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French Apple Cake

8 Servings

1 hour 25 minutes active, plus cooling

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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.




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.

1 hour

25 minutes active, plus cooling


  • 8

    tablespoons (1 stick) salted butter, plus more for pan

  • ¼

    teaspoon ground allspice


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Camille C.
January 14, 2024
Great apple cake it’s a winner. It on repeat at my house.😋😋😋😋
sandra r.
December 13, 2023
ohh la la
This recipe is genius! I used all Granny Smith apples and it was nicely tart. I say it is BETTER than apple pie and you don't have to make a crust. I must admit I had doubts when I saw the small amount of batter. This dessert is mainly apples and that is a good thing!
Patrick H.
October 15, 2023
Loved the cake. I did cut the sugar to 2/3 of the amount.
Sue E.
June 10, 2023
Better than pie
It’s a terrific recipe. I’ve made it 3 times. I follow the recipe and it needs no changes. Everyone loves it.
Megan G.
March 25, 2023
Delicious! I will definitely make this again!
Nicole G.

This is a great cake. I had to scale it up to a 10 inch pan, and it was no problem at all. A very forgiving recipe!

Diana L.

I made this cake yesterday. We had it for breakfast. I cut down on sugar as it was way too much. The batter was very delicious. I could not taste brandy in apples. Was brandy added for a flavor? I also do not think I will be making it again. Even tho, the batter was so good, the cake came out just ok. The apples were a little overcooked. Maybe try not to cook it for 12 min like it states in the recipe and leave them a little crispy before adding it to the batter.

Heidi L.

Made this tonight and it was wonderful. I would like advice on storing it.

Janelle C.

Hi Heidi,

To store, because the cake contains fruit, cover and refrigerate it until you are ready to serve.

The Milk Street Team

Ji Young K.

This is such a wonderful cake—I can’t count how many times I’ve made it. Allspice really lifts the flavor of apples. I made this outside of the U.S. where I can’t get Granny Smiths. So I used all braeburns, and it was equally delicious. I also subbed in bourbon for brandy but didn’t notice any big change in flavor. Try it—you won’t regret it!! :)

Lydia R.

I made this lovely apple cake last night. It came out so wonderful, not to sweet. I did swap out the brandy for Grand Marnier Liqueur as that is all I had on hand. It gave it a nice flavor. I will make this again. I may try and cook the apples a little less time as they became very soft and started to loss their shape.

Wendy R.

I have a huge pile of Romes. Are they a good substitute for either apple?

Lynn C.

Hi Wendy -

You can substitute the Rome apples for the Braeburns called for in the recipe. They are both considered sweet apples that are good for baking since their firm flesh holds up in the heat of the oven. I'd keep the Granny Smiths, though, since they provide some necessary balance since they are more tart than sweet. Good luck!

The Milk Street Team

Martha K.

The greatest apple cake ever! I have made this three times for my family and it is definitely one of
our favorite recipes from Milk Street. Thank you for bringing this into my kitchen.

Katherine A.

Would this recipe work with other types of fruit? Perhaps peaches or plums?

Lynn C.

Hi Katherine -

It *might* work but the cake could turn out a little more moist/dense than with apples, especially with peaches. Peaches and plums are both slightly juicier than apples but, in addition, peaches contain less pectin. Apples (and plums) have more pectin, which helps the fruit maintain any juice released during cooking in their cell walls. Peaches don't have as much and will, therefore, end up releasing more of that juice.

The Milk Street Team

J B.

Could I use honeycrisp instead of braeburns?

April D.

JB - Yes, definitely: honeycrisp apples will work nicely here. You can also experiment with using a mix of apples: a little bit of Granny Smith thrown into the mix can be a great addition if you enjoy a little more tartness. As long as you use an apple that has a mix of tart and sweet flavors (i.e., I wouldn't recommend a Red Delicious or Gala), you'll be in good shape.

- The Milk Street Team

J B.

Thank you! I went ahead and tried it last night with 1.5 lbs Granny Smiths and 1 lb Honeycrisp, about four of each. It turned out delicious! I followed the recipe and am so pleased with the cake.

J B.

Thank you! I went ahead and tried it last night with 1.5 lbs Granny Smiths and 1 lb Honeycrisp, about four of each. It turned out delicious! I followed the recipe and am so pleased with the cake.

