French Apple Cake (whole grain, dairy-free)

This simple French apple cake is like a crustless pie with a crunchy topping. Can be made 100% whole grain (or with all-purpose flour) and dairy-free.

To kick off International Apple Cake Monday (it’s a thing), I wanted to share a paleo French apple cake. The first attempt was SO delicious but it seemed awfully wet. I thought I’d just need to add a little more flour and all would be well.

Adding more flour just made it soggy. Reducing the amount of milk? Made it even soggier. It was bizarre.

After three attempts and a lot of wasted ingredients, I just decided to make it whole grain and dairy-free. If you want a gluten-free version, I’m guessing any gluten-free 1:1 baking mix would work! Or you could try these gluten-free French apple cakes from Fearless Dining!

This simple French apple cake is like a crustless pie with a crunchy topping. Can be made 100% whole grain, or with all-purpose flour, and dairy-free.

There’s something you should know if you want to make this – it’s pretty unusual. It’s more of a crustless pie than what I’d call cake. Also, even though I used white whole wheat flour, I could still taste the whole grain taste, which isn’t surprising considering there’s nothing but a little lemon zest to cover it up. It’s strongest while the cake is still warm and just a little noticeable after having rested for several hours, which is when I think it’s at its best.

I wanted to keep things French and not load the apple cake up with cinnamon, but to be honest – I wish I had! Next time I’ll omit the lemon zest and use a teaspoon or so of cinnamon in the cake batter.

This simple French apple cake is like a crustless pie with a crunchy topping. Can be made 100% whole wheat (or with all-purpose flour) and dairy-free.

One thing that’s really important here is to use firm baking apples that don’t break down into a mushy mess while baking. I wasn’t thinking when I made the first cake and used random non-baking apples that had been sitting around for a few weeks. This was a very bad idea. If you don’t have a favorite baking apple (mine is Jazz!) and don’t know where to start, here’s a great article on the best baking apples.

French Apple Cake (whole grain, dairy-free options)

Rated 5.0 by 5 readers
French Apple Cake (whole grain, dairy-free)
  • Prep Time:
  • Cook Time:
  • Ready in:
  • Yield: 8 slices


    For the cake batter:

  • 1/2 cup (62 grams) white whole wheat flour or all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup (67 grams) raw or granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons melted coconut oil1 or another neutral tasting oil like canola, vegetable oil, etc.
  • 1/3 cup (80 milliliters) milk of choice (but not canned coconut milk)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 pounds (907 grams or about 5 medium) baking apples – cored, peeled, and sliced to slightly less than 1/4"
  • For the topping:

  • 1/3 cup (67 grams) raw or granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 3 tablespoons (42 grams) melted coconut oil or unsalted butter2
  • pinch of salt


  1. Preheat the oven to 425 °F (220 °C) and grease a 9" (23 cm) springform pan.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the eggs, coconut oil, milk, vanilla extract and lemon zest.
  4. Add the dry mix to the wet and stir just until combined. Add the apples and coat them thoroughly in the batter.
  5. Pour into the greased pan and push down any apples that are sticking up (so that they don't burn).
  6. Bake for 25-35 minutes. The time will depend on your apples. The top should be quite firm and golden.
  7. Meanwhile, prepare the topping by combining all the topping ingredients in a small bowl.
  8. Remove the cake from the oven and pour the topping evenly over the top. Continue baking for another 10 minutes or until the top is a deep golden brown and feels firm.
  9. Let the cake cool for 10 minutes and then run a knife around the edges of the pan. Remove the springform ring and let the cake cool for at least another 30 minutes. Can be served warm but I think the cake is best after having rested for several hours.
  10. Store the cooled cake at room temperature for up to 1 day.


  1. I used refined coconut oil, which doesn't have any coconut flavor. If you use unrefined coconut oil, this cake may have some coconut taste to it.
  2. For dairy-free, use coconut oil.

Adapted from The Apple Lady's Apple Cake found in Patricia Well's The Paris Cookbook

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84 comments on “French Apple Cake (whole grain, dairy-free)” — Add one!

