Published September 1, 2012. From Cook's Illustrated.
This French classic is neither a cake, nor a custard, nor a clafouti. But with a bit of culinary magic, it could be all three.
After tasting the ideal version of this cake in a French bistro, we were disappointed that we couldn’t replicate it back home, where all the recipes produced inconsistent, unattractive cakes.
We wanted a cake with the same distinct layers—cakey on the top and custardy on the bottom—that Parisian bistros sell.
We started with choosing the best type of apple. We opted for Granny Smiths, which hold their shape well and whose tartness stood out clearly against the sweet, dense background of the cake. We tossed the apples with some Calvados (a French apple brandy) and some lemon juice to add complexity. We also found that precooking them in the microwave for a few minutes ensured that they cooked up tender and retained their structure.
For the distinct cake and custard layers we were after, we made the batter in two stages. First, we combined all of the ingredients but left out some egg yolks, which we only needed for the top layer of the cake. We then divided the batter in two and added the yolks to one half and a bit more flour to the other. We layered the batters into the pan: first the batter with extra flour and then the batter with extra yolks. Baked in a moderate oven on the bottom rack, this cake cooked up creamy and custardy below and airy above.list of recipes