French Toast Bake

This French Toast Bake recipe (French Toast Casserole) combines the flavors of traditional French toast with the convenience of a casserole, topped with an easy Brown Sugar Pecan Topping!

This French Toast Bake is downright swoon worthy, ideal for extra special breakfasts, brunch or the easiest way to serve a crowd! It can be thrown together in minutes and is 100% make ahead friendly to keep your celebratory mornings stress free. This Baked French Toast Casserole is made with thick, toasted cubes of brioche or challah soaked in a cinnamon-maple spiced custard, topped with an (optional) showstopping, buttery, crunchy, brown sugar, pecan topping, then baked until golden.  Whether you’re an experienced baker or a novice cook, this French Toast Bake recipe is sure to become a family favorite that you’ll return to again and again!

We love overnight French toast casseroles at our house.  They’re perfect for stress-free mornings whether for birthdays, holidays or just a special Sunday breakfast with the fam.  Along with this French Toast Bake, don’t miss these favorites: blueberry French toast casserole,  cinnamon roll French toast casserolecroissant berry breakfast casserole,  pecan praline French toast bake and crème brûlée French toast.

How to Make French Toast Recipe Video

up close of serving French Toast Casserole (French Toast Bake) by pouring syrup over a slice
Baked French Toast in a casserole with pecan brown sugar topping

Baked French Toast Ingredients

This French Toast Casserole is showstopping in flavor, but it’s made from easy-to-find ingredients. Let’s take a closer look at what you’ll need (full recipe in the printable recipe card at the bottom of the post):

FOR THE French Toast: 

  • Bread: Purchase a one-pound, unsliced loaf of brioche, challah or French bread for this recipe. Most loaves you pick up at the grocery store will be 1-pound, but you may want to weigh it at the store. My personal favorite bread for this recipe is challah, but I’ve detailed the differences below so you can select what’s right for you. Cube the bread into 3/4-inch pieces before toasting it in the oven.
  • Eggs: The eggs are whisked together with half and half, sugar, and spices to create a custard-like mixture that is poured over the bread. The eggs act as a binder to firm up the liquid ingredients and “glue” the casserole together. 
  • Half and half: This is half milk, half heavy cream, so feel free to make your own. Half and half is whisked together with the eggs to create a creamy, rich custard. It is preferred over milk for a richer, creamier casserole and eliminates the risk of a runny one.
  • Granulated sugar: This sweetens the Baked French Toast, but feel free to use more or less to taste.
  • Pure maple syrup: This also helps sweeten the casserole but adds a subtle maple flavor. Please do NOT use pancake syrup which won’t impart the same rich maple goodness. 
  • Vanilla extract: Use pure vanilla extract for the best flavor.
  • Spices: The French Toast Casserole is infused with the aromatic flavors of ground cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. A pinch of salt balances and enhances all the flavors. 
Baked French Toast Recipe in a 9x13 baking dish served with berries, syrup and pecans

For the crumble topping: 

The topping is optional but is one of the best parts of the Overnight French Toast Bake recipe in my opinion!  It rewards you with tender, custard soaked bread juxtaposed with the crunchy brown sugar pecans in every dizzyingly delicious forkful.  

  • Pecans:  Their tantalizing nuttiness makes the topping extra crunchy!  Don’t chop the pecans too small or they can burn, go for about ¼-inch pieces or larger.
  • Flour: This helps bind the topping ingredients together and gives it a crumbly texture. I use all-purpose flour but any flour will work great, including gluten free flour.
  • Brown sugar:  This adds sweetness and a hint of molasses, as well as moisture to the topping. Use light brown sugar for best results so the molasses flavor isn’t overpowering.
  • Pure maple syrup: Again, you use pure maple syrup and not pancake syrup. 
  • Butter: The butter is melted, so you don’t have to worry about cutting it in! Melted butter creates a crunchier topping. Again, use unsalted butter so your breakfast casserole isn’t too salty.
  • Spices: Ground cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves are also used in the crumble topping. 
up close of serving a slice of French Toast Casserole showing the perfect texture of soft bread (never soggy or mushy)

