Recipe for Gluten-Free French Apple Cake

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Gluten Free French Apple Cake

A year ago, when I received my Cook’s Illustrated Magazine, I swooned over their recipe for French Apple Cake. The bottom layer is moist with sliced apples and custard, the top layer is more cakey and the whole thing is sprinkled with a generous topping of sugar. It took me a year to try and make a gluten-free version. I’m not quite sure why I waited so long because the results were outstanding.

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September has always meant apples to me ever since I had my first job at Bloomingcamp Apple Ranch some 24 years ago (could it really be that long…gasp!). Part of my job was to help customers select the right variety of apple for the job. Did they want to make them into pies, or eat them out of hand? Were they canning a big batch of applesauce, or did they want to through some in with their pork roast? Did they like their apples sweet, crisp, or tart? Whatever their plans were, I could help them pick the very best apples.

I remember the bracing air in the cold storage room where we stored apples by the bushel. I can still hear the cha-ching of the old fashioned register when me made a sale. But my most present memory, the one that still comes to me in my dreams, is the painfully persistent aroma of pies baking in the back. We swept and sold, advised and lugged bushels, always in a haze of cinnamon, sugar, and baking apples.

Now I consider it the most beautiful scent known to man, that of pies, especially apple, in the oven. But back then, when one of my jobs was to muscle off the apple goo, deeply caramelized and fiercely clinging to the huge sheet pans on which the pies baked, the fragrance was too much for me. It was an assault on the senses. Happily, I’ve outgrown that particular olfactory overload and each fall I cook with apples often, both in sweet and savory applications.

A slice of gluten free French Apple Cake on an antique plate
A slice of gluten free French Apple Cake on an antique plate

This Gluten-Free French Apple Cake is a beautiful confection–perfect for fall picnics. Because it is naturally light on flour, it converted amazingly well using my gluten-free flour blend and a little almond flour for flavor and structure. I think you will LOVE it. And yes, it smells so good when it’s baking in the oven.

LOVE APPLES? HERE ARE A FEW OF MY FAVORITE RECIPES:

Did you make this recipe? Be sure to leave a comment and star rating below (⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐) and post a picture and tag us on Instagram using the hashtags #agirldefloured #deflouredrecipes! Thank you!

Gluten-Free French Apple Cake

Gluten-Free French Apple Cake

Alison Needham
This French Apple Cake, adapted from Cook's Illustrated, has a rich custardy bottom, a light cake layer and a crisp sugary topping. Serve it warm, or at room temperature – either way with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream.
4.34 from 3 votes
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 1 hr 15 mins
Total Time 1 hr 30 mins
Course Dessert
Cuisine French
Servings 8 people
Calories 500 kcal

Equipment

  • Springform Pan

Ingredients
  

Instructions
 

  • Place the oven rack in the lower third of the oven and set the temperature to 325 degrees. Spray a 9-inch springform pan with gluten-free cooking spray and place on a foil lined, rimed baking sheet.
  • Place apple slices on a microwave safe plate or pie dish, cover and microwave on high for 3 minutes, or until apples are slightly tender and pliable. Drizzle with brandy and lemon juice and let cool for 15 minutes.
  • Place ¾ cup of gluten-free flour blend, almond flour, 1 cup of sugar, baking powder, salt and xanthan gum in a large mixing bowl. Whisk to combine. Add one egg, oil, milk and vanilla extract and whisk until smooth. Scoop out one cup of the batter and place in another medium bowl.
  • Add egg yolks to the larger portion of the batter and whisk to combine. Fold in the cooled apple slices and pour mixture into the prepared pan, smoothing the top with an offset (or rubber) spatula.
  • Whisk remaining 2 tablespoons of gluten-free flour blend into the remaining batter and smooth batter evenly over the apple mixture in the pan, taking care to spread it all the way to the edges.
  • Sprinkle the top with the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar and bake until the center of the cake is set, about 1 hour and 15 minutes.
  • Transfer pan to a wire rack and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the cake along the sides of the pan and let cool completely, about 2 hours more (if you can). Cut into wedges and serve.

Notes

This recipe can be made diary free – just substitute your favorite (higher fat) alternative milk.

