Healthy French Apple Crumble Cake without the cake! Gingerbread-spiced apple compote in a buttery oat almond crumble, perfect for afternoon tea or dessert. Delicious served with chestnut ice cream.
French Apple Dessert Inspiration
With an abundance of French apples this Autumn, 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 ring 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 oat crumble topping. So, does this make it an ‘Apple Crisp’, as it contains brown sugar and oats? Hmm. I’ve added ground almonds too.
Oat & Nut Crumble
This isn’t anything astounding, though, is it? As a Scot, it’s understandable we like adding 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. Pudding proof is adding ground hazelnuts in this wicked chocolate hazelnut pear crumble.
Naturally Sweet Apple Compote
The compote could be made purely with a sticky vanilla pod or 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.
So, what do I love most about this French Apple Crumble Cake? The choice of naturally sweet apples (Golden Delicious and Pink Lady) means there’s no need to add any sugar to the fruit. The result is sweet enough and it’s healthy too!
French Apple Crumble ‘Cake’
This isn’t really a French ‘cake’. Unlike apple crumble cakes on the web, 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 – or even breakfast or brunch and let’s even add it to the Thanksgiving table. It’s really a French gâteau but translated into English sounds awfully complicated. So I’m sticking with cake! Without the cake. Jings, now I’m making it sound complicated – but it’s just the delicious subtleties of the language.
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. Using Granny Smith apples are good but remember they’re tart and 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.
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 – dare I say such a horrible word in baking? Soggy. So let’s keep it crumbly crisp and serve simply chilled. Speaking of which, I do stress that the cake needs to chill for 24 hours in order to keep its perfect shape and eaten at its best on the day.
How to serve French Apple Crumble Cake
This French Apple Crumble Cake is excellent served simply on its own, as the French tend to do. However, for many of us who love that little extra luxury on the side, a drizzling of caramel au beurre salé (see my salted caramel sauce recipe) would be perfect with a dollop of good crème fraîche.
If we want to be British about it, add custard – or try this lightly spiced French chilled custard, Chai Tea Crème Anglaise. For ice cream lovers, chestnut ice cream is a perfect Autumnal or Winter treat.
Alternatively, serve with the lot if you plan to make this for a perfect, fruity Thanksgiving dessert!
JINGS – I have it! Let’s call it Thanksgiving Apple Crumble.
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
French Apple Crumble Cake Recipe
French Apple Crumble Cake
- 100 g (3.5oz) butter (room temperature)
- 50 g (1.75oz) coconut sugar or muscovado sugar
- 100 g (3.5oz) plain flour (all purpose)
- 50 g (1.75oz) medium rolled oats
- 50 g (1.75oz) ground almonds (almond flour)
Apple Compote (Gingerbread-spiced)
- 1 kg (2lb 3oz) apples 3 Golden Delicious, 2 Pink Lady
- 1 vanilla pod (or 1tsp vanilla powder)
- 1 star anise
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 cloves
- 4 cardamom pods
- 1 lemon, juice only
- 1/4 tsp fleur de sel (a pinch)
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!)