HOW TO MAKE Overnight FrEnch Toast Bake

Assemble and bake this French Toast Casserole the night before, then just pop it in the oven in the morning! Let’s take a closer look at how to make this recipe (full recipe in the printable recipe card at the bottom of the post):

  • Step 1: Toast the bread. Toasting evenly dehydrates the bread so it’s ready to soak in the custard without becoming soggy. The center remains tender but still has some chew. It also allows you to prep the bread right away instead of waiting for the bread to become stale on the counter.
  • Spread the cubed bread out on a large baking sheet (or 2 baking sheets) and bake until golden, dry and crisp. Go for as dry as croutons if soaking the breakfast casserole overnight, or dry but with a little give, if soaking just a few hours.
showing how to make French Toast Bake (French Toast Casserole) by toasting challah or brioche cubes on a baking sheet in the oven until toasted
  • Step 2: Make the custard. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, half and half, sugar, maple syrup, vanilla, and spices. 
a collage showing how to make French Toast Bake (French Toast Casserole) by adding eggs, half and half, cinnamon, and sugar to a mixing bowl and whisking to combine to make the custard
  • Step 3: Assemble the casserole. Add the toasted bread to a lightly greased baking pan. Pour the custard overtop, then press down with a spatula to help submerge the bread in the liquid. The tops will still be above the custard.
a collage showing how to make French Toast Bake (French Toast Casserole) by adding toasted cubes to a 9x13 baking dish, adding the custard, then pressing the cubes down with a spatula to submerge in the custard
  • Step 4: Refrigerate overnight. Cover the French Toast Casserole tightly with foil and refrigerate for at least three hours, or overnight, if possible, so the bread can drink up the custard. 
  • Step 5: Make the crumble topping. After you pop the casserole in the fridge, proceed to make the crumble topping. You want to refrigerate it overnight for the coldest topping.
  • Whisk together the pecans, flour, sugar, vanilla, and spices in a large bowl until evenly combined. Pour in the melted butter and maple syrup and stir with a spatula to combine, breaking up any large pieces. Cover and transfer to the refrigerator.
a collage showing how to make Baked French Toast by combining flour, sugar, butter and cinnamon in a bowl to make a streusel topping
  • Step 6: Bake. Evenly sprinkle the crumble topping over the overnight French Toast Bake. Then, bake for about 45 to 55 minutes or until the custard is set.  
showing how to make French Toast Bake (French Toast Casserole) by adding pecan crumble to the casserole before it bakes
showing how to serve French Toast Bake (French Toast Casserole) by topping it with strawberries and blueberries

Overnight French Toast Bake FAQS

Is French Toast really French?

The origins of French toast are a bit unclear, and there are various theories about its origin. However, despite its name, French toast is not actually French in origin.

One theory is that French toast originated in ancient Rome, where it was known as “pan de mei” or “bread soaked in milk.” Another theory suggests that it originated in medieval Europe, where it was known as “pain perdu” or “lost bread,” as it was a way to use up stale bread that would otherwise be thrown away.

The name “French toast” is believed to have originated in the United States in the 19th century. Some say that the dish was named after the French chef who introduced it to America, while others speculate that it was named simply because it sounded fancy and exotic.

So while French toast may have a French-sounding name, it is not actually French in origin.

What kind of bread should be used for French Toast Bake?

The top three choices of bread to use for French Toast are Brioche, Challah and French Bread.  All of these options are sturdy enough to soak up the custard without becoming soggy.  Brioche, however, earns extra points because of its buttery sweetness and is my top choice for French Toast Casserole.

How should I cut the bread for French Toast Bake?

Use bread cut into 3/4-inch-thick cubes. The thicker the cubes, the more egg mixture it can soak in while remaining fluffy, soft and custardy without becoming soggy.

Why do you toast bread before French toast?