4 comments are awaiting moderation!

  • Janna says
    August 23, 2020 @ 2:44 am

    This cake is simply delicious. When I was making it I thought there’s no way there’s enough flour but it actually was great. I love a recipe with lots and lots of fruit and barely any sugar. I thought cinnamon sounded good so I kept the lemon zest and added some cinnamon and it’s delicious. I also thought it would look nice and taste good to add some slivered almonds and drizzled honey on the top when baking it for the last 10 minutes. Also, I made this gluten free with one to one flour.

    • Erin replies to Janna
      August 26, 2020 @ 5:57 am

      I’m so glad that you enjoyed it and that it worked well with GF flour! Which brand did you use? I’ve been meaning to convert this recipe. I love your addition of almonds and honey! Thanks a ton for your tip and feedback. :)

  • Margo says
    May 13, 2020 @ 10:55 am

    This was great. I used about a teaspoon of cinnamon (maybe a little more) in the filling and lemon zest in the topping, and it was a great combo.

    • Erin replies to Margo
      May 15, 2020 @ 2:55 pm

      I’m so glad that you enjoyed it! Thanks for your feedback. :)

  • Bianka says
    May 10, 2020 @ 3:34 am

    Perfect dairy free recipe! The cake was amazingly delicious! My family and I THANK YOU for this Apple Cake recipe!!!

    • Erin replies to Bianka
      May 15, 2020 @ 3:10 pm

      You’re welcome! I’m glad to hear that you enjoyed it. :) Thanks for your comment!

  • Helen says
    December 10, 2019 @ 9:13 pm

    Question: One person commented on the topping tasting eggy, but I did not see that anyone else mentioned that. Can you taste the egg in the topping? Would you keep the lemon in the topping if you are adding cinammon to the cake itself?

    Also, you said to slice the apples less than 1/4 thick, but how wide are the slices? Cut small or left wide?

    • Erin replies to Helen
      December 11, 2019 @ 9:50 pm

      I couldn’t taste the egg! I wouldn’t keep the lemon if adding cinnamon. I left the slices wide. Hope you’ll enjoy it! :)

  • Jessica says
    November 26, 2019 @ 1:55 am

    I made this cake for a progressive dinner that we hosted ( I got dessert) and It was a HIT! The flavor profile was spot on and it got better after sitting in the fridge! Also did as you suggested and swapped the lemon for cinnamon and it was PERFECTION! This will now be on all party repeats!

    • Erin replies to Jessica
      November 28, 2019 @ 1:54 pm

      Yay! I’m so glad that it was a hit at the party. And awesome that you’ll be making it again! Thanks for your feedback. :)

  • Dominique La Fontaine says
    October 4, 2019 @ 11:39 pm

    Made this on the run the other night when guests called in for dinner. I have a lactose intolerant son who I’m always trying to include in my baking. Yes at first it doesn’t look like I had enough batter and had to check I’d followed the recipe correctly. cake was BEAUTIFUL. My husband loved it. Thanks so much for sharing. used Granny Smiths

    • Erin replies to Dominique La Fontaine
      October 14, 2019 @ 8:53 pm

      I’m so glad that it came out well and that your husband loved it! Thanks for your feedback. :)

  • donna says
    November 8, 2018 @ 4:24 pm

    can this be made in a regular cake pan? i don’t have a springform.

    • Erin replies to donna
      November 8, 2018 @ 7:40 pm

      Yes, it can! Enjoy. :)

  • stitchinsweetsue
    September 18, 2018 @ 5:39 am

    Hi Erin ~ I was intrigued by the little amount of flour and crossed my fingers. More apples than batter is what I’ve been searching for. Made it tonight w/Gala apples. My search is over, a true heart stopper. Ty for sharing!

    • Erin replies to stitchinsweetsue
      September 21, 2018 @ 7:53 pm

      Hi there! You’re welcome for the recipe. :) I’m happy to hear that it came out so well for you! It’s definitely a very apple-filled cake. :D Thanks for your feedback!

