Apple Kuchen with Hot Cream Sauce from The French Laundry

by Jen on December 27, 2012

Overloaded with sweets lately? Got your fill the last few days? Here’s another one for the road; hope you don’t mind. It’s an Apple Kuchen (Apple Cake) from Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry Cookbook. Don’t worry – I’ve made this cake thrice already – it’s not over-the-top sweet at all. The only thing it is: über delicious – I couldn’t stop eating it if I tried.

Although the recipe comes from Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry Cookbook, the cake is the creation of Sally Schmitt, who owned the famed Yountville restaurant for much of the 80′s and early 90′s before the renowned chef bought it. Sally Schmitt, with her husband Don, and their family are now apple farmers and innkeepers at The Apple Farm in Philo, California. That seems to be the overarching stamp-of-approval or seal-of-guarantee that comes with this cake! It definitely has pedigree!

While the original included cranberries in the recipe, I opted out from that for now, choosing to focus on just the simplicity of one fruit – the glorious apple. Since that’s the only change I made, I reckon that either way you bake it (with or without the berries), this kuchen is something you’ll want to repeatedly make at home. I know we did!

Don’t leave out the hot cream sauce – although not a do-or-die situation, it does make a subtle difference in taste! A nuance you’ll find gratifying.

Since I am a huge – HUGE – Thomas Keller fan since dining at Per Se NYC, I have utmost trust in everything he does and every recipe he endorses. This one is no different, and as expected, it did not disappoint.

Want more proof on how good this cake is? Check out The Food Gal and The Kitchen Boudoir – they both have fabulous takes on the famed kuchen.

4.9 from 14 reviews
Apple Kuchen with Hot Cream Sauce from The French Laundry
Recipe Type: Dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: Makes one 9-inch round cake
Adapted with slight changes from The French Laundry Cookbook by Thomas Keller. Published by Artisan in 1999.
  • ~~ For the Apple Cake ~~
  • 6 tablespoons (85 g / 3 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature + more for the pan
  • ¾ cup (150 g) granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1-1/2 cups (225 g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons (6 g) baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (or ground nutmeg)
  • ½ cup milk or light cream
  • 2 to 3 Gravenstein or Golden Delicious apples
  • cinnamon sugar* (optional - see note for recipe)
  • icing sugar, for sprinkling (optional)
  • ~~ For the Hot Cream Sauce ~~
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • ½ cup (100 g) granulated sugar
  • 8 tablespoons (115 g / 4 oz) unsalted butter
  1. To make the cake, preheat oven to 350 F (180 C). Butter a 9-inch round spring form pan.
  2. In a mixer bowl with a paddle attachment or by hand in a large bowl, beat butter, sugar and egg until mixture is fluffy and lightened in texture, about 2 to 4 minutes.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine four, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg. Add dry ingredients and milk alternately to the creamed butter mixture. Do not overbeat. Mix just until the ingredients are combined.
  4. Peel and core apples. Slice them into ¼-inch wedges.
  5. Spoon batter into the pan and level with an offset spatula.
  6. Press apple slices, core side down into the batter, about ¼-inch apart. Work the apple slices in a circular pattern like the spokes of a wheel.
  7. Sprinkle cake with cinnamon sugar, if using.
  8. Bake 35 to 40 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the centre comes out clean. Set on rack to cool.
  9. To make the hot cream sauce, combine cream, sugar, and butter in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Then, immediately reduce heat (to prevent scorching) and let simmer for 5 to 8 minutes until slightly thickened.
  10. Sprinkle with icing sugar (if using). Pour hot cream sauce over warm apple kuchen.
*To make cinnamon sugar, mix 1 tablespoon sugar with ¼ teaspoon cinnamon.


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{ 52 comments… read them below or add one }

Laura (Tutti Dolci) December 27, 2012 at 2:22 am

This looks incredible, Jen! Love the slivers of apple!


Carolyn Jung December 27, 2012 at 2:28 am

Yours came out beautifully! I like how you made it so apple-centric. Gotta try it that way next time. And yes — the hot cream sauce is not mandatory, but boy, you’re kinda missing out if you don’t drizzle some on. Happy holidays!


WendyM January 5, 2013 at 3:29 pm

This looks great but I’m not a fan of cooked apples can it be made with pears?


Katharina August 4, 2014 at 6:42 am

i have made this several times with all sorts of different fruits. not with pears yet but i am sure it is delicious =)
prunes fit very well i think.


Jocelyn (Grandbaby Cakes) December 27, 2012 at 5:54 am

Wow, I’ve never heard of a kuchen before but it looks like a super divine cake. The cream sauce looks like the perfect compliment as well.


Trotter December 27, 2012 at 6:08 am

Hi Jen! Hope you are having a great season! Sorry for the absence, but 2012 was definitely a difficult year here in Portugal, and even worse for me…
Wish you a very Happy 2013, and enjoy Grenada in Blogtrotter Two!

Looks great; must taste better… ;)


Bianca @ Confessions of a Chocoholic December 27, 2012 at 9:39 am

That is one good looking cake!! Also, I love your pretty plates :)


Andi December 27, 2012 at 9:42 am

SO SO SO GOOD!!!!!!!! My German Grandmother makes this and it’s just the best! Beautiful pics!


Tessa December 27, 2012 at 11:56 am

Wow! That is a gorgeous apple kuchen! Beautiful job!


Suzanne December 27, 2012 at 12:37 pm

Jen this is such a beautiful cake! I want to dig into it because I know it’s good but it’s too pretty. Thanks for sharing this wonderful recipe.


Anna @ Crunchy Creamy Sweet December 27, 2012 at 1:35 pm

How gorgeous! Your close ups are so tempting!! I LOVE how you arranged the slices.


Valerie December 27, 2012 at 2:29 pm

Love. The hot cream sauce looks like heaven. I don’t think it’s possible for me to have an overload of sweets! (Although my stomach might dispute that statement.) :D


Sockmonkeys Kitchen December 27, 2012 at 3:13 pm

Oh my this is spectacular! What a gorgeous Kuchen!
I’m so glad to hear it’s not too sweet… that means we can eat more, right? ;)

I’m bookmarking this one so I can go back next time I get apples from my parents’ tree :) Thanks for such a beautiful post , and Happy New Year!


suzanne Perazzini December 27, 2012 at 4:23 pm

I can just imagine sinking my teeth into a piece of this pie and of course the sauce is essential. Apple pie without a custard-style sauce is no apple pie at all.


Tina Ong (@PhenomenalMama) December 27, 2012 at 10:19 pm

This is my first time to see the apple slices arranged vertically. Looks so much better. Will tyr this next year as I’ve had an overload of sweets already for this month.

Merry Christmas!


Amy (Savory Moments) December 28, 2012 at 6:57 am

Wow – this is absolutely stunning! Your photos are quite amazing. Looks delicious, too!


Patricia | The Answer Is Cake December 28, 2012 at 7:43 am

Oh I do love a good apple cake – all the homey goodness of apple pie but so much easier to make!


Monique December 28, 2012 at 9:34 am

I love the spokes! Thank you..must try~


Mom-Friday December 28, 2012 at 9:57 am

Oh my, this looks soooo good! Pretty apple arrangement too. Happy New Year! :)


Sandra's Easy Cooking December 28, 2012 at 12:24 pm

I love apple cakes, and yours looks fantastic… I would love slice to enjoy it with my afternoon tea.
Picture perfect dessert or hehe breakfast :) Wishing you wonderful New Year!!!!


Patty December 28, 2012 at 3:26 pm

Wowzers!! I love the look of your apple cake, may be the prettiest one I’ve ever seen;-) Hot cream sauce sounds like the perfect touch to a wonderful dessert-anytime of year;-)


Lora @cakeduchess December 28, 2012 at 10:16 pm

This looks like a perfect snowflake. Apple cakes are my weakness…I’m baking this ASAP: LOVE:)


Shawn December 29, 2012 at 11:24 am

I was looking for a warm cream or vanilla sauce to serve w/the strawberry roll cake I have on my site. This sounds perfect. Thanks.


The Squishy Monster December 29, 2012 at 1:23 pm

I love how you placed the apples…hope you and yours little ones enjoyed Christmas!!


Lisa {AuthenticSuburbanGourmet} December 29, 2012 at 3:33 pm

This cake looks amazing and that sauce, I am speechless. Never knew the history of the French Laundry prior to Thomas Keller taking it over – thank you for sharing!!


Erin @ Dinners, Dishes and Desserts December 29, 2012 at 3:38 pm

Sounds absolutely delicious. Love the apples in there, so pretty!


Magic of Spice December 29, 2012 at 5:26 pm

There is such a thing as too many sweets? ;) What a gorgeous cake, and that cream sauce looks divine!


The Kitchen Boudoir December 30, 2012 at 12:01 pm

Ooh la la! You are bringing back dangerously delicious memories for me here… For me the cream sauce is a definite ‘do’, although one may perish from the butter and cream intake (it’s hard to just have ‘a little bit’). Thanks for the shout-out and HAPPY NEW YEAR to you, dear Jen.


karine December 30, 2012 at 12:31 pm

I’ve tried the recipe and I think that the butter step is missing or I haven’t been able to find it?


