla.

      • — Patti on February 1, 2021
      • Reply
  • This has become a go to recipe for me. It’s quick and easy, not too sweet, and always delicious and moist. Thank you Jen

    • — Cathy Law on January 30, 2021
    • Reply
  • 5 stars!! The little bit of rum in the cake adds a perfect nuance of flavor and sets up the taste of the apples just right. The cake is light,
    moist and not too sweet. This was the first recipe I made from ‘Once upon a chef’ site and I was a convert at first bite. My husband couldn’t say enough good things about it.

    • — Beth Mouser on January 29, 2021
    • Reply
  • In the oven & the house smells great! I’ve made this recipe many times and it is easy, no-fail & tastes Magnifique! Great way to impress guests. I plan to serve this after a dinner of Jenn’s slow roasted salmon with string beans and shallots… yum!!!

    • — Patti Burns on January 29, 2021
    • Reply
  • This recipe is perfection!! My family adore this cake so much. It’s buttery, tender and the tartness of the apples is the perfect complement to the sweetness of the batter. The sugar on top is a nice touch too!

    • — Sarah Siddique on January 29, 2021
    • Reply
  • This recipe was my first introduction to Jenn Segal and Once Upon a Chef. The cake was so simple to make and my guests absolutely loved every bite. I did cut down on the rum, using only a tablespoon for a hint of flavor. After trying dozens of Jenn’s recipes, I bought her cookbook and it’s a gem. I also bought one for my sister for Christmas-we each try different recipes and share our results. I cannot wait for the next one to come out. As many have commented, Jenn’s recipes are foolproof and delicious every time. I really am so appreciative that she shares her knowledge and expertise and I come out looking like I know what I’m doing!

    • — Karen M on January 29, 2021
    • Reply
  • I’ve made this cake so many times and it turned out great every time! I have made it sprinkling granulated sugar on the top as well as confectioners sugar but I actually prefer it without. It always turns out so moist and so delicious that it doesn’t need the extra sugar anyways. I tend to use a sweet or Apple like Honeycrisp or pink lady as I find that both these apples hold their shape during the The cooking process and they still have some crisp too.

    This cake is so simple you can’t go wrong.

    • — Mel on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • The first time I made this French Apple cake, the two of us sat down cut two nice slices, finished them and cut two more slices. Delicious! We looked at each other and finished the cake. We have made it many, many times since that night and we never grow tired of it. It is my go to recipe when we are having last minute company because it is so quick to put together. A great ending to any meal!

    • — Lizzy on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • All I have to say is, Make This Now! It’s a big hit every time I make it. Both kids and adults love it and there’s never leftovers. Thank you for this amazing recipe.

    • — Janet on January 28, 2021
    • Reply

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