  • Linda Henger says
    September 8, 2018 @ 12:38 am

    Hello from Arizona.. a co-worker eats dairy free , no eggs.. So I used a tablespoon of apple sauce for each egg it called for, use Almond milk instead of other milk and used no lemon due to all the comments… I added 1 teaspoon of cinnamon , A little coriander and freshly ground nutmeg to the dry mix… This is very delicious…!! It does remind me of a bread putting and also a little bit like the pineapple upside down cake my mother used to make and her cast iron skillet in the oven .., Yum Yum Yum thank you❤️

    • Erin replies to Linda Henger
      September 9, 2018 @ 9:06 pm

      Hi there! You are so nice to make something that your co-worker can eat. :) It’s great to know that applesauce works well in place of the eggs! And coriander? Or cardamom? Thanks so much for sharing your version! It sounds wonderful. :) I hope your colleague enjoyed it!

  • Rhoda says
    February 28, 2018 @ 4:11 pm

    Easy to make & really delicious. I substituted cinammon for the lemon rind & orange juice for the milk to make it dairy free. Worked very well.

    • Erin replies to Rhoda
      March 3, 2018 @ 3:34 pm

      Awesome! So happy that the dairy-free version worked out well. :) Thanks for your comment!

  • Monica says
    January 26, 2018 @ 7:38 pm

    I’m confused as you wrote about adding cinnamon but there’s no cinnamon in the recipe ?? My cakes currently in the oven … I halved the sugar and used spelt flour … can’t wait to taste it. Also I’m using maple instead of sugar for the topping so hoping that’ll work

    • Erin replies to Monica
      January 26, 2018 @ 8:03 pm

      I wrote in the post, “I wanted to keep things French and not load the apple cake up with cinnamon, but to be honest – I wish I had! Next time I’ll omit the lemon zest and use a teaspoon or so of cinnamon in the cake batter.” I wrote up the recipe how I made it but included that info should someone want to try it with cinnamon. I hope the cake came out well with only half the sugar! Sugar isn’t just needed for sweetness but also for the structure of the cake so I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you. :)

  • Laura says
    November 15, 2017 @ 2:34 am

    Would using egg whites instead of a whole egg in the topping reduce the “eggy” smell and taste mentioned in some reviews?

    • Erin replies to Laura
      November 19, 2017 @ 3:11 pm

      I’ve never tried it so I can’t really say for sure. I will say that this recipe isn’t all that forgiving and making a change like that might not work. And sorry for the slow reply! I just got home from the hospital after having a baby (it was a long stay!).

      • Regina Maieli replies to Erin
        December 1, 2019 @ 5:30 pm

        I am very upset. The oven at 425 seems to hot and my crust burned! Also seems like baking powder amount is high. May stick to my cookbooks in the future!

        • Erin replies to Regina Maieli
          December 1, 2019 @ 7:46 pm

          I’m sorry you’re upset. However, something must have gone wrong (or you made a sub / changed something). If you look at all the comments below yours, they all really enjoyed it. By the way, I mentioned at the bottom of the recipe that this recipe is from a cookbook. :)

  • Giovi says
    August 24, 2017 @ 5:38 pm

    This cake looks amazing!! I am gonna give it a try. Do yo think I can make it with whole wheat flour? I can’t get white whole wheat flour in Boliva.

    • Erin replies to Giovi
      August 25, 2017 @ 7:33 am

      Thanks! It should work fine, but it’ll taste whole wheaty. I used white whole wheat because I don’t like the taste of whole wheat. If you don’t mind that, then it should be okay. :)

  • Gerri
    September 22, 2016 @ 1:58 am

    Hello, first-timer here. Nothing technical, just have not baked much and wonder what sweetness/tartness is best here? It is apple season in WI and we have many choices at farmers’ markets. We cannot have wheat and grains so are encouraged to use nut flours and bean flour…really challenging.; what was it you did not like when using your almond flour? Thank you!

