Dorie Greenspan’s beautifully written cookbook, Around My French Table (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Oct. 8, 2010), contains a simple, yet masterful apple cake that she had enjoyed at a friend’s house in Paris. This custardy, rum and vanilla laced treat is comfort food at it’s best. Greenspan was able to recreate it – without a recipe- in her American kitchen using American wheat flour and butter. I was intrigued by the cake, because even though it was very similar to clafoutis, it still managed to be more like a cake than a custard. And it looked really good. Finally, after many years of wondering and yearning, I decided to use her recipe to make a wheat-free version that I could eat.
I only had to make a few small changes to the recipe in order to convert it, and they were mostly due to the fact that I didn’t have the 8-inch springform pan Greenspan called for in the recipe (and no one I knew had one I could borrow). My trusty old 9-inch springform came to the rescue. This gave me the excuse/opportunity to scale up some of the ingredients ever so slightly, which worked out well because the flour to butter ratio in her wheat version wouldn’t have worked with my Brown Rice Flour Mix, i.e., I would have had to reduce the butter to make the recipe work.
As a result, instead of reducing the butter, as I normally would have done, I increased the flour by 1/4 cup and baked the cake in the slightly larger pan. I also increased the baking powder, the rum and the vanilla extract, and added in a little xanthan gum to give the sides some support when it rose.
Other notes from the test kitchen:
I strongly suggest you use double acting baking powder (such as Davis or Clabber Girl) in this recipe. It really does need time to rise because of all the apples. A single acting baking powder could release up to two-thirds of it’s gas in the mixing bowl and leave you with even less of the small amount of “cake-like” texture that does exist in the baked cake.
In typical fashion, I decreased the sugar a bit (by two tablespoons) because the cake seemed just a tad too sweet; this can often happen with gluten-free flours because they are more transparent in taste.
Greenspan’s wheat version called for rum, but the cake was also delicious made with bourbon; I tried it both ways. Truth be told, we liked the bourbon version better, but then, we really, really like bourbon.
Greenspan recommended using a variety of apples. I made the cake several times when I was testing the recipe and so I was able to try it with both a variety of apples, and, with all the same apple. I can honestly say that although it isn’t critical to use a variety of apples, I totally agree with her that it is better. I got slightly more complexity in terms of flavor and texture when I used different kinds of apples.
You can use a dairy-free substitute for the butter- although the essential nature of this cake seems very much derived from it’s buttery-ness.
Greenspan’s recipe calls for baking the cake for 50 to 60 minutes, until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. My recipe calls for 65 minutes of baking time to account for the slightly larger size and the gluten-free flours – even though a knife will come out clean after 60 minutes. (Depending on your pan, you may need 70 minutes).
Greenspan says you can leave the cake out barely covered for up to two days. Nah. Don’t bother. It really kept its flavor better in the refrigerator, and the fruit breaks down less. You can always warm it briefly in the microwave if you want. But you may find out that you also like it cold from the frig, as we discovered. You decide! Make this comforting vanilla and rum (or bourbon!) scented apple cake soon. You’ll be glad you did.
Gluten-Free French Apple Cake
1 cup Brown Rice Flour Mix
1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
2 large eggs
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 cup dark rum or bourbon*
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
5 1/2 – 6 cups peeled, cored apples cut into 1-2 inch chucks (4-5 large apples)**
- Preheat oven to 350ºF. Position rack in center of oven. Line the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper and then spray bottom and sides with cooking spray.
- Whisk flour, baking powder, xanthan gum, and salt in a small bowl. Set aside.
- Break the eggs into a large mixing bowl and whisk until foamy. Add the sugar and whisk until well blended. Add the rum, vanilla and melted butter and whisk until the butter is fully incorporated. Add the flour mixture and whisk until very smooth and thick.
- Fold the apples into the batter with a plastic spatula and then scrape it all into the prepared springform pan. Smooth the top so that all the apples are covered with batter and none are poking out too much.
- Place the pan in the center of the oven. If your springform pan tends to leak (many do), place a piece of parchment paper under the pan before placing it on the oven rack. Bake for 65 minutes; a knife inserted into the center of the cake should come out clean. Cool on a rack for 5 minutes, then run a very sharp, pointy knife around the outside edges of the cake. Make sure none of the apples are sticking to the sides. Remove the sides of the pan and cool another 15 minutes before moving the cake to a cake plate.
- To remove the cake from the bottom of the springform pan: Cover the top of the cake with a piece of parchment paper and place another cake rack on top of that. Carefully flip the cake unto the rack (top side facing down on the parchment paper). Remove the bottom of the springform pan and the parchment paper lining the bottom of the cake. Then, put a cake plate over the bottom of the cake and flip it again so the top is facing up. Remove the parchment paper.
Serve warm, slightly chilled or at room temperature. Can be made a day ahead. Store cake in refrigerator, lightly covered with plastic wrap. Best when eaten within three days of baking.
* Booze free option: apple juice (with 1/4 teaspoon rum extract, if desired), but be sure to use at least two tart apples to compensate for the extra sweetness in the juice.
**Do not use soft, overripe apples.
©2016 by Annalise Roberts