Nutrition

Serving: 1sliceCalories: 500kcalCarbohydrates: 49gProtein: 5gFat: 33gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 75mgSodium: 282mgPotassium: 146mgFiber: 4gSugar: 36gVitamin A: 193IUVitamin C: 4mgCalcium: 123mgIron: 1mg
Keyword Apple Cake, French Apple Cake, Gluten-Free Apple Cake, Gluten-Free French Apple Cake
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

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98 Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing this recipe! I tried it today and it tasted wonderful and looked beautiful. It was a bit of a project, but worth the effort. Cakes don’t always convert as nicely as I would like to gluten free, so it is a relief to try a recipe that has already been converted and tested for me!

    1. Glad it worked out for you, Liz. And I agree that it’s worth the effort…a fun cake to bake on the weekends. 🙂

  2. Hi Alison,
    I made this recipe yesterday. It turned out great! What a lovely dessert (okay, and breakfast). I was wondering if you think it’s possible to substitute Earth Balance sticks in place of oil, and if so, how many sticks? Also, what about adding cinnamon to give it a little more “apple pie” flavor? Thanks for posting this!

    1. If the Earth Balance sticks have the same amount of fat as the vegetable oil, the results will be similar (use the same amount of sticks–melted–as the oil). If they have less fat than oil then the cake might be a little dryer. As for adding the cinnamon…I think that’s a fabulous idea. <3

      1. Looks like the sticks have a couple grams less fat per tablespoon, at 11 g/tbsp, since coconut oil is about 13.6 g/tbsp and 14 g/tbsp for canola oil according to what I Googled. Possibly not a significant difference. I will try the sticks, and a little cinnamon next time. Maybe a little vanilla too. The real question is… what am I going to do with all that leftover brandy?! 😉

        1. Oops, I did add vanilla.

  3. This looks amazing! I’m so glad I found your website. My husband and I decided to go gluten free and I have a sneaking suspicion that this site is going to be a huge part of our lives from now on. My family is coming to visit soon and I wanted to make seasonal desserts and breakfast options that would impress them (grandma in particular) but still fit into our new gluten-free lifestyle. This is perfect! I think I’ll be making the chocolate chip pumpkin muffins as well!

  4. Hi Alison,
    This looks and sound fabulous!
    I wonder if I can leave out the brandy – I don’t use alcohol, even it does cook out of the finished product. Should I add something else in its place so that the liquid total is not out of balance?
    Clever web-site name, by the way!

    1. You definitely can. If you want, add a splash of extra vanilla extract, but otherwise it will be fine. 🙂

  5. I made this without the almond flour (just added a little extra gluten-free flour blend) and without soaking the apples in brandy, and it was incred. Seriously, I’m going to be making this at least once a week til the apples in my basement disappear…

      1. theresa dibello says:

        i WANT TO MAKE THIS AHEAD OF TIME, CAN IT BE FROZEN?

  6. Another total hit! Only modifications I made were to add cinnamon and double the vanilla- fabulous!!

  7. Oh this looks SO GOOD! I can’t wait to try it! Thanks so much! It’s my first time visiting your blog!

  8. i like to know if you tried a low fat version of this delicious lookinfg apple french cake mmmm

  9. Alison- Have yo utried this recipe with butter instead of oil? What are the pros/cons? Thanks!

    1. I haven’t tried it, but it should work fine, provided you melt it first. Subbing butter for oil gives similar results but a richer, buttery flavor. 🙂

      1. Kathy Kenney says:

        When I saw this demonstrated on Cook’s Country this weekend, Chef Julia explained that she used oil, not butter, because of taste, that so much butter would overwhelm the cake, but that oil would let the taste of apples come through. I was attracted to the recipe because of the oil, and with the substitution of almond milk, it is dairy free as well as gluten free. I just made it with 1/2 coconut oil and 1/2 macadamia nut oil, two delicious oils. Yum!

  10. Stephanie says:

    This recipe looks amazing and exactly what I’ve been looking for for fall. Is there any way to reduce the fat I am wondering? Thanks and can’t wait to try it!!

    1. It’s very difficult to reduce fat in something like this and expect the same results. Coconut oil is a very healthy fat though if it makes you feel any better. 😉

  11. I have made this great recipe at least 4 times…just added cinnamon and used coconut milk. It was awesome! Thanks!

  12. Made this cake yesterday.
    Far out – that was the best gluten free cake I have ever had.
    Tasted great warm and better this morning, cold out of the fridge. There is no compromise on texture or flavor. Which is saying a lot when you are so used to dry crumbly gluten free recipes and made products.
    It impressed our very particular friends also – who are not gluten free.
    Will trowel your site for more gems.
    You are a legend.
    Cheers
    Aaron

  13. This turned out AMAZING!! Thank you so much.

  14. Its a great cake. I Frenchified it a bit more and pushed thin uncooked apple slices into the batter all the way around the inside of the tin. Afraid they might stick to tin but when I released the edge they were forming a pretty white ridge around the side of the cake. What could I have done so apple slices caramelized??

