French style Apple Crumble Cake is a different take on the classic. Apple spiced compote is sandwiched between a buttery oat crumble and served chilled for dessert. A perfect make-ahead recipe for Autumn and Thanksgiving, particularly special served with chestnut ice cream.
French Apple Crumble Recipe
With an abundant fall of French apples, I wanted a classic yet healthy apple dessert. This recipe "Le Gâteau aux Petits Lu®" of Danièle Thompson caught my eye in Philippe Conticini and Pascal Frey's compilation of nostalgic desserts by French celebrities in "Souvenirs Gourmands" (bought at their book launch in 2015 at the Pâtisserie des Rêves in Paris).
Danièle's gâteau is genius. It's basically a crumble with unsugared, lightly spiced apples. It's given le French Touch by layering apple compote with a biscuit crumble in a rectangle or cake ring (without a bottom) and left to chill in cake shape for 24 hours.
Well not quite. Instead of using ready-made commercial biscuits, I made my own favourite Scottish crumble with oats.
This isn't anything astounding, though, is it? As a Scot, it's normal to add porridge oats to crumble toppings - as you can see from this simple apple oat crumble dessert.
Moreover, the (optional) nutty addition of almonds adds more texture and flavour - much like adding ground hazelnuts in this wicked chocolate hazelnut pear crumble.
Best Apples for Apple Crumble Cake
What I love most about this French-style Apple Crumble Cake is that there's no need to sugar the apples. This is down to choosing naturally sweet eating apples such as Golden Delicious and Pink Lady. Stewing them in a compote gives the best result and sweet enough without the addition of sugar. So it's healthy too!
Using Granny Smith apples are good but tart so would require some sugar. Like in Danièle's original recipe, use a mix of Golden Delicious (I love how the French pronounce them as "Gaulden") and Pink Lady, as they're the easiest to work with and naturally sweet.
The compote could be made purely with a sticky vanilla pod/bean but I love Danièle's addition of pain d'épice/gingerbread spice. In this case, I had the French gingerbread spices to hand (cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, star anise) and so infused them into the bubbling lemon juice and apples. Otherwise use a half teaspoon of pumpkin spice or all-spice.
For more on varieties of apples for cooking and baking,
see the market page on Apples (pommes)
Can I replace the Apples with other Fruits?
Keep it simple. Stick with apples rather than alternating with other fruits, as the compote should stay compact and avoid being too liquid. Replace an apple with a pear at most but keep it at that to enjoy this recipe at its best.
Apple Crumble Cake: French Cake or Gâteau?
This isn't really a French 'cake'. Unlike classic apple crumble cakes, this is rather more of a cake look-a-like. In France, a "cake" is a transportable rectangular cake made with flour and it's designed to rise (e.g. Banana Chocolate Marble Cake).
Instead, this French Apple Crumble Cake just rises to the occasion for teatime, dessert - even brunch and it's special enough as a Thanksgiving dessert. It's really a French gâteau but translated into English sounds awfully complicated. So I'm sticking with cake - without the cake!
Can I make it Gluten Free or Vegan?
This recipe is relatively low in gluten but if you want to omit the flour completely to make this completely gluten free, double the amount of oats and ground almonds.
To make this recipe vegan, replace the butter with your favourite non-dairy spread or melted coconut oil for the best vegan crumble topping.
Can I Freeze it?
I don't recommend freezing it as, although possible, the crumble will become not as crisp and soggy. So to avoid any soggy crumble, serve well chilled. I do stress you chill this cake for 24 hours in order to keep its perfect shape and eaten at its best on the day.
How to Serve Apple Crumble Cake - French-Style
This French Apple Crumble Cake is excellent served simply on its own. For many of us who love that little extra luxury on the side, here are some serving ideas, especially if serving for a special occasion:
- a dollop of good crème fraîche;
- French chilled custard, Crème Anglaise, lightly spiced with Chai tea;
- drizzle over some warmed caramel au beurre salé or salted caramel sauce;
- scoop of chestnut ice cream is a perfect Autumnal or Winter treat
More Apple Dessert Recipes:
Cheat's Danish Apple Cake by FabFood4All
Toffee Apple Hazelnut Cake by Tin&Thyme
Persimmon Apple Crumble with Rum Sauce by Christina's Cucina
Apple Crumble Cake
- springform cake pan or 20cm inox cake ring
- 100 g (3.5oz/1 stick) butter (room temperature)
- 50 g (1.75oz/ ¼ cup) coconut sugar or muscovado
- 100 g (3.5oz/ ¾ cup) plain flour (all purpose)
- 50 g (1.75oz/½ cup) medium rolled oats
- 50 g (1.75oz/ ½ cup) ground almonds (almond flour)
Spiced Apple Compote Filling
- 1 kg (2lb 3oz) apples 3 Golden Delicious, 2 Pink Lady
- 1 vanilla pod/bean or 1 teaspoon vanilla powder/extract
- 1 star anise or ½ teaspoon of ground mixed spice
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 cloves
- 4 cardamom pods
- 1 lemon, juice only
- ¼ tsp (a pinch) fleur de sel
Make the Crumble:
- Preheat the oven to 190°C/170°C fan/375°F/Gas 5
- Combine all the crumble ingredients an a large bowl, lightly rubbing through your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Set aside.(I often make double quantities of crumble and at this point freeze the other half for an extra speedy dessert next time!)
- Spread evenly on to a baking sheet covered in baking parchment or with a silicone mat. Bake for about 15 minutes, until the crumble is golden brown. Set aside to cool.
Make the Apple Compote:
- Peel and cut the apples into small cubes. Put all the ingredients in a saucepan, cover and heat gently for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally until the apples have become soft (I love keeping a few bits still visible for texture). Set aside to cool.
Preparing the Apple Crumble Cake:
- Butter a 20cm cake ring or springform cake tin (or 20cm x 8cm rectangle) and place directly on the serving plate. Sprinkle half of the cooled crumble mix evenly on the bottom, then spoon all the apple compote evenly. Top with the rest of the crumble and transfer to the fridge for 24 hours. Lift off the cake ring or take off the springform tin (this is so much easier than it sounds!)