Apple Crumb Cake

Apple Crumb Cake

Gluten Free Apple Crumb Cake

By the way, I have no idea what’s in this particular whipped topping. Except happiness. Not to mention sunshine. Which means that I know everything I need to know.

I do know a little somethin’ about this crumb cake.

It’s like this, now.

Gluten Free Apple Crumb Cake

An all crumb crust. Baked and cooled.

Gluten Free Apple Crumb Cake

Topped with fruit. Please excuse the cinnamon & sugar on those apples. Shameless hooligans.

Gluten Free Apple Crumb Cake

Then go on and pour the custard on top.

Gluten Free Apple Crumb Cake

Plus more crumb. Chilled. This time, on top. Everybody in!

Fall’s darling, apples, do tend to get a little ho-hum right about now. After all, by now, we’ve really done it all.

Remember our Apple Crisp? Be still my heart. Apple Fritters were warm and comforting, crackling and sweet. Apple Tartlets with Custard Filling were almost too pretty to eat.

This time, it’s apples like you’ve never seen ’em. The nutty crust is chewy & dense, set off perfectly with just the right vanilla custard, then topped with some crumble. You can make the crust mixture days ahead of time — and even the crust. Bake it, then keep it chilled. When you’re ready, all that’s left to do is to whip up the simple custard, peel, core & slice the apples, assemble, and bake. Even the whole tart will keep, chilled, for a couple days.

I baked it in a 9 inch square pan, but you can use a springform pan, a pie plate, or a round cake pan. Your call.

Or – ditch the apples altogether. I’m open to suggestion. Always. What would you put in their place? Pears would be nice — maybe poached whole and sliced in half. Or keep the apples and add some cranberries. And maybe some frozen blueberries? Can you say, ‘Hello Thanksgiving’?

Apple Crumb Cake
Recipe Type: Dessert
Author: Nicole @ Gluten-Free on a Shoestring.com
Prep time: 25 mins
Cook time: 1 hour
Total time: 1 hour 25 mins
Serves: 6 to 8
Gluten-free apple cake with a dense and chewy crumb crust and a crumb topping
  • 1/3 cup toasted or raw pecans (or nut of your choice)
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose gluten-free flour (I use Better Batter)
  • 3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum (omit if using Better Batter)
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar, divided
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar (any hue will do)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, divided
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, roughly chopped and kept cold
  • 3/4 cup milk (cream is best, low-fat milk is okay)
  • 4 firm baking apples (like Empire or Granny Smith), peeled, cored & sliced very thin
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Bird’s custard powder (or substitute same amount cornstarch)
  • 1 extra-large egg, plus 1 extra-large egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9 inch square or round pan, and set it aside.
  2. To make the crust, pulse the pecans in the bowl of a food processor until they are ground to medium-fine. Add the flour, xanthan gum, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, brown sugar, 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and the butter to the ground nuts. Pulse a few times in the food processor until just combined. Add 3 tablespoons milk to the mixture, and pulse another couple times.
  3. Transfer all but 1 cup of the crust mixture to the prepared pan and press the mixture into the bottom of the pan. Place the pan in the center of the preheated oven and bake until set, about 16 to 18 minutes. Allow to cool completely. To speed things up, cool for about 10 minutes and then place the pan in the freezer. The crust can be made a few days ahead to make quick work of this recipe. Just cover and store it in the refrigerator, along with the reserved crumb mixture.
  4. While the crust is cooling, make the custard. In a medium-sized bowl, place the remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar, custard powder (or cornstarch), 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon salt and whisk to combine. Add the egg and egg yolk, vanilla and the remaining milk, and whisk until smooth.
  5. Scatter the sliced apples evenly over the cooled crust, and pour the custard evenly over the fruit. Sprinkle the reserved 1 cup crumb mixture evenly over the top. Place the pan in the center of the preheated oven and bake until the custard is set and the top lightly browned, about 45 minutes. Cool in pan at least 15 minutes before serving.

To eliminate the nuts entirely, you’ll need something else that adds bulk. Gluten-free rolled oats might work well.