    1. Antonette says:

      Do you have to use only Granny Smith apples?

      1. Hi there! No, you can use any apples that are good for baking and that hold their structure. Try Jonagold, Pink Lady or Honey Crisp instead of Granny Smith.

  15. We made this wonderful cake tonight.
    Thank you for the beautiful recipe.
    The variety of sweetness and consistencies made for a delicious dessert for our family that delighted with each bite.
    I enjoyed reading your story preceding the recipe too.
    Yummo

  16. Help. I am new to gluten free. I make this following the directions. Used all purpose gluten free flour. The batter was very runny and ran out of the springform pan. I transferred it to a regular pyrex pan to bake it. What a disaster and expensive. what did I do wrong ? Is it suppose to be runny ?

    1. Hi Kathy,

      The batter is slightly more liquidy than your average cake batter. What brand of all-purpose gluten-free flour did you use?

      1. I cut down on the liquids b/c it seemed like it would be too liquidy.

  17. I am about to bake this cake. I love the photos, and the organic ingredients, but why on earth would ANYONE WANT TO USE A MICROWAVE – if they are going to the effort of using gluten-free and organic ingredients. Please read about the dangers of microwaves and how they change the molecular structure of whatever you put in there. Talk about toxic!!

  18. I just baked this cake using a combo of apple, pear and mango. I sprinkled some ground up cashew flour mixed with turbinado sugar & cinammon on the top for a crumbly effect. It came out great. It’s for my brother’s 60th bday, and this family is not educated about gluten-free so I think they’ll be impressed. My only complaint of this recipe is cooking the fruit in the microwave first. It is not necessary. I didn’t cook mine, I put it freshly sliced on top of the batter, and it baked up beautifully. Microwaves are toxic – they change the molecular structure of whatever they are heating. If someone is on the gluten free path, it is for health reasons so they should also be avoiding microwaves.
    But thanks anyway for sharing the great recipe and inspiring photos!

    1. Elizabeth says:

      Thanks for sharing, i was going to skip the microwave step:)

      1. I also skipped the microwave step. I gentley steamed the apple slices in a big sauce pan in a drop of coconut oil. Seemed to work well. I cooled the slices on a baking tray. I used calvados instead of Brandy as that’s all I had. I like idea of adding cinnamon to this recipe as I looove cinnamon & apple. Will maybe try next time 🙂

  19. Hi, I made this cake for a market cafe here in Deloraine, Tasmania, Australia, and I received very good comments in particular how light it was and was asked if it had custard in it! I have to say it was delicious and will definitely make it again. Thank you for sharing it.

  20. I made this recipe in a last ditch effort to find a gourmet gluten free apple cake worth eating/to sell at our school fair. I doubled each cake and used huge tins. I left the cakes to cool overnight in the cool room in the tins. They popped out beautifully and I made a simple glaze for them. Of all the cakes I made, both of these sold out! Every last crumb was devoured. My husband said it was so full of apple and just moist and delicious.
    Thankyou for this recipe. It’s a secret recipe I’m not sure I want to share 😉

  21. Hi Do you have a version of your cake that is sugar free, using a natural sugar substitute. We do not need the cake to be dairy free, ‘just’ GF and sugar free. Thanks!

    1. I’d try coconut palm sugar as a replacement. However, it is untested and I can’t guarantee the results. If you try it, let me know how it goes! 🙂

  22. Pingback: Apples for Mama |
  23. Wow! I am amazed that this cake converted so well. Bravo! Only one question: the ingredients list an option of almond OR coconut flour. Coconut flour has way more fiber in it and will absorb more liquid than almond and hence, produce a much different texture than using almond flour. So, which do you use? Thank you!!!

  24. I’m enjoying a slice as I type and have to say it tastes pretty amazing! Just one question, is 325 degrees for conventional or fan-forced oven? I’d assumed conventional and made the adjustment for it, the result being a seriously yummy but somewhat unstable (and oily) cake. Thank you!

  25. This was so delicious. I used butter instead of oil and added some cinnamon to my apples. Really fantastic cake. Thank you for the recipe.

  26. Do you think I can make this with peaches instead of apples (got a case of peaches and in my search for a good peach cobbler or crisp I found this..) thoughts?