When making French toast, it’s common to use slightly stale bread because it absorbs the egg mixture without becoming soggy, preventing the breakfast casserole from becoming mushy when baked. Toasting the bread is great alternative for waiting for the bread to become stale. It also allows you to cube it before toasting for ease, and imparts an alluring nutty flavor and aroma.

Why does my French Toast Bake taste like eggs?

Because you used too many eggs!  The general rule of thumb is 3 eggs per 1 cup half and half.  Any more eggs and you run the risk a French Toast Casserole that tastes more eggy than custardy.

How do you know when French Toast Bake is done?  How can you tell when it’s undercooked?

It’s important to not underbake or overbake the French Toast Casserole.  An underbaked casserole will be runny instead of creamy and an overbaked casserole can be dry instead of creamy.  To perfectly bake your French Toast Casserole every time, bake until the custard is creamy but set and top is puffy and golden brown. To test for doneness, insert a toothpick in the center of the casserole.  The tester should come out with a few moist crumbs, but not be wet. 

Why is my French Toast Bake soggy?

French Toast Bake or Casserole can be soggy if:

1. You use the wrong bread (soft instead of sturdy bread).
2. The bread isn’t stale enough or thick enough.
3. You use milk instead of half and half/cream in the custard. 

To ensure beautifully soft but not soggy casserole, use day old or toasted brioche, challah or French bread, use half and half and don’t let the casserole sit longer than 24 hours.

Should French Toast Bake be covered when baking?

French Toast Casserole with a streusel topping should not be covered when baking, allowing for a perfectly golden, crunchy top. If the top is becoming too brown at any point during baking, cover it with foil.

Is French Toast Casserole served hot or cold?

French Toast Casserole is best served warm, fresh out of the oven, or at the very least room temperature.  I do not recommend serving it cold.

Can French Toast Bake sit out overnight?

Baked French Toast should be refrigerated within 2 hours of baking due to the eggs in the custard or it can spoil.  It is recommended, however, to let it sit overnight in the refrigerator before baking so the bread can soak up the custard.

How long will French Toast Bake keep?

Tightly covered leftover French Toast Bake will last in the refrigerator for up to 4-5 days.

Can French Toast Bake Be Made the Night Before? 

Absolutely! I actually prefer making this as an Overnight French Toast Bake. It means less work for me in the morning, plus it gives the bread extra time to soak up the spiced custard before baking.

Can Baked French Toast Be Made Without Sitting overnight?

There is a reason most French toast casseroles call for sitting overnight – it gives the custard time to permeate and really soak into the bread. This results in sublime flavor and texture through and through. So, for best results, plan on OVERNIGHT French toast casserole preparation method.

With that being said, you can still make this recipe without letting it rest overnight. Just adjust your expectations as the casserole won’t be as fluffy or flavorful as the custard won’t have as much time to soak in. The top layer of bread may even turn out hard or crispy because it hasn’t had the time to soak up a lot of egg mixture.  

1. Use a softer bread, one that isn’t as toasted.
2. Instead of pouring the custard over the bread cubes in the casserole dish, which won’t saturate the top bread as well, mix all the bread cubes and the custard together in a bowl first to fully saturate all the cubes. When ready to bake, transfer to the casserole.
3. Let the saturated cubes rest on the counter for 30-60 minutes before assembling, then bake per recipe instructions. You can also let the casserole soak in the refrigerator for just what you have time for, whether that’s 1 hour or 3.

What is French Toast Casserole made of?

French Toast Bake, also known as overnight French Toast Casserole, is a delicious breakfast dish that’s perfect for feeding a crowd. It’s made with a few simple ingredients, including bread (brioche, challah or French bread), eggs, half and half, sugar, and spices. To make the dish, the bread is usually cubed and placed in a baking dish. The egg mixture, which is made by whisking together eggs, milk or cream, sugar, and spices, is then poured over the bread. The casserole is usually left to sit overnight, allowing the bread to soak up the custard mixture. In the morning, the casserole is baked in the oven until it’s golden and crispy on top. French toast bake can be served with a variety of toppings, such as fresh fruit, syrup, cinnamon or whipped cream.