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  • Ashley
    November 11, 2011 at 11:55 PM

    Have you heard of using agave – in place of the sugar – in baking cakes/pies and such? I was curious if you have tried it and if you had any success. I’m going to make me some pumpkin pie before Thanksgiving and I’m not sure if I should attempt to use the agave or not. Hopefully you can bring me some insight! :-)

    • Nicole
      November 12, 2011 at 11:09 AM

      Hi, Ashley,
      I do use agave from time to time, but it requires a bit of tinkering. You can’t just substitute one-for-one in baking, since agave is about twice as sweet as cane sugar, and, as a liquid, has considerably more moisture. I wish it were as simple as just using half the amount of agave as sugar, but you do have to reduce the moisture elsewhere in the recipe, but by how much varies, depending upon how much moisture is in the recipe to start. I wish I had a simpler answer!
      xoxo Nicole

  • Anonymous
    November 10, 2011 at 3:27 PM

    Hi, I just want to know how I would double or triple your white sandwich
    bread. I have a very large family that can go through a loaf in a day.

    • Nicole
      November 10, 2011 at 4:01 PM

      Hi, there,
      Unfortunately, you really can’t triple it, per se. You won’t get good results (I know – I’ve tried and failed!). What I do is just set up all my ingredients (like mise en place) for however many loaves of bread I’m making, and then make them serially – one after the other, without washing the beater or the bowl. If you work quickly, you can have them all rising at about the same time. If you have a large enough oven, you can bake them all at the same time — just be sure to space them so that none of them is in your oven’s hot spot for too long, and the hot oven air is able to circulate around all sides of each loaf.
      xoxo Nicole

      • Anonymous
        November 11, 2011 at 10:55 AM

        Thank you so much! I also attempted your bagels for the second time yesterday, and they didn’t cook after an hour in the oven. Are they too wet? Any suggestions?

        • Nicole
          November 11, 2011 at 11:29 AM

          They didn’t cook? That’s surprising. So you’re not saying they didn’t rise, but rather that they didn’t cook? Do you mean that they didn’t brown? Did you brush the top with the egg wash?
          xo Nicole

        • Anonymous
          November 11, 2011 at 12:13 PM

          They rose very nicely, but after an hour they were raw inside. I did brush them with egg wash, and I even have an oven thermometer so I know it was at the right temp.

        • Nicole
          November 11, 2011 at 1:10 PM

          Raw inside after an hour in the oven? Were they burnt completely on the outside? I can’t imagine the cause, since you say your oven temp is spot on. The only other potential culprits I can imagine are moisture balance, as you mentioned (since sometimes when baked good rise and then fall, there is too much moisture) or the flour blend you’re using. Other than Better Batter, many of the others are hit or miss.
          xo Nicole

        • Anonymous
          November 11, 2011 at 2:03 PM

          It really might be moisture. I just added 2 cups out of the 3 of water though. They were not burnt on the outside, in fact some weren’t even brown. What rack in the oven should I be making them on? I used the middle one.

        • Nicole
          November 11, 2011 at 2:24 PM

          The middle oven rack – but that wouldn’t make a very big difference anyhow. I am not convinced it’s entirely the moisture. I suspect your flour blend.

        • Anonymous
          November 11, 2011 at 2:39 PM

          I use a mix of brown rice flour, potato starch and tapioca starch. Maybe I’ll pick up some better batter and try again.

        • Nicole
          November 11, 2011 at 2:41 PM

          It’s almost certainly that, then. The flour blend is particularly important with something like bagels, which don’t have too many ingredients, are shaped, and aren’t ‘protected’ by a loaf pan like the White Sandwich Bread. Good luck!

  • Sarah White
    November 9, 2011 at 12:14 AM

    Speaking of Thanksgiving, do you think it will be okay to make this ahead and freeze it? Thanks for the great recipes!