    • Erin replies to Gerri
      September 22, 2016 @ 8:19 pm

      Hello! I bake a lot with almond flour but it just didn’t work in this recipe. It was a mushy mess. I’m sure it could be done with a lot of adjustments, but I’m not sure what they are. I think cassava flour would be a better option. I’d say any baking apples would do. I’d go with all sweet or a mix of sweet and tart by adding in a Granny Smith or two. There’s a link to an article about baking apples above the recipe that’ll probably be more helpful than I am when it comes to this. ;) I hope you’ll enjoy the cake if you try it!

  • Mariena Dsouza says
    September 19, 2016 @ 4:58 pm

    Hey Erin…tried this today…i loved the taste. The only different thing I did was to add lemon juice to the cut apples and add cinnamon…i also have a suggestion that the baking powder could be reduced to half of the one recommended in the recipe and even with that the rise was perfect! In India bread and butter pudding is very popular and this tasted like a very good Apple pudding to me!@

    • Erin replies to Mariena Dsouza
      September 19, 2016 @ 10:30 pm

      I would have never figured bread and butter pudding was popular in India! I always thought of it was a special thing to New Orleans. But I just looked it up and it says that it’s actually typical British. Nice to have learned something! :) Thanks for your feedback. I’m happy that you enjoyed the cake!

  • Alison says
    May 21, 2016 @ 10:49 pm

    Oh my God! This looks amazing. I see you recommend not to use almond flour, but have you try using half the flour and replace the other half with almond flour. I will try that.. Thanks for sharing this yummy treat

    • Erin replies to Alison
      May 25, 2016 @ 8:34 pm

      Thanks! And no, I haven’t tried that. You could try a 1:1 GF baking mix if you have one of those on hand, though. :) And my apologies for the slow reply! I just got back from vacation and wasn’t able to access the page from my laptop where I approve and reply to comments. Sorry about that!

  • Tea
    November 10, 2015 @ 3:42 am

    I really liked this cake! I particularly enjoyed the lemony thing, and I’m so glad you thought of adding the zest to the recipe. I myself would never change that for the cinnamon, though I did add some nutmeg and cardamom. What I did about the flours, being a “gluten reducer”, is put half whole spelt and half oat flour. You can taste the spelt but I’m ok with that. The oats maybe make it a bit denser, but I don’t mind that. (The downside to not being able to help myself and always fiddle with recipes is that I never know what it’s actually ‘supposed’ to taste like!). I also followed a weird impulse of subbing half the milk in the batter and half the butter in the topping with sour cream. I wish I knew what that did exactly, taste-wise, but the cake is yummy. Next time, I think I’ll omit the topping altogether, I don’t see a purpose to it.

    • Erin replies to Tea
      November 11, 2015 @ 11:38 am

      Your comment about the sour cream sub made me laugh. :D I’m sure it made it extra yummy! But I think maybe the reason why you didn’t see a purpose to the topping was because you subbed half the butter with sour cream. I’m guessing that prevented it from caramelizing like it does when the topping is made as written. Or did it caramelize? It’s my favorite part of the cake! Thanks so much for your feedback. :)

      • Tea replies to Erin
        November 12, 2015 @ 6:00 pm

        I’m glad I made you laugh (though unintentionally, cause I was just stating the truths:)). You also often make me laugh or smile when you write in your posts, and I really enjoy your stile of writing and the corky spirit that comes through it. And your baking addiction is contagious!
        And no, nothing caramelized.. I think.. can’t remember exactly. But next time I’ll definitely then leave the topping as is, and just meddle with the batter, leaving the sour cream in definitely!
        And for anyone making the cake and wondering how on earth is such a small amount of batter gonna form a ‘cake’ with such a large amount of apples (especially if you have a bit larger springform like me), worry not! It all comes together nicely in the oven and the apples stack up neatly all on their own.

        • Erin replies to Tea
          November 14, 2015 @ 9:46 pm

          Aww, thank you! What a nice comment. :) I’m so happy to read that you enjoy the posts! I figure most people just come for the recipes and don’t even read what I write. I hope you’ll enjoy the caramelized sour cream-less topping! I definitely want to try it in the cake and see how that changes things. That’s a helpful tip for the other readers! Thanks so much for your kind and helpful comment.