What internal temperature should French Toast Casserole be when it’s done baking?

Bake until the custard is set, puffed up, and reaches an internal temperature in the center of 175 to 190ºF (79 to 88ºC), about 45 to 55 minutes. The less time you bake the casserole and the lower the internal temperature, the softer and more custard-like it will be. The longer you bake the casserole, and the higher the internal temperature, the more firm it will be.

serving Baked French Toast with a spatula showing how crunchy the streusel topping is
  • Use the right bread. This isn’t the time for your favorite sandwich bread. You need thick, sturdy bread such as brioche, challah or French bread otherwise you’ll end up with soggy or mushy breakfast casserole. 
  • Toast the bread. Toasting evenly dehydrates the bread so it’s ready to soak in the custard without becoming soggy. The center remains tender but still has some chew.
  • Don’t chop the pecans too small. If chopped too finely, they can burn. Go for about ¼-inch pieces or larger.
  • Use melted butter in the crumble topping. If you cut cold butter into the flour and sugars, the dry, powdery topping can wash away when baked. For a crispier topping, this recipe boasts a streusel with melted butter incorporated directly into the flour, sugar and nuts to bind all the ingredients together so it bakes as a separate entity that melts into a crunchy blanket when baked.   Bonus, this method is super quick and easy!
  • For a crispier crumble topping, refrigerate it first. If you wonder why your crumble toppings — whether for breakfast bakes, pies, crisps, crumbles, etc. — haven’t been as crunchy as you’d like, it’s likely your topping was not chilled sufficiently. For the crispiest topping, make your topping FIRST and refrigerate. The colder the topping, the crunchier the topping. 
  • Use more or less sugar. If you’d like a topping that is stand-alone-sweet without any need for syrup, use closer to 2/3 cup brown sugar in the streusel. For a sweet, but-not-as-sweet topping, use ½ cup brown sugar.
  • Let the casserole rest overnight. You can get by with letting the casserole rest for less time, but it is best if allowed to rest overnight – the bread is much more flavorful through and through with the perfect pillowy soft consistency.
  • Break up the topping.  The topping will chill together to form some larger clumps.  Break these clumps up with your fingers as you add them to the French Toast Casserole before baking.  Whatever size you leave them, is the size they will bake into.
  • The baking time may vary. Baking variables such as whether you used glass, ceramic, actual oven temperature, bread, etc. all affect the overall baking time, so pay attention and be flexible.
  • Half batch. This recipe makes a hearty 9×13 casserole but it can easily be halved.  Use the sliding scale that appears when you click on serving size in the recipe card to adjust the servings. Bake the casserole in an 8×8-inch baking pan for around 30-35 minutes.
  • Other breads to try: This recipe will also work with Texas toast, cinnamon swirl bread, cinnamon raisin bread, etc.  These breads aren’t as sturdy as brioche and challah, so make sure to toast the cubes so they are crispy like croutons. 
  • Make a simpler nut topping: Toss the chopped pecans with ⅓ cup brown sugar and sprinkle on the casserole before baking. You won’t get the same crunch of the streusel, but you will get the crunch of the pecans. 
  • Omit the topping: Instead of the pecan crumble, simply sprinkle the casserole with 1 tablespoon brown sugar and ½ teaspoon cinnamon, or top individual slices with strawberry or blueberry syrup instead.
  • Swap the half and half:  Use eggnog or any flavor coffee creamer such as caramel, sweet cream, original, cinnamon or vanilla.
  • Add berries: Layer 1 ¾ cups of fresh or frozen berries with the cubed bread before adding the custard.
  • Add chocolate chips: Layer 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips with the cubed bread before adding the custard.  You can also experiment with different types of baking chips.
  • Switch up the spices: Uses any spices you like! In the fall, try pumpkin pie spice and in the winter try using a gingerbread spice mix. 
  • Add citrus zest: For a citrusy twist on the classic Baked French Toast, omit the spices (still use the salt, though) and add the zest of one or two lemons.  This is particularly fabulous with berries!
  • Make the streusel less sweet: Decrease the brown sugar to ½ cup. 
  • Make it gluten-free: Use your favorite gluten-free bread and 1:1 gluten-free baking flour. 
  • Add nuts: Instead of adding the nut topping, sprinkle chopped pecans, almonds or walnuts directly on the bread before adding the custard.
up close of Baked French Toast recipe showing how soft, yet not mushy, the bread is

showing how to serve French Toast Casserole with a slice on a plate topped with strawberries and blueberries