Jen December 30, 2012 at 12:39 pm

Hi, Karine! I’ve added the missing “butter” – it’s creamed together with the sugar and egg. My apologies – sometimes my thoughts get ahead of my typing fingers :) Thanks for the head’s up!


karine December 30, 2012 at 3:19 pm

It went well anyway and we enjoyed our applekuchen, thanks to you!


Mariah December 30, 2012 at 4:04 pm

I saw this yesterday morning, thought about it all day, and made it last night for a dinner party. It was AMAZING!!!! I probably could have done with about half the amount of the cream sauce in the end, but it is a must for sure. wow, and thanks for sharing!!


Alison December 30, 2012 at 5:03 pm

Hi Karine, Step nine – when do you add the cream – do you bring it all to a boil?


Tanya December 31, 2012 at 6:11 pm

This is the best thing I have ever baked & eaten hands down!, It is easy,delicious, and elegant! I served it to “Official Foodies” and they all had Seconds & thirds.
Just a note : I added a splash of vanilla to both the cake & sauce,next time for extra pizazz I might add a little vanilla bean to the sauce for looks & taste!


Rowena @ Apron and Sneakers January 2, 2013 at 5:48 pm

I just love the way you cut up the top part. The effect is so beautiful! And yeay, I believe this is good too, from the looks of it!


Jean | Lemons and Anchovies January 4, 2013 at 1:04 pm

Gorgeous, Jen. Just gorgeous.


Nami | Just One Cookbook January 5, 2013 at 3:26 am

This is not only beautiful but I would loooove to have a big slice with a cup of tea. While apples are abundant in this season, it’s nice to know there are many baked goods using apples. This one I really need to give it a try. I love Thomas Keller’s food too!


WendyM January 5, 2013 at 3:32 pm

This looks great but I don’t like cooked apples can it be made with pears?


Jen January 5, 2013 at 11:07 pm

Yes, most definitely! It can be made with pears as well! If you want a deeper pear flavour, you can also add a pear liqueur / pear brandy like Poire Williams.


WendyM January 6, 2013 at 9:02 pm

Thanks Jen! I’m poaching some pears right now and as soon as they cool I’ll give it a try!


jc January 7, 2013 at 12:48 am

WOW!!! Made this today and it was incredible!!! Don’t forget the hot cream sauce~the cake is delicious, but with the sauce it is to die for! Very easy to make and a great dessert for company. Thanks for the recipe!


Jen January 7, 2013 at 11:06 am

I’m glad you made it!!! Yes, definitely the hot cream sauce can’t be left out. It takes this cake up a notch :) Thanks in trusting the recipe.


Laura January 8, 2013 at 9:18 pm

I admit I was just going to move on, assuming this was way too difficult to make. LOL Then I saw the directions. What a brilliant idea! And what a gorgeous cake. Pinning….


virginia January 11, 2013 at 3:36 am

really wonderful would you mind telling where your china is from? i simply must have it. so pretty!


Krizia January 11, 2013 at 5:55 pm

I made this for a New Year’s Day outing with friends and it was gone in a flash. Thank you so much for sharing the recipe and your lovely photos! It made arranging the apple slices much easier :) Happy New Year!


Jen January 13, 2013 at 12:29 am

Thanks for trusting in the recipe and making this cake at home! You can never go wrong with most things Thomas Keller :) Glad you and your friends liked it. I really appreciate you coming back here to leave your feedback. Cheers!


Monique January 24, 2013 at 3:11 pm

Oh I made this lovely cake..Thank you..It’s pretty AND so good..I hope you don’t mind..I will share it on my little blog~


Aliye Taner February 22, 2013 at 8:58 am

I made the cake today, it was wonderful! Thanks from Istanbul, Turkey


Denise July 26, 2013 at 10:56 pm

If you find it a bit maddening to follow the daily fluctuations of the scale even though you are eating
properly, pick three days of the week on which you will
always weigh yourself (for example, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday).
In fact, I always suggest to those overweight vegetarians to keep to a max of
4 pounds a week so you won’t suffer loose skin post weight loss. Now, the average healthy amount people are supposed to lose is 2 pounds per week.


Basil November 6, 2013 at 2:44 pm

This cake is currently cooling in my kitchen… Cant wait to try it! I added just a dash of cinnamon and a tiny pinch of allspice to the mix, but that is my own personal preference. Thank you the lovely recipe! Such a great fall weather treat. C:


rabss September 27, 2014 at 10:53 pm

Made it tonite for some guests, turned out beautiful and tasted great. Not too sweet, great with good coffee. I would like to add vanilla beans to the sauce next time like someone suggested. This recipe is definitely a keeper!


Gretchen Noelle @ Provecho Peru November 8, 2014 at 12:37 pm

Just found this and boy does it look delicious! Love the idea of a hot cream sauce!


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