  • Colleen (Souffle Bombay) says
    September 17, 2015 @ 11:11 pm

    As my 11 year old would say…THIS cake of yours is on fleek! Just gorgeous…makes me wish Fall would get to my neck of the woods a little quicker! Pinning!

    • Erin replies to Colleen (Souffle Bombay)
      September 18, 2015 @ 8:13 pm

      Lol. I had never heard of that phrase before. I feel so old that I had to look it up! Thanks for pinning. :)

  • Amanda @ The Kitcheneer says
    September 16, 2015 @ 10:30 pm

    This cake is stunning! I might have to make this to impress my family when they come to dinner during the fall!

  • Carole Seibel says
    September 16, 2015 @ 2:00 pm

    I would like to make this gluten free and noticed that you mentioned in a previous comment not to use almond flour. What would you recommend? I am new to the gluten free world and have not baked yet! Thanks!!

    • Erin replies to Carole Seibel
      September 16, 2015 @ 2:27 pm

      I tried this cake three times with almond flour and definitely don’t recommend attempting that. ;) Since you said you’re new to GF baking, I thought I’d throw this tip out there – never sub GF flours for other flours! If you want to use almond flour, find a recipe that uses almond flour and don’t try to convert a recipe that uses all-purpose flour. If you see a recipe that calls for 1 tablespoon of coconut flour, don’t try subbing something else for it. GF baking is finicky! Just follow the recipes until you become really comfortable with it. :) If you find a wheat-based recipe, like this one, what you could do is try a GF flour blend that’s a 1:1 sub for all-purpose flour (like this). I can’t guarantee it’ll work here since I haven’t tried it but I hope it’ll work out for you if you give it a go. :) Good luck!

      • carole seibel replies to Erin
        September 16, 2015 @ 5:19 pm

        Thanks! I am going to give it a go!

        • Erin replies to carole seibel
          September 16, 2015 @ 10:31 pm

          No problem! Good luck. :)

  • Kim Beaulieu says
    September 16, 2015 @ 9:08 am

    Oh my gosh Erin, this is one seriously stunning apple cake. I can’t even get over how pretty this is. Great recipe and fabulous photos. I think every Monday should be Apple Cake Monday. I think it was worth the fails to get it perfect. I know I get annoyed too but sometimes out of fails comes amazing inspiration. Or you can make the fail a parfait. Surefire way to use up not so perfect cake. It’s why I have so many parfaits on my blog. Ha.

    • Erin replies to Kim Beaulieu
      September 16, 2015 @ 2:20 pm

      What a nice comment! Thank you so much. I actually took pictures of all four versions of this cake so I’m happy that someone liked the final batch of pictures from the whole wheat version. I love the parfait idea! And that’s so funny that that’s why you have so many parfaits on your blog. ;) Thanks again for your comment!

  • Aly ~ Cooking In Stilettos says
    September 16, 2015 @ 5:31 am

    Your cake looks fantastic – perfect for the fall season and I know if you made it, it’s going to be utterly delicious!

  • Des @ Life's Ambrosia says
    September 16, 2015 @ 5:16 am

    What a gorgeous cake! How perfect for fall! I don’t eat nearly enough apple desserts, that needs to end quickly!

  • Renee - Kudos Kitchen says
    September 16, 2015 @ 1:16 am

    Even though this recipe is on the healthy side, it sure looks decadent and delicious! That color on the apple topping is amazing!

  • Meg @ With Salt and Wit says
    September 15, 2015 @ 11:13 pm

    This is my kinda cake! I love the baked apples in apple pie but I don’t like the crust (I think I am like the only person that doesn’t!) but in a cake? Pass me a BIG slice!

  • Stephanie says
    September 15, 2015 @ 9:43 pm

    Apple cake Monday?! Who knew! I sure am glad you were on top of this holiday because this cake looks amazing!

    • Erin replies to Stephanie
      September 16, 2015 @ 2:16 pm

      It’s only existed since last week. And only for me. ;)

  • Ginny McMeans says
    September 15, 2015 @ 9:07 pm

    Your top crust looks perfect and even from the outside the inside looks creamy and fruity!