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showing how to serve French Toast Casserole with a slice on a plate topped with strawberries and blueberries

French Toast Bake Recipe

This French Toast Bake is downright swoon worthy, ideal for extra special breakfasts, brunch or the easiest way to serve a crowd! It can be thrown together in minutes and is 100% make ahead friendly to keep your celebratory mornings stress free. This Baked French Toast Casserole is made with thick, toasted cubes of brioche or challah soaked in a cinnamon-maple spiced custard, topped with an (optional) showstopping, buttery, crunchy, brown sugar, pecan topping, then baked until golden.  Whether you're an experienced baker or a novice cook, this French Toast Bake recipe is sure to become a family favorite that you'll return to again and again!
Servings: 12 servings
Total Time: 5 hours 15 minutes
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes

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Ingredients

Bread

  • 1 16 oz. loaf challah or brioche cut into 3/4” cubes (French bread is okay/last choice)

Custard

  • 6 eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups half and half
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp EACH ground cloves, ground nutmeg, salt

BROWN SUGAR PECAN CRUMB TOPPING

  • 1 ½ cups pecans, chopped (about ¼ inch)
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2-2/3 cup packed light brown sugar (depending on desired sweetness)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp EACH ground cloves, ground nutmeg, salt
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup

Instructions

  • Toast bread: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Add the cubed bread in a single layer to a large baking sheet (15×21-inches, or two half sheets). Bake for 20-25 minutes, stirring halfway through until golden, dry and toasted (keep an eye on them so they don’t burn!). Set aside to cool while you make the custard and crumb topping.
  • Custard: In a large liquid measuring cup or mixing bowl, whisk all of the Custard ingredients together.
  • Assemble: Lightly spray a 9×13-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray; add toasted bread cubes. Pour the custard over top. Press the bread into the liquid to submerge (the tops won't be covered). You may need to press, wait a few minutes, then press again.
  • Chill: Cover with foil and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to 24 hours for the bread to soak up the custard (the bread should feel slightly mushy). Make and refrigerate the crumb topping at the same time. See below.
  • Pecan Crumb Topping: Whisk together the pecans, flour, sugar, vanilla and spices in a large bowl until evenly combined. Pour in the melted butter and maple syrup. Stir with a spatula to combine, breaking up any large pieces. Cover and transfer to the refrigerator (the colder the topping, the crunchier it will be).
  • Bake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Just before baking, evenly sprinkle the Pecan Crumb Topping over the bread (the topping should be chilled until baking). Bake, uncovered, until the custard is set, about 45-55 minutes, depending on how soft/”eggy” you like it. Cool for 15 minutes before serving. Serve with fresh berries and syrup if desired.

Video

Notes

  • To store:  Tightly cover leftovers; store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. 
  • To freeze:  Leftovers can be frozen, but the streusel won’t be nearly as crunchy.  If making specifically to freeze, omit the streusel topping, and add it just before baking.  The frozen casserole should be thawed overnight before being baked/reheated.
  • To reheat: Reheat individual servings in the microwave for 45 seconds, then at 10 second intervals, or reheat in the oven, covered with foil, at 325 degrees F for 10-15 minutes or until warmed through.

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2 Comments

  1. Kara Berry says

    I made this for Mother’s Day brunch. It was AMAZING. my father now wants it everyday. I omitted the syrup on the top because of the sweetness and sprinkled a little powdered sugar instead. Best dish!!!!!!

    • Jen says

      Thank you so much, Kara, I am thrilled this was such a hit! I hope you and your family had a wonderful Mother’s Day!

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