    • Nicole
      November 9, 2011 at 9:14 AM

      Hi, Sarah,
      Definitely. This would work great baked, frozen & then defrosted. You could also bake & cool the crust, then assemble the rest, and freeze it before baking the entire thing. Then, just bake it right from the freezer. It will be freshest-tasting that way. Happy Thanksgiving!
      xoxo Nicole

  • November 8, 2011 at 11:58 AM

    This looks SO good. Can I use light coconut milk (canned) or full-fat in place of the cream? I am learning about the myriad uses of coconut milk (yummy!) Also, is guar gum and xanthan gum interchangeable?

    • Nicole
      November 8, 2011 at 12:45 PM

      Hi, Susan,
      I haven’t tried a nondairy substitute, but full fat coconut milk should work just fine. Light coconut milk is sometimes very light, so I wouldn’t start with that. Guar gum is different than xanthan gum, but not usually in a meaningful way. You can use either in equal amounts in most recipes.
      xoxo Nicole

  • Kate O'Brien
    November 8, 2011 at 11:09 AM

    WOW! This looks amazing ~ and just in time for our heavy appetizers party on Friday for my hubby’s 11-11-11 birthday! He loves apple pie but then I can’t eat that….I am printing and shopping for this dish to make for Friday and I promise not to put all the candles in it (unless I want my crisp flambe!) Thanks for my inspiration!

    • Nicole
      November 8, 2011 at 11:17 AM

      Hi, Kate,
      A birthday crumb cake! I love it. 11-11-11 simply must be good luck, right? My own birthday is 2 days later, and I’m jealous of his cool birthday. :)
      Crisp flambe sounds delicious, by the way. Tucking that one away in the recesses of my mind. Thanks for that inspiration.
      xoxo Nicole

  • Peggy
    November 7, 2011 at 4:22 PM

    Apple Crisp & Pum-cake for Thanksgiving! Really liked my bacon chees biscuits so may need to make then as well. My daughter-in-law’s mom is real good about being sure I can enjoy Thanksgiving dinner with all of them…the exception being no desserts…so this year I have a large selection of yummy desserts to bake & take! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! Nicole, have I told you lately…you are the best friend one could have in gluten-free land!!! :)

    • Nicole
      November 7, 2011 at 4:25 PM

      Hi, Peggy,
      Always nice to hear from you. I picture you with such a wonderful extended family, all gathering around the best food anyone could ever ask for. It’s all very Normal Rockwell, in my mind. :) How nice that your in-laws go out of their way for you. That’s as it should be, but I think it’s the exception, rather than the rule.
      You’re so very welcome. It’s my pleasure, sincerely. *blushing* about being a blog-land best friend. ;)
      xoxo Nicole

      • Peggy
        November 7, 2011 at 8:21 PM

        Thank you, Nicole. I am blessed & very thankful. When my granddaughter was born, my son & daughter-in-law flew me out to see her. D-I-L’s folks took all of us out to dinner & informed me that we were now all family & would be spending a lot of time together, after all, we had a granddaughter to share! Last December we started a new tradition of driving around the different neighborhoods checking out all the light displays! Granddaughter loves the lights & music! So I know I’m blessed to have this extended family.

        • Nicole
          November 7, 2011 at 8:57 PM

          So then it is as I imagined! How wonderful. I always say that I don’t much think about what it will be like when my children are grown, choosing to focus on the here and now. But I think I must wonder, and hope for what it sounds like you have. And I’m so glad you have it, Peggy. You certainly deserve it. Thank you for sharing a bit of it with me. :)
          xoxo Nicole

  • Chris Spreitzer on Facebook
    November 7, 2011 at 12:21 PM

    Nom nom nom…….

  • November 7, 2011 at 12:13 PM

    This looks so crazy good. I’ve been looking for an easy apple dessert to make for Thanksgiving and I’m going to definitely try this one!

    • Nicole
      November 7, 2011 at 12:17 PM

      Hi, Anna,
      Let me know how it turns out! I’m glad it’s lookin’ good to you. Definitely check out the other apple recipes I link to in the post – the Apple Crisp in particular is super easy. Like Apple Pie – but with none of the fuss. :)
      xoxo Nicole

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