    • Erin replies to Ginny McMeans
      September 16, 2015 @ 2:15 pm

      It is kind of creamy! It’s got an unusual texture for sure. But still yummy. :)

  • Susan says
    September 15, 2015 @ 8:21 pm

    This cake looks gorgeous, and I’m sure would be even better with cinnamon. Thanks for the article about baking apples. I’ve always used Granny Smith (or Pippin before that) or an antique American variety called Grimes Golden (I had three Grimes Golden trees at my first house). Those were probably my favorite apple of all time because they are excellent for baking, and if you let them ripen completely on the tree they make perfect apple sauce without added sweetener.

    • Erin replies to Susan
      September 16, 2015 @ 2:15 pm

      Thanks, Susan! I’ve never heard of Grimes Golden but they sound great. I’ll definitely look into those! I can’t wait to have an apple tree of my own one day. :)

  • Cookin Canuck says
    September 15, 2015 @ 4:54 pm

    The end result looks pretty darn amazing to me! Those caramelized edges and layers of apples are making me yearn to pull out my baking pans.

    • Erin replies to Cookin Canuck
      September 15, 2015 @ 6:00 pm

      Thanks, Dara! The edges really are the best part. :)

  • Sheena @ Tea and Biscuits
    September 15, 2015 @ 3:40 pm

    That’s a perfect looking cake, I wish I had some for breakfast right now! And it looks like it would be very easy to make it gluten free.

  • Medeja says
    September 15, 2015 @ 2:03 pm

    Yummy! I love apple cakes, especially with a lot of cinnamon!

    • Erin replies to Medeja
      September 15, 2015 @ 5:58 pm

      Same here! It’ll definitely do that next time. :)

  • Lora @cakeduchess says
    September 15, 2015 @ 11:49 am

    I wish I could go apple picking with Martha to get some fresh apples and bake this lovely cake! Doris Greenspan has a cake like this and I love the simplicity!!

    • Erin replies to Lora @cakeduchess
      September 15, 2015 @ 5:58 pm

      Wouldn’t it be fun to go apple picking together?! I vote we meet up in your homeland. Apple picking in Italy sounds magical. :D

  • Sharon @ What The Fork Food Blog
    September 15, 2015 @ 4:47 am

    Thanks for sharing that tip on using firm apples. I usually just use the oldest ones in the fridge haha.

    • Erin replies to Sharon @ What The Fork Food Blog
      September 15, 2015 @ 5:55 pm

      Same here! Except I don’t even keep mine in the fridge so I often use really soft apples that shouldn’t be used for baking. Whoops!

  • Beth says
    September 15, 2015 @ 3:14 am

    Oh gosh! Would I just ruin the healthiness of this cake if I added some caramel sauce on my slice? Hehe!

    • Erin replies to Beth
      September 15, 2015 @ 5:54 pm

      No way! Caramel sauce just makes everything healthier, didn’t you know? ;)

  • Brenda@SugarfreeMom says
    September 15, 2015 @ 2:34 am

    Everytime I have a failed recipe and mention how much I hate wasting ingredients, my hubby constantly reminds me it’s part of the job. I try to not feel so bad the next time it happens but inevitably I still hate wasting ingredients. I think the top surface of the cake looks stunning, a bit crispy, really pretty.

    • Erin replies to Brenda@SugarfreeMom
      September 15, 2015 @ 5:53 pm

      Thank you! And so do I. And what’s annoying is that ingredients aren’t even deductible over here so it’s really just a huge waste of money.

  • Kristyn says
    September 15, 2015 @ 2:24 am

    Such a yummy fall treat! Thanks for sharing!

  • Trish - Mom On Timeout says
    September 15, 2015 @ 1:10 am

    I look forward to apple cakes every year! Definitely plan on giving this one a try – so gorgeous!

  • Martha @ A Family Feast says
    September 14, 2015 @ 11:19 pm

    What a gorgeous cake! We’re going apple picking this coming weekend and this would be perfect for baking!

  • Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar says
    September 14, 2015 @ 11:03 pm

    Really yummy looking cake!! And easy too! Great recipe :)


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