Amy D.

Made this last night - my braeburns turned to mush while precooking/browning. Is that to be expected? Maybe I cooked them too long? Was about 12 or 13 mins, but I have a new fancy range and still learning how to judge the burners. The granny smiths held their shape, and the cake turned out so yummy!
Would definitely make again! I love apple desserts.

April D.

Amy - the apples will definitely get soft when they are browning, but shouldn't turn to total mush. It is possible that your heat was too high on your new range; if the heat was high, it probably resulted in frequent turning in order to keep them from getting too dark, which contributed to their breakdown. Next time, try using a slightly lower heat, and turn the apples only often enough to get them browned on all sides, but not constantly.

Amy D.

Thank you! My braeburns also seemed mealy when I sliced them. They were shipped here from Chile, so possibly they were old too!

Amy D.

Thank you! My braeburns also seemed mealy when I sliced them. They were shipped here from Chile, so possibly they were old too!

Aino P.

Delicious. New Favorite. Made in deep ceramic pie pan. Melted butter in separate pot, so didn’t have to pour it out of pan. Used rum instead of brandy. Tried once with almond flour, not good.

maureen s.

Once in a while I make a recipe and say that's it I won't try another because it's so good. That is the case with this cake it was superb and fairly easy to make. The only "hard" part is preparing the apples other than that it's easy. I did forget to add the all spice but it was still good.

Natalia S.

Very simple to make and delicious but VERY SWEET so definitely serve this with creme fraiche like they show in the video!! makes all the difference. If you wanted you could get away with using much less sugar and still have an amazing treat!

Nikita J.

This desert is absolutely delicious. I followed exactly and will be making this recipe for as long as I can cook. Perfection.


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Katherine A.

I was not successful with this recipe. I weighed all on my scale. The first was I may not have a large enough pan for the apple cook. I used a 9 inch pan.

Even with constant turning some of my apples just turned to mush.

I waited as long as possible for the dark browning which only got to medium brown even with the additional time.

And the final product was inedible. All just mush even the apples that retained their shape. There was no bake to the flour mixture just seemed like raw dough

Lynn C.

Hi Katherine -

A few things may have happened. First, not using a large enough skillet would definitely affect the apples. Because there isn't as much surface area in a smaller pan the juices from the apples won't evaporate as quickly so the apples themselves will steam or, even, boil in their juices before those juices can evaporate. Second, what kind of apples did you use? A mealy, or softer apple such as a red delicious or McIntosh won't work well here. You want a firm apple that will hold up to heat. Braeburn, Granny Smith, Golden Delicious, or Honey Crisp would all work well here. Lastly, did you make sure to cool the apples to the touch in the refrigerator? Hot, or even warm, apples will overheat the batter and can cause it to bake up greasy and doughy. Make sure the apples are cool to the touch - even a little cold is a good idea - before you add them to the batter. Hope that helps!

The Milk Street Team

Patricia E.

I only have unsalted butter. How much extra salt should I add to make it “salted butter?”

Lynn C.

Hi Patricia -

A stick of butter has about 1/4 teaspoon of salt so you would want to add 1/4 teaspoon here for a total of 1/2 teaspoon table salt.

The Milk Street Team

Gina O.

Although this looked beautiful, it was disappointing. The texture was very mushy and taste was underwhelming. Mine did not produce a thick, buttery custard. I measured ingredients on a scale. Could you suggest where I went wrong?

Lynn C.

Hi Gina -

You may want to read through the response to Katherine above for some potential pitfalls. It may also be helpful to watch Erika Bruce make it on the TV show, which you can find here - This may help you identify areas where you may have done something different and/or your batter didn't look the same as how it was supposed to. Make sure to use the combination of apples specified in the recipe and to quickly transfer the apples to a plate as soon as all of their liquid evaporates.

The Milk Street Team

Gina O.

Thank you, after reading the comments above, it's possible the apples were not cool enough when I added them to the batter. I will have to try it again and make sure the apples are completely cool. When I do, I will report back.

Lynne T.

Looks delicious and would like to make in advance of the holiday. Can this be frozen? Thank you

Lynn C.

Hi Lynne -

We haven't tested freezing the cake but we think it should work fine.

The Milk Street Team