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French Apple Cake; Introducing Ziplist

by Laura on December 13, 2013

Apple Cake from northern France

Some of you may have noticed in recent weeks that my toolbar now includes something called “Recipe Box.” This is because The Spiced Life has partnered with Ziplist to make recipe planning even easier for you. You also may have noticed that in my recipe box, there is an option to save the recipe, not just print it (see circled area):

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If you create a ZipList account and then save one of my recipes, you can go back at any time and automatically add the ingredients to your shopping list in the exact amounts you need.  It also has a nice meal planning function and phone app.  You can access your online recipe box or shopping list from The Spiced Life (shown in the picture below), just click the bookmark that says Recipe Box at the top of my page.  You can also access your recipe box and shopping list from any partner website (such as Simply Recipes, Recipe Girl or Savory Simple), as well as from and using free mobile apps from ZipList, so you have what you need to plan meals and grocery shop wherever you go.

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Full disclosure: I make a small amount of money on the ads at the Ziplist site when you click it through my page. I have been told by many people though that Ziplist is life changing for the planners out there–if you find it to be anything other than awesome please let me know! I won’t keep it if my experience and my readers’ experiences are anything other than wonderful. Also, I do want to note that Ziplist will only work with recipes in my current format (I use and adore the recipeSEO plug in if any of you are curious); I am working to change all of my recipes into this format, but as you might imagine that is going to take a while. So I apologize if you come across recipes that you want to add and cannot–and if you drop me a comment letting me know I will try to get those specific recipes into recipeSEO even faster.

Now about this cake…

Apple Cake from northern France

I’ve made it twice in the last few weeks, first as one of the Thanksgiving dinner desserts at my in laws’ and then the following weekend–I wanted better pictures and I wanted to experiment with smaller apples. The photo at the top of the page is from my house; the photo immediately above this paragraph is from Thanksgiving dinner. At my in-laws’, their apples were huge. As you can see both in the picture above and the picture below, that cake was bursting at the seams from the apples!! (You can also see that the lighting there was terrible!)

Apple Cake from northern France

At my house, the apples were the opposite (in both cases, local apples were used), absolutely tiny. So then my cake was sadly a little under-stuffed!

Apple Cake from northern France

So, on the one hand, I loved this cake and in general it is pretty fool-proof. On the other hand, if you are serving it to company, aim for 4 medium sized apples, or maybe 2 smaller and 2 large (I suggest a combination of tart and sweet, both firm and crunchy).

I found the origin for this recipe at davidlebovitz, where of course his came out perfectly stuffed, if you want to see what that looks like. Ironically he started with a Dorie Greenspan recipe from a fantastic book that I love and own, Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours, but I went looking for the recipe at my in laws’ home, away from my cookbook collection. Now I deviated from the recipe because I do not call for rum, which David stressed was quite important. But in that first recipe at Thanksgiving, no one could taste it. Also, I used lemon juice to toss with the apples to prevent browning, and while it was very tasty, it almost became the star of the cake, that tart underpinning. So at my house I used a small amount of a local apple cider vinegar to prevent browning and then used apple brandy in place of the rum. It got big thumbs up from everyone, and everyone who tried both cakes, strongly preferred the brandy.

One interesting thing about this cake–and David read my mind when he commented on it in his post, is that as an American it is very hard not to add cinnamon to an apple dessert. And I would maintain that the cake would be fantastic with cinnamon (or cassia). But, as David notes, it would no longer be a French apple cake. And it did make a pleasant change, to enjoy the apple flavor on its own. So I won’t tell if you add it, but if you do it is no longer a French apple cake.

Apple Cake from northern France

French Apple Cake
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: cake

Adapted from davidlebovitz and Dorie Greenspan; I recommend using a mix of tart and sweet apples, all of them firm and crunchy.
  • ¾ cup (110g) AP flour
  • ¾ t baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 4 medium-large apples (a mix of varieties)
  • 1-2 t apple cider vinegar
  • 2 large eggs
  • ¾ cup (150g) sugar
  • 3 T apple brandy (such as Calvados)
  • 2 t vanilla
  • 8 T (1/2 cup/115g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F and adjust the oven rack to the center of the oven. Cut out a circle of parchment to fit the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan; then cut out a strip to line the inside rim of the pan. Lightly grease the pan to encourage the parchment to stick, and then generously butter the parchment. This cake can definitely stick–at my in laws’ I did not use the parchment strip to line the side, and parts of the cake did not remove nicely.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
  3. Peel and core the apples, then cut them into 1-inch (3cm) chunks. Toss them with a teaspoon or two of apple cider vinegar to prevent browning. Set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, beat the eggs (a hand whisk is fine) until foamy and then whisk in the sugar. Then whisk in the apple brandy and vanilla.
  5. Gently stir in half of the flour followed by half of the melted butter. Repeat. Do not overmix.
  6. Fold in the apple chunks until they’re well-coated with the batter and scrape them into the prepared cake pan. Smooth the top a bit.
  7. Bake the cake for 50-60 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean (it may be a little juicy looking from hitting an apple). Let the cake cool for 5 minutes, then carefully remove the sides of the cake pan, leaving behind the parchment paper. Then carefully peel away the parchment paper, making sure no apples are stuck to it.
  8. Let cake cool before serving. You can serve with whipped cream or crème fraîche (or even ice cream–although maybe that is more American?), or just plain (if you are, ahem, eating it for breakfast).


As always, affiliate links were used in this post to link to items I would be linking to anyway in the course of my discussion. 

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Joanne December 13, 2013 at 7:24 am

It’s funny that you say that about the cinnamon…I used to work with a French girl who HATED the flavor of cinnamon! It was just too strong and spicy for her, I guess since it’s not used very much in France but we use it all the time here. They use cardamom a lot more.

Anyways, this is a beautiful cake! I love how fruit-stuffed it is.


Amanda @ MarocMama December 13, 2013 at 2:29 pm

I’ve made this cake numerous times from the cookbook and love it. Interestingly enough Moroccans also have a weird love/hate relationship with cinnamon. Personally I love it but always use a tad less when serving people here.


Laura December 13, 2013 at 5:30 pm

That is fascinating. Are they more likely to use in savory dishes in Morocco? And yes I love it too.


Amanda @ MarocMama December 14, 2013 at 8:14 am

Yes, where it can be mellowed out by other flavors (I think). I made a “traditional” American apple pie for Thanksgiving and there first reaction was “whoa you used cinnamon in a dessert?!” shrugs.


Ashley @ Big Flavors from a Tiny Kitchen December 13, 2013 at 5:19 pm

I love apple-centric desserts. I’d happily eat either version of this one :)


ATasteOfMadness December 16, 2013 at 1:44 am

I need a way to use up my apples! You are a life savor, this looks perfect!


grace December 16, 2013 at 5:16 pm

i will gladly welcome any and every apple dessert into my home.


Laura December 17, 2013 at 2:57 am

Me too–to eat for breakfast if nothing else! ;)


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