French Apple Cake

Made with rum, this gooey French apple cake is simple and not too sweet. The delicate taste and soft-yet-crunchy texture of Granny Smith apples punctuate it deliciously throughout. 

Photo of French Apple Cake, recipe by stacy lyn Harris on a blue china plate with knife in front on wood
French Apple Cake is creamy and velvety with a hint of a crunch on top!

As American as Apple Pie—or French Apple Cake

There is nothing more American than apple pie, right? European settlers went to great effort to bring their favorite apples across the Atlantic so that they could enjoy this sweet, tart fruit in the New World. Before that, the only native North American varieties were small, sour crabapples—nobody’s first choice for dessert.

Starting in the 19th century, apple pie came to represent American prosperity and pride. It still does. At the same time, apple desserts are a tribute to those hardy European settlers who brought apple seeds from afar.

And let’s not forget Johnny Appleseed — a legendary character based on frontier nurseryman John Chapman. Chapman’s skillful orchard planting help spread the apple goodness across the country.  

This French apple cake is a nod to the Old Country traditions of some of our ancestors.

Apple Dessert: the Taste of Fall Everywhere

Apple cakes and pies are a time-honored, delicious way to use up an apple harvest. Each country has their own traditions for their apple desserts. For example, Polish szarlotka is a pie instead of a cake—similar to an American apple pie but a little less sweet and with more varieties of toppings. Then there is a Scandinavian version: like szarlotka, Swedish apple cake is extra buttery.

Of course, today you can make almost any kind of apple cake, any time you want! No need to wait for September or October to get the taste of fall.

What apples are best for baking cakes?

You have many choices for the type of cooking apples to use, depending on the flavor you want. For example, Swedish apple cake typically uses tart/sour cooking apples like Granny Smith or Jonathan. For a sweeter taste, you could go with Gala or Fuji apples.

For my French apple cake, I like to use Granny Smith apples. They are tasty, not too sweet, and hold up well to heat. Here are some tips for picking the best Granny Smith apples for your apple cake.

Easy Apple Cake

French apple cake is a luscious, easy-to-make treat. Instead of typical apple pie spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, this recipe uses lemon juice and almond or vanilla extract for flavoring.

Sometimes it’s best to keep things simple and traditional. This cake isn’t all decked out with frosting, but it still catches the eye!

Not only is this French apple cake one of the tastiest and easiest desserts, it’s also a beautiful one. Powdered sugar gives it a festive look as well as a little more decadent flavor. 

It’s the combination of flavors and textures that makes this cake stand out, in my opinion. The tart apples with the custard-like filling and crusty top are just heavenly! 

After good cooking apples, the next essential ingredient is fresh eggs. By adding 3 yolks to the batter, you get a creamy, velvety cake. 

The recipe has a few extra steps to create a topping with a cookie-like texture. That crunchy texture is also somewhat similar to the top of a pound cake.

How to Make French Apple Cake

This recipe is really very easy, but it’s important to understand one easily overlooked step: you need to separate the batter in mid-preparation for the cake and topping.

First, you will make the original batter. Then you will scoop one cup of the batter out into another bowl, setting it aside to make the top of the cake.

You will then add ingredients to both batters: three egg yolks to the original batter, and a little more flour and sugar into the 1 cup of batter. 

There’s no doubt in my mind that you are going to adore this French apple cake!

Can you freeze French Apple Cake?

You can put this cake in the freezer if necessary, but note that freezing may affect the texture of the cake. My advice is to store it briefly in an airtight container in the fridge for no more than a few days. Honestly, this cake is so scrumptious that I doubt you’ll have leftovers lying around!

More Seasonal and Holiday Desserts

As you might have guessed, I adore seasonal desserts and love making them for my family. Sometimes, I adjust recipes to make good use of a fruit harvest or to celebrate a special holiday.

For example, this Blackberry Trifle is perfect for the 4th of July.

Blackberry trifle in fancy clear dish
Blackberry Trifle with Luscious Custard Filling

Check out some of my other dessert recipes here, including:

easy baked apple dumplings
Best, Easiest Baked Apple Dumplings
Photo of French Apple Cake, recipe by stacy lyn harris

French Apple Cake

This gooey French Apple Cake perfectly embodies the tastes of fall!
5 from 25 votes
Course Dessert
Cuisine French


  • 1 1/2 pounds Granny Smith apples cored, peeled, and sliced 1/8-inch thick
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon dark rum
  • 1 cup plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour for later use
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar for sprinkling over the top
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract or vanilla extract
  • confectioner's sugar for sprinkling


  • Preaheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare the cake pan by spraying a 9-inch springform pan with vegetable oil spray.
  • Peel, core, and slice the apples. In a large microwave-proof bowl, add apples, cover with plastic wrap, and microwave three minutes on high heat. Carefully remove the plastic wrap, add lemon juice and rum to the bowl and toss with the apples.
  • In a medium bowl, add one cup of flour, one cup of sugar, baking powder, and salt and mix well. In a large bowl, add oil, milk, one egg, and extract and whisk until combined. Add flour mixture to the wet ingredients and mix until combined.
  • Remove one cup of the cake mixture to a medium bowl. Add the remaining three tablespoons of flour and whisk well. This will be the top cake layer. Set aside.
  • Add three egg yolks to the original cake batter and mix to combine. Stire apples into the cake batter. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Gently shake any bubbles out of the batter.
  • Pour top cake batter over batter in pan. Smooth the surface to get rid of any bubbles. Sprinkle the remaining two tablespoons of sugar evenly over the top of the batter. Bake for about 1 1/2 hours, or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean. Remove pan to a wire cooling rack and allow to completely cool.
  • Loosen the sides of the cake by running a knife around the edges of the pan. Remove sides of pan and sprinkle liberally with powdered sugar. Serve with homemade whipped cream. or vanilla ice cream
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  1. Louise Barber says:

    Really yummy! When do you put in the Rum? After everything was mixed together and layered in the pan i realized it was still waiting to be added.. Next time i will add it with the eggs into the body of the cake…

    1. I think and hope you will really love this one. I put the rum in when I mix the lemon juice with the apples. Adding it to the egg mixture will work too.

  2. Sam Hopper says:

    Can you forego the rum in this recipe? We don’t consume any alcohol, and would prefer not to use any, even in small amounts in cooking.

    1. Absolutely!! I totally understand. Just make it without the rum and it will be wonderful!

  3. Hi Stacy! I plan to make this. Do you happen to ever use a different type apple?

    1. Hi Kim!! You are going to love this recipe. I have substituted pears for the apples and it is still amazing. You can sub this kind of apple; it just may have a little different texture. Let me know how it turns out for you.

  4. xoffender says:

    good recipe. glad that there’s not too much sugar and flour. i added a teaspoon of cinnamon because i can’t bake apples without cinnamon yum

    1. The cinnamon would be a fantastic addition to this recipe. Great thinking!

  5. Thank you for sharing your recipe.

  6. Deanna Hale says:

    Can you subt. the Rum with anything eles?

    1. Sure. You can leave it out all together or us a little lemon juice.

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