Gluten-Free French Apple Cake

French Apple Cake Recipe

gluten free apple cake

This Gluten-Free 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. You can top it with vanilla bean ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream too. But I think it’s perfect as-is.

– Updated May 2021 – Recipe by:  Alison Needham, A Girl Defloured – watch the video to see us make it!

Jump to Recipe

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. Each fall I cook with apples often, both in sweet and savory applications. 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. 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 of the Gluten-Free French Apple Cake are outstanding.

It 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.

If you are looking for a great visual on what variety of apples are best for Gluten-Free French Apple Cake (besides the Granny Smith), or for that applesauce you’re planning to make this weekend, check out this amazing infographic. It was created by Sean Seidell, one of my friends from high school. I wish we had it hanging for reference at the apple ranch where I worked!

Gluten-Free French Apple Cake

gluten free apple cake
Print Recipe
4.18 from 40 votes

Gluten-Free French Apple Cake

This Gluten-Free 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.
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time1 hr 15 mins
Total Time1 hr 30 mins
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American, French
Keyword: A Girl Defloured, apple recipes, cake recipes, dessert
Servings: 8 servings
Calories: 260kcal
Author: Alison Needham


  • 1 1/2 lbs Granny Smith apples peeled, cored and cut into 8 wedges and sliced 1/8 inch thick crosswise
  • 1 TBSP brandy
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup, plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose gluten-free flour blend
  • 1/4 cup almond flour or coconut flour
  • 1 cup, plus 2 tablespoons organic granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp xanthan gum (omit if your blend already contains it)
  • 1 large egg plus 2 large yolks
  • 1 cup canola oil or coconut oil
  • 1 cup whole milk or dairy free milk of your choosing
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract


  • 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 3/4 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.



This one is a favorite at every celebration & event! The French Apple Cake can be made one day ahead of time if you’re planning for guests.
Store the uneaten cake in a sealed container in a cool, dry place for up to three days. 


Calories: 260kcal | Carbohydrates: 58g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 2g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 29mg | Sodium: 176mg | Potassium: 242mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 41g | Vitamin A: 134IU | Vitamin C: 4mg | Calcium: 100mg | Iron: 1mg

Frequently Asked Questions about French Apple Cake:

What is a French Apple Cake?

French Apple Cake is a cake made with apple slices, a splash of booze like brady or rum, and a custardy cake base. Many also incorporate nut flour.

What are the best apples for French Apple Cake?

Granny Smith apples are the best pick for French Apple Cake, since they hold up while baking, have a strong apple flavor and add a touch of tartness. Other apples that do well in baked goods could be substituted, such as Honeycrisp, Gala or Fuji apples.

How do you store an apple cake?

Since apple cake has lots of moisture, store in a sealed container in a cool, dry place for up to 3 days.

How long does French Apple Cake keep?

You can store the cake in a sealed container in a cool, dry place for up to three days. The cake can be made a day ahead if you are planning for guests.

17 thoughts on “Gluten-Free French Apple Cake

  1. I made this today and it was VERY YUMMY. I didn't have xanthum gum so substituted ground flax seeds. I also made 2 of them, the first one was very oily so I cut the oil to 1/2 cup in the second on and it was just fine. This will definitely be a go-to recipe for gluten free dessert.

  2. Great recipe! Will definitely go into my recipe box. I had to make some adjustments due to what I had on hand and personal dietary restrictions…
    I used coconut sugar instead of regular sugar.
    Instead of the gluten free flour I did 1/2 cup brown rice flour and 1/4 cup tapioca flour.
    Instead of canola oil I did half avocado oil half butter, melted.
    For the milk I used coconut milk.
    Thanks for sharing!!!

  3. I made his twice. The first time as written,the second using potato flour and coconut flour,and I used coconut sugar which gave a richer flavor,then I used almond milk.

  4. Delicious. Didn't have the brandy so skipped it. Used coconut oil, but will make it next time w half the amount, almond milk used. And the big change – I had peaches on hand not apples- still yummy!

  5. I made this yesterday and it was delicious! I followed the directions exactly (using the coconut flour and canola oil) and it was perfect. It's a rare thing for my end product to look just like the Pinterest photo, but this one did! Thanks for sharing this recipe! My family loves it!

  6. I made this recipe today for a dinner party I had tonight and it was a hit. Everyone liked it even those people who don't normally eat gluten-free foods! It is also a very pretty cake when it is made. I will make this one again! Thanks for posting!

  7. I just made this exactly according to the recipe minus the brandy because I hate the taste of alcohol in desserts. I used coconut flour and coconut oil. I have to agree with another posting that it was fairly oily. It tastes very good and I like it overall, but I think next time I'll try 1/2 cup oil and 1/2 cup applesauce.

    1. That sounds like it might be good! Also, you may want to mix your coconut flour with 20% tapioca.

  8. Made this today and it is delicious! I took other’s advice and only used 1/2 cup of oil ( I used coconut oil) and it is perfection. Thank you so much for this fantastic recipe. no one will believe it is gluten and dairy free. Pretty looking, too!

Let us know what you think

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating