This Baked Cinnamon French Toast recipe is bursting with cinnamon flavor and so simple to make – it only requires 8 ingredients and 15 minutes of preparation! Featuring buttery brioche bread, warming cinnamon, crunchy pecans and a crumbly streusel topping, this cinnamon casserole is easy enough for lazy breakfasts with the family and elegant enough for entertaining!
Update: This post was originally published in November 2018. I’ve made updates to the post below to include more information about Cinnamon French Toast. Plus, I added a recipe video and step by step photos to show you exactly how quick and easy this cinnamon French toast bake is to make!
Hey, friends! What are your feelings about breakfast? Personally, breakfast is my favorite meal. Honestly, I never skip it, even when I’m pressed for time in the morning. Plus, I love it so much I eat breakfast for dinner about four times a week. And, don’t even get me started on brunch! Yum!! I absolutely live for a good Sunday brunch!
Unfortunately, my better half, doesn’t share my love and affection for the most important meal of the day. Trying to get him to eat breakfast in the morning is like pulling teeth. Wait, scratch that. I’m fairly certain teeth are easier to pull. However, brunch or breakfast for dinner? Like me, he is all about that! (Thank goodness.)
And, the dish I’m sharing today he ate for brunch, lunch and dinner on repeat. Clearly this cinnamon French toast is a winner, winner, and you should eat it at every meal – including dinner. 😉
Baked cinnamon French toast: overview
This breakfast casserole is absolute perfection!
Buttery brioche bread layered with cozy, warming cinnamon and crunchy, nutty pecans, and drenched with a sticky maple syrup and sweet brown sugar flavored custard. Topped with a tender, crumbly pecan streusel and baked until golden brown and delicious, this Cinnamon French Toast is bursting with flavor!
Easy to prepare and even easier to devour, this breakfast bake is perfect for lazy morning brunch with the family, yet elegant enough for serving a crowd during the holidays!
Why you will love this overnight cinnamon french toast recipe
- Quick recipe! This cinnamon bake requires just 15 minutes of hands-on preparation!
- Low maintenance and fuss-free! Stop standing over the stove and flipping endless pieces of bread – make crispy cinnamon French toast totally hands off right in your oven!
- Make ahead! You can prepare everything the day before and refrigerate the casserole overnight! When you are ready, simply throw the French toast into the oven in the morning and enjoy!
- 8 simple ingredients! This recipe requires just 8 simple and easy to find ingredients along with a few pantry staples!
- Perfect texture! This french toast is crisp on the outside with a luscious, soft and custard-like inside!
- So flavorful! This casserole is bursting with all the classic flavors everyone loves – warming cinnamon, sweet brown sugar, complex maple syrup and inviting vanilla!
- Streusel! What’s not to love about a buttery, crumb-cake-like streusel topping!?
- Feeds a crowd and always a crowd Pleaser! Every time I make this baked cinnamon French toast it gets rave reviews and everyone always asks for the recipe!
What is cinnamon French toast?
What is a baked French toast?
Baked French toast, also known as a French toast casserole, is a quick American breakfast casserole. It’s a delicious, hands-off version of traditional French toast that can serve a crowd.
A French toast casserole still incorporates all the flavors of your favorite French toast. While classic French toast is made with slices of bread soaked in a mixture of eggs and milk, and then cooked on a griddle or skillet, French toast casserole is made with cubes of bread soaked in a mixture of eggs, milk and other seasonings (such as cinnamon and vanilla extract), and then baked in a casserole dish.
A French toast bake can also incorporate other sweet or savory ingredients layered with the bread, such as fresh fruit, or in the case of this cinnamon pecan breakfast bake – brown sugar, maple syrup, cinnamon and pecans.
What’s in baked cinnamon French toast?
This cinnamon casserole only requires 8 easy-to-find ingredients along with a few pantry staples!
Ingredients in cinnamon French toast bake
- Bread: You need a loaf of bread, approximately 14 to 16 ounces in size, for this recipe. I prefer butter brioche for a rich, decadent casserole; however, you can use any bread you would like! (See below for a list of the best breads to use in a French toast bake!)
- Pecans: Pecans are totally optional, but they add a delicious salty, crunchy element to this breakfast casserole! You can substitute your favorite nut, such as walnuts, for the pecans if you would like!
- Eggs: You need eight large eggs to make the French toast custard. As the casserole bakes, eggs help firm up the liquids in the bread, giving French toast that classic luscious, yet crisp texture!
- Milk: I like to use a combination of whole milk and half-and-half for a touch of richness. (See below for milk substitutions!)
- Sugar: Brown sugar adds a touch of sweet, caramel flavor that just can’t be beat! I prefer to use light brown sugar in this recipe.
- Flavorings: A combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, pure maple syrup, vanilla extract and kosher salt all provide a ton of flavor!
- Streusel: The streusel topping is completely optional, but highly recommended! A mixture of flour, brown sugar, pecans, cinnamon, salt and butter forms the perfect soft crumble topping that enhances all the flavors in your cinnamon French toast bake!
- Milk: You can swap out the half-and-half for heavy cream if you prefer a richer casserole! Or, if you are looking for an adult French toast bake, try swapping out some of the half-and-half for RumChata or Irish Cream!
- Dairy-free option: To make dairy-free French toast casserole, swap out the dairy milk for almond milk or coconut milk! Also, make sure you grease your making dish with a cooking spray or non-dairy butter substitute, instead of butter!
- Gluten-free option: You can easily make this French toast casserole gluten free! To do so, replace the brioche bread with gluten-free bread and substitute gluten-free flour for all purpose flour.
What’s the best bread for baked French toast?
You can use any bread you love to make French toast; however, certain breads will work better than others!
- Brioche: Brioche is a rich, eggy, buttery yeast bread that produces an undeniably decadent French toast casserole! Brioche is truly the best and it’s my favorite bread to use when making any variety of French toast!
- Challah: Challah is very similar to brioche bread, except it is Kosher and made without any dairy (butter). If I can’t find brioche at the store, I will typically use Challah to prepare French toast.
- Cinnamon Bread: If you are looking for an extra cinnamon oomph, Cinnamon Swirl Bread or Cinnamon Raisin bread are great options! However, I recommend you look for a loaf either cut into thick slices or uncut so you can cut it yourself. If you purchase a loaf with thin slices of bread they will disintegrate in the casserole.
- Artisan Breads: Crusty breads, such as sourdough or French Baguette, make delicious French toast!
- Croissants: While totally untraditional, flaky, buttery croissants are amazing in french toast!! I recommend looking for croissants that are uncut so you can dice them into large cubes.
- White Sandwich Bread: Good ole’ classic sandwich bread will work just fine if you are in a pinch! However, as I mentioned above, it’s best to use a loaf that is cut into thick slices or totally uncut so you can cut it into large, thick cubes yourself!
- Wheat Bread: If you prefer wheat over white breads, you can absolutely use a wheat bread to prepare French toast! For the best hearty taste and texture, I recommend using a whole wheat artisan bread!
How to make baked cinnamon French toast?
This cinnamon French toast bake is incredibly easy to make and only requires 15 minutes of hands on preparation!
- Grease pan: Grease a 9×13-inch baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.
- Layer bread and pecans: Cut the bread into 1-inch cubes. Place half of the bread into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle 1 cup of pecans evenly over the bread. Repeat with remaining bread and pecans. Set the baking dish aside.
- Make custard: Whisk together the eggs, milk, half-and-half, brown sugar, maple, cinnamon and vanilla.
- Pour custard over bread: Carefully pour the egg custard evenly over the bread in the baking dish. Cover the baking dish with a large piece of plastic wrap and gently press down to soak all the bread in the custard.
- Refrigerate: Transfer the dish to the refrigerator and chill – overnight is best, but 3-4 hours will do!
- Make streusel topping: The topping is optional, but definitely recommended!
- Bake: Remove the Cinnamon French toast from the refrigerator and sprinkle with the streusel topping. Bake until golden. Remove from the oven and let cool for 5-10 minutes before garnishing, slicing and serving! Enjoy!
Expert tips for the best Cinnamon French Toast bake
Below are a few simple tips to ensure your overnight French toast turns out perfect every single time!
- Bread: It’s imperative you make this Overnight French toast with dry bread! Stale dry bread will soak up the creamy custard, while fresh bread will simply disintegrate into the custard! To turn fresh bread dry, you can uncover the bread and leave it out overnight or toast it in the oven.
- Maple syrup: Pure maple syrup is not the same thing as pancake syrup! I do not recommend substituting pancake syrup for real maple syrup in this recipe. Pure maple syrup is made from the sap of maple trees, while pancake syrup is simply high-fructose corn syrup with flavorings. They are not interchangeable!
- Press the bread into the custard: After you pour the custard over the bread, make sure you cover the dish with a sheet of plastic wrap and gently press the bread into the custard – this will ensure the bread evenly absorbs all the liquid!
- Overnight rest: While this French toast casserole tastes best if allowed to sit overnight in the refrigerator before baking, it is not absolutely necessary. For best result, allow the casserole to sit in the refrigerator for 4 or more hours. If you are in a rush, you can bake it right away, however the casserole won’t have its signature custard texture.
- Let casserole come to room temperature before baking: Make sure you pull the cinnamon French toast bake out of the refrigerator and let it sit on the counter for at least 30 minutes before baking! If you bake it cold, the casserole will bake unevenly and your baking dish may crack due to the harsh and sudden change in temperature!
- Toppings: If you want to customize this baked French toast and take it to the next level of yum, toppings are where it’s at! There’s a full list of yummy topping ideas below!
How to make overnight cinnamon French toast step by step photos
(Don’t forget to scroll down for the in-depth measurements and instructions in the complete printable recipe card at the bottom of the post!)
Baked Cinnamon French Toast: FAQ
Does Cinnamon French toast bake have to sit overnight?
No, a French toast casserole does not have to sit overnight. However, allowing the casserole to sit in the refrigerator overnight, or at least 4 hours, will produce the best texture and flavor!
With that said, if you are in a rush, you can bake French toast right away. Just keep in mind your casserole will not have the same classic custard texture and flavor!
How long should you bake French toast?
You should bake a French toast casserole at 350-degrees Fahrenheit for 50 to 65 minutes, or until the casserole is set and the center is no longer jiggly. The precise length of time your French toast needs to bake will depend upon the depth of you baking dish and the actual temperature of your oven.
Serving Cinnamon Casserole
What are the best French toast bake toppings?
Toppings are arguably the best part of French toast and there are limitless, delicious possibilities! Below are a few of my family’s favorite ways to top this French toast casserole!
- Maple Syrup: Maple syrup is a classic French toast topping for a good reason – it’s sticky, sweet and always a fan favorite!
- Confectioner’s Sugar: Sprinkling or sifting a bit of powdered sugar adds a delicious touch sweetness and a beautiful aesthetic!
- Icing: If you want to go all in, I highly recommend drizzling your baked french toast with cream cheese icing – it’s rich, decadent and pairs perfectly with the warm, cinnamon flavors! (There’s an easy homemade icing recipe in the notes section of the recipe card below!)
- Fruit: Fresh fruit is a great way to add a pop of color to the top of your casserole! Strawberries, blackberries, blueberries and raspberries all taste delicious with this French toast!
- Bacon: Stop serving your bacon on the side of your French toast and start using it as a crispy, delicious topping! If you want next level delicious, try candying your bacon!
- Honey: If you find yourself out of maple syrup, honey is a delicious French toast topping alternative!
- Whipped Cream: Airy, super creamy whipped cream is the perfect topping if you are looking to indulge!
What to serve with baked French toast?
French toast is a hearty meal that you can enjoy on its own! However, if you are serving a crowd, below are a few breakfast and side dishes that pair perfectly with this cinnamon toast!
- Breakfast Meats: One or more of your family’s favorite breakfast meats, such as sausage links, sausage patties, bacon, ham or Canadian ham!
- Eggs: Eggs prepared your favorite way – everything from scrambled, poached, fried, sunny-side up and even omelets are a great pairing!
- Fresh Fruit: Fresh fruit is a great way to lighten things up! Anything from your favorite fruit to a fruit salad will pair beautifully!
- Yogurt or Cottage Cheese: I actually love the combination of creamy yogurt or cottage cheese with crisp French toast – don’t knock it till you try it!
- Granola: Crispy, savory granola is a delicious side option and even works as a topping for French toast! Try using a granola with dried berries for a fruity sweetness that will complement the savory flavors in this casserole!
Storing and freezing French toast casserole
How to store leftovers?
To keep your casserole tasting fresh as at its best, store baked cinnamon French toast in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Properly stored, leftovers will keep for up to 4 days.
Can I freeze cinnamon French toast?
You can freeze this French toast casserole either before or after baking!
- To freeze French toast casserole before baking: Follow the instructions in the recipe below (do not top with streusel until ready to bake), making sure to assemble the casserole in a freezer and oven safe casserole dish. Once you have assembled the French toast casserole, take care to wrap the dish in plastic wrap a couple times and then cover in foil. You can store the fully-assembled (unbaked) casserole in the freezer for up to 2 months.
- To cook frozen French toast casserole, allow the casserole to thaw overnight in the refrigerator and then top with streusel and bake according to the directions in the recipe.
- To freeze a fully-baked French toast casserole, bake according to the recipe below (but do not glaze the top). Wrap the cooled casserole in plastic wrap and foil, then freeze for up to 3 months.
- To reheat frozen baked French toast casserole, allow the casserole to thaw overnight in the refrigerator and reheat according to the instructions below.
How to reheat baked French toast?
Leftover cinnamon French toast makes the perfect easy heat-and-eat breakfast, lunch and dinner! There are two different ways you can reheat this casserole, depending upon your preference!
- Oven: Tent the top of the casserole dish with aluminum foil. Bake at 350-degrees for 15 minutes, then uncover the casserole and continue baking for 15 minutes, or until just warm throughout.
- Microwave: Cut an individual serving of baked French toast and place it on a microwavable dish. Reheat for 1 minute. If your casserole is still a little too cold for your liking, continue to microwave in 30-second increments, or until warm throughout. Note: The exact length of time you will need to reheat the casserole will depend upon the size of your serving and the strength of your microwave!
Step up your breakfast or brunch game with this baked Cinnamon French Toast Casserole! This breakfast bake is easy to prepare in advance, dreamy in the taste department and totally guaranteed to be a hit with both you and your family!
Until next week friends, cheers – to breakfast kicked up a notch!
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How to bake Cinnamon French Toast: full recipe and step by step video👇
Baked Cinnamon French Toast
- 9x13-inch Baking Dish
- Large Mixing Bowl
- Medium Mixing Bowl
Cinnamon French Toast Bake:
- 1 (14-ounce) Loaf Brioche Bread (Challah or French Bread) – cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1 ¾ Cup Pecans - halves or chopped
- 8 Large Eggs
- 2 Cups Whole Milk
- ½ Cup Half-and-Half - can substitute heavy cream
- ¼ Cup Light Brown Sugar - packed
- ¼ Cup Pure Maple Syrup (SEE NOTES)
- 1 TBS Vanilla Extract
- ½ tsp EACH: Sea Salt & Ground Cinnamon
- 1/8 tsp Ground Nutmeg
- ½ Cup All Purpose Flour
- ½ Cup Light Brown Sugar - packed
- ½ tsp EACH: Ground Cinnamon & Kosher Salt
- ½ Cup Cold Unsalted Butter – cubed
- ½ Cup Pecans - chopped
For serving: Cream Cheese Icing (recipe below), Powdered Sugar or Cinnamon Sugar, Maple Syrup, Fresh Fruit (Bananas are really good!)
- Spray a 9x13-inch baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.Prepare the French toast casserole: Place half of the cubed bread into the baking dish. Sprinkle 1 cup of pecans evenly over the bread. Repeat with remaining bread and pecans. Set aside.
- Prepare the custard: In a large bowl, whisk together the remaining French toast casserole ingredients (the eggs through nutmeg).
- Pour custard over bread: Pour the prepared custard (egg and milk mixture) over the bread. Cover the baking dish with plastic wrap. Use your hands to gently press down on the bread so that all the cubes are soaking in the custard. Chill - Optional, but recommended: Refrigerate overnight or set aside in the refrigerator to chill while you prepare the streusel. (SEE NOTES)
- Prepare the streusel: In a medium bowl or food processor, whisk (or pulse) together the flour, sugar, cinnamon and salt. Add in the butter and using your fingertips, fork or pastry cutter, mix the ingredients together until the butter resembles small crumbs. Stir in the pecans. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.*
- Remove the casserole from the refrigerator and let sit on the counter to remove the chill while oven preheats.Preheat oven: Position rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Add Streusel & Bake: Uncover the baking dish and sprinkle the prepared streusel mixture evenly over the casserole. Transfer the casserole to the oven and place a large sheet pan on the rack below the baking dish (SEE NOTES). Bake for 50 minutes – 65 minutes, or until the casserole is set and no longer jiggly in the center. (Tip: If the top of the casserole starts to brown too quickly near the end of baking, lightly tent the casserole with aluminum foil and continue baking. Note: The precise length of time your casserole needs to bake will depend upon the depth of your casserole dish! I used a 2 1/2-inch deep baking dish, so my French toast took around 62 minutes to bake.)
- Serve: Remove the casserole and place it on a wire rack to cool for 5-10 minutes. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and cinnamon or drizzle with icing. Slice, serve and enjoy!
- Maple Syrup: Pure maple syrup is not the same thing as pancake syrup! I do not recommend substituting pancake syrup for real maple syrup in this recipe. Pure maple syrup is made from the sap of maple trees. The sap is then boiled down to remove most of the water and concentrate the flavor. Pancake syrup is simply high-fructose corn syrup with flavorings. They are not interchangeable.
- Overnight Chill: While this French toast casserole tastes best if allowed to sit overnight in the refrigerator before baking, it is not absolutely necessary. For best result, allow the casserole to sit in the refrigerator for 4 or more hours. If you are in a rush, you can bake it right away, however the casserole won’t have its signature custard texture.
- Baking: The casserole will puff up considerably as it bakes. I recommend placing a large sheet pan or cookie pan on the oven rack directly under the baking dish to catch any crumbs that could possibly overflow the sides of the dish.
- To make this gluten free: Replace brioche bread with gluten-free bread and substitute gluten-free flour for all purpose flour.
- How to serve: This baked cinnamon french toast is delicious served plain, drizzled with maple syrup, sprinkled with powdered sugar, or you can go all out and drizzle it with a homemade cream cheese icing - Recipe below!
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