    1. It might very well work–especially if the peaches are quite firm. However, if they are really ripe and juicy, it might make the cake soggy. Let me know if you try it! 🙂

  27. I just stumbled onto this recipe a couple weeks ago, and have made it twice since. The first time was for a group of friends coming over to celebrate the first day of kiddos back to school and the second by special request for dessert at a friends house. Everyone LOVED it and I have passed your recipe on several times in the last week. Thank you for sharing it and I am looking forward to trying other of your recipes.

  28. What gluten free blend do you use and do you know weights of the ingredients?

  29. I made this tonight to bring for dessert at my MiL’s house tomorrow. I can’t tell if I should put it in the fridge for the 18 or so hours till I serve it or if it’ll keep at room temp. it’s probably too late for me to figure this out now, but it’d be great if you could include storage info in recipes so folks know how to keep it if it’s not all gobbled up right away 🙂

    1. Hi Michelle! Great point. With the apple cake I usually keep it on the counter overnight, or refrigerate it if longer. The crunchy top will soften, but it still has great flavor. 🙂

      1. Mrsghetti says:

        Hi, This cake looks amazing! I’m wanting to make it this weekend, my question is in regards to storing it or making it ahead. Im having people over at 2:30 and won’t be able to make it right before hand, is it something that will taste just as good if I make it the night before and let it sit out, or can I mix it together the night before and pop it in the oven the morning of? I know you could never get away with that with a normal cake, but this one seems like it doesn’t do a whole lot of rising…? What do you recommend for making it ahead?

        1. You can make it ahead. Cover it loosely, but keep it in the pan. Before you are ready to serve it, warm it in the oven for about 15 minutes at 350 degrees. 🙂

  30. This cake is absolutely delicious; the recipe and the web site have been shared to the great delight of my GF friends. The cake is my go-to cake this year when I need to bring something to a pot luck dinner. It is so good, in fact, that my daughter who generally doesn’t like GF foods, asked me for the recipe!!!

  31. Elizabeth says:

    I’m hoping to make this today, but don’t have Xanthan Gum. Can I make it without it? Or is there a substitute I can use?

    Thanks!

    1. If your flour blend already contains it, you don’t need any additional xanthan gum. A substitute would be equal parts psyllium husk, or 1 teaspoon guar gum. You can bake it without it, however it might be a little more crumbly. 🙂

  32. Maree Godleman says:

    Wow! Made your amazing cake this morning with apples freshly picked from a tree in the garden. I wasn’t sure quite what texture etc to expect but served it with whipped cream and a cuppa to guests this afternoon. We were all very impressed and especially liked the contrast of the crisper top layer to the soft, moist layer beneath. It is a cake I will make again (& again!) and am very grateful for you generously posting and sharing the recipe. I look forward to trying more of your recipes after the success of my first one…..many thanks from the south of Tasmania (often regarded as the ‘Apple Isle’).

  33. Yay! A beautiful cake I can shamelessly enjoy 🙂 My non-celiac kids snarffled this up tonight for dessert and wanted more. My daughter even wants it in her lunchbox! Thanks for a great recipe that will help entertain my allergy-laden circle of friends.

  34. This sounds delicious. Do you think it would freeze ok? I’m just wondering if it would still be as nice if made ahead and frozen.

  35. Karen McQuade says:

    Best GF dessert ever! My only issue were the directions at the end, found them confusing. Scooped put one cup batter but not sure from directions what to do with it so I added back to Apple batter. A truly great gf recipe.

  36. I made this for a brunch party. HUGE hit! It was gone with the hour, no leftovers. I will definitely be making this again, very very soon. It’s not only really delicious but attractive too!

  37. For the heavy modifiers out there, I wouldn’t say I was 100% successful, but here’s what I did to get this closer to AIP (Autoimmune Paleo), which doesn’t use eggs. I found it super sweet, even using 1/2 cup sugar instead of a full cup and a banana for the first egg. Next time I would leave out all the white sugar if using a banana for the egg. I used 2 gelatin eggs for the egg yolks, so I baked for 1.5 hours and trusted that it would set when it cooled. It is a little gelatinous (as expected with gelatin) but basically set up once cooled. I didn’t realize how much of a custard texture this cake is supposed to have, so eggs would definitely have worked better.

