This easy baked French toast casserole is lightly spiced, slightly sweet, perfectly soft in the middle, and has a buttery crisp top. You can make this straight away or make it in advance. For overnight French toast, keep it covered and stored in the refrigerator overnight, and then take out 20 minutes or so before baking in the morning to give it a chance to come closer to room temperature before baking.
1 large day old bread loaf like brioche, challah, crusty sourdough or French bread, see notes
6 whole eggs
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons real maple syrup
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/8 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 tablespoons butter plus more for greasing pan
Optional toppings: Maple syrup, honey, powdered sugar and fresh berries
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Grease a 9-inch by 13-inch baking dish with butter and set aside.
Slice the bread into thick slices (1/2-inch to 1-inch thick). Cut each bread slice in half, making two triangles.
In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, milk, cream, maple syrup, vanilla, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, and salt until combined.
Quickly dip each slice of bread into the milk mixture and place into the baking dish, arranging each slice so that they are angled and overlap slightly (like roof shingles).
When all the bread slices are arranged in the baking dish, pour the remaining milk mixture over the top of the bread. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and refrigerate at least 30 minutes and up to overnight.
Heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (175C). Bake the French toast, still covered, for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes, make the cinnamon sugar topping by stirring 1 tablespoon of sugar and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon together. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter, uncover the French toast and then slowly pour the melted butter over the top, trying to cover most of the bread slices.
Scatter the cinnamon sugar over the bread, and then bake, uncovered, until the tips of the bread are golden brown and the bread looks puffed, about 10 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes, cut into 8 squares, and serve with your favorite toppings.