    The flavor of the flour you use definitely comes through, so choose your mix wisely (mine was sorghum based). I left out the gum (didn’t think emulsifying would be an issue if not using dairy) and I left out the vanilla (still plenty of flavor there). Thanks for the recipe and inspiration to go a little crazy with modifications! Hope someone gets this closer for those of us who are egg-free. 🙂

  38. Just made this tonight. It was very delicious! I love all the textures in there…crunchy on top, custard like bottom, and then apples. Yum!

  39. Linda zade says:

    Just made this today did not have brandy so used rum
    Definitely will make again delicious great texture

    1. I didn’t have brandy either. I didn’t consider rum! I just left it out. I have amaretto, too. That would have been great with almond flour instead of coconut flour…….. I used coconut flour, coconut oil, and coconut milk in it… it would have been AMAZING with rum.

      Or Almond milk, almond flour, and canola oil — plus amaretto.

      Next time!

  40. Has this recipe been made with coconut sugar? How did it turn out if so.

    1. I don’t know! Coconut sugar is a decent sub for brown sugar. It might work, but would give the cake a darker color.

  41. I have this cake in the oven right now — it smells (and the batter tastes) pretty coconutty because being dairy free, I use coconut oil and coconut milk wherever oil/butter and milk are called for, so I can’t wait to try it!

    It’s for dinner tomorrow though — should it go in the fridge or sit out on the counter? There are no dairy products of any kind in it, so I’m thinking it should be fine on the counter, because the eggs are cooked?

    I can’t wait! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Too late for this time, but I would recommend refrigerating it, then reheating it a bit in the oven. 🙂

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  43. Looks delicious. Can’t wait to try it.

    Just curious. Your prep time and cook time don’t add up to your total time. I was wondering if you really manage to do all that prep in 15 minutes?? You must be a whiz in that kitchen. I think it would take me all of the extra hour to prep that your total time reflects.

  44. Absolutely yummy. Loved the crispy top and moist inside. This is one of the first gluten-free recipes that has turned out absolutely perfect. My husband and I downed the whole thing in less than 24 hours. Didn’t use the brandy, cut the sugar in half and added cinnamon. Thanks!

  45. Just made it today, and everyone loved it!

  46. N. Hunter says:

    I made this yesterday and the cake came out “gummy” like it wasn’t done. I baked it for 75 minutes at the 325 temperature. Not sure what I did wrong. I can only think that maybe the apples had too much juicy in them when I put them in the cake batter. Was so disappointed.

  47. this cake looked great but tasted awful. I served it to a group of women and half of them didn’t finish it. It is really tasteless. If you make it add cinnamon or nutmeg and leave out the brandy which couldn’t be tasted anyway.

    1. Sorry you didn’t like it. It’s a favorite in my house. Maybe it was the apples you used.

    2. I’ve made this 3x, and everyone really liked it. Based on similar reviews, I think either the ingredients used, or the execution may be the reason it wasn’t successful. It’s happened to all bakers.

  48. This gf cake looks amazing. Can’t wait to try it. Do you have to use a springform pan?

    1. You don’t. You can use the same size cake pan but make sure to spray it well with cooking spray and line it with parchment.

  49. Hi Carol, thank you for your comment. While many people have questions and concerns about brandy and other spirits, pure distilled brandy is considered gluten free. In fact, brandy is made from grapes, so unless it’s had some other flavoring added, it is safe for celiacs. Of course, you are always free to leave it out if you prefer.

  50. 4 stars
    My family loved this cake. It was really good. I did not use brandy I used extra vanilla and then added a little cinnamon with the sugar on top. Will definitely make this again.

    1. Your modifications sound great – thanks for much for the comment. I’m glad you loved the cake!

  51. I haven’t tried this recipe yet but I just wanted to check with you, does the recipe really call for a cup of oil ?

    1. Hi Dawn – yes it does! The result isn’t an oily cake at all, it’s quite moist and delicious.

  52. 4 stars
    This was delicious and so special! I love the texture and it couples very well with vanilla bean ice cream, as suggested. I will make it again. I did not get the wonderful crusty top for some reason. I followed the recipe exactly, except I used avocado oil instead of canola. That shouldn’t have changed anything. Maybe it was my flour. I used Bob’s Cup for Cup. Bummer. But it was still fabulous. Thank you for the beautiful recipe!

    1. Glad you enjoyed it! It may be that your oven temperature is a bit off? You could always briefly raise the temp at the end of baking to see if that helps crisp it up a bit as well.

  53. Going to make this can I use a Dutch oven and do I need to change any ingredients or baking time?

    1. I have never tried it in a Dutch oven so I can’t really offer any suggestions. Please let me know how it goes!

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