Tarte Tatin – An Easy Classic French Dessert Recipe

According to my old 1984 edition of Larousse Gastronomique (given as a wedding present as a young Scot about to embark in a French kitchen), the Tarte Tatin was first served in Paris at Maxim’s giving a bow to its creators, the famous Tatin sisters.

Stéphanie and Caroline Tatin came up with this irresistible dessert quite by accident at the end of the 19th century while running their hotel/restaurant in the French Sologne region, south of Paris.  The story goes (I have two conflicting ones from different cookbooks) that, as the apples were caramelising in sugar and butter in the oven for their tarte solognote, they either realised they’d forgotten the pastry or that they’d burned the apples, so they simply plopped the pastry on top, baked then flipped the tart upside down, and Mon Dieu, look what turned up? From then on, it was served as their speciality until they retired in 1906, although they never called it a Tarte Tatin.

Tarte Tatin a French classic dessert recipe

Newly married, I was totally intimidated by my French Mother-in-Law’s Tarte Tatin. Her dessert looked so sumptuous and grand with its glistening slices of warm caramelised apples sitting on top of a crispy pastry, just oozing with the sticky juices. How did she do it?

Pressing her short and simple recipe in my hand, I was assured it was easy and inrattable; “You can’t go wrong”, she said.
Well I did get it wrong.

For a start, I used apples that didn’t survive the cooking process (Pink Lady) and when I quickly turned the pan upside down for the grand finale de-moulding moment, some of the apples stuck to the bottom and the rest sat there miserably as light, uncaramelised mush. I thought of inventing a new Apple Sauce Tart but somehow it didn’t have quite the same “accident appeal” as that of the elderly Tatin Sisters.

So, lesson learned: use good quality tart apples such as Granny Smith or French Golden Delicious. As a result of a few other little tweaks, you can also now be rest assured that what flips out at the end will be much more of a pleasure!

Tarte Tatin French recipe for caramelised apple tart


Serves 4-6

Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: About 1 hour

2 tbsp water
120g caster sugar (plus 2 tbsp)
50g unsalted butter (plus 15g extra)
pinch salt (optional)
5-6 apples (Golden Delicious or Granny Smith)
200g puff pastry (ideally ready-rolled/thawed, if frozen)

For best results, butter a round 25cm deep baking tin, or use a good solid-based ovenproof frying pan

tarte tatin recipe method

1. In a heavy bottomed saucepan, stir the water and sugar together and, over a medium heat, leave to bubble and simmer until a light golden brown caramel forms.  Take off the heat, stir in the butter (and salt if using) until the caramel is smooth and immediately pour into the baking tin.

2. Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F (gas 5).  Peel the apples, cut them in half, remove the cores with a sharp knife (or use an apple corer) and cut them again horizontally.

3. Arrange the apples upright in a circle and pack them as tight as you can (they’ll shrink while cooking), filling as much space as possible in the middle.  Cut up any leftover apple and stuff them into the spaces.  Dot with the extra butter (or brush with melted butter) and lightly sprinkle over the 2 tablespoons of sugar.  Bake in the oven for 35 minutes.

4. Remove the apples from the oven to cool slightly as you prepare the pastry.

5. Ideally your puff is ready rolled so there’s no need to do anything. (If the puff pastry is in a block, roll it out to about 2mm thickness and cut out a circle very slightly larger (2-3cm) than the size of the pan you’re using). Place the puff pastry circle on top of the apples, tucking in the sides as far down the edges as you can, as it will neatly hold the apples when turned over at the end. Pierce a small hole in the middle of the pastry to allow any steam to escape – this will prevent the puff pastry from puffing up too much while baking.

6. Bake in the oven for a further 25-30 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown and the apple juices leak around the edges.

7. Leave to cool. Run a sharp knife along the edges just to help release the sticky beast. To turn out the tart, cover the pan with a large deep plate (to catch the juices) and, using a hand towel, hold the pan and plate together and flip upside down quickly, pastry side down.

Serve slightly warm either on its own or with a dollop of crème fraîche.

Tarte tatin a classic French dessert with apples

This is my first recipe article to be published over at French Entrée Magazine!


Upside-Down Dark Chocolate, Coffee and Pear Cake

The pears just sat there showing off their perfect hippy contours in the fruit bowl, pride of place on the breakfast table.

Really. No takers? It was the same for lunch, goûter, and dinner. Were they just too pretty to look at?  I decided it was “conference” time with the family last weekend; would they also like their pears hugged in chocolate, the unanimous response was

“Oh, we love pears!”

Upside down chocolate coffee pear cake recipe

I hit on the idea of this cake while trying out a delicious recipe for a Drunken Damson Dessert by Angela Reid from Green & Black’s Chocolate Recipe Book. As I poured the chocolate mix on top of my damson-replaced nectarines soaked in the gin, I was thinking that next time I should try a non-alcoholic version and flip it upside-down so that the pears would be caramelised and glistening on top – rather like a Tarte Tatin style chocolate cake.

nectarine and chocolate pudding

This is nearly a flourless cake since I added just a tablespoon, just to cake it up a bit but for gluten-free diets you can skip the flour.  I also love adding coffee to pear (see this coffee and poached pear recipe); the coffee also brings out the dark chocolate’s intensity.

The photos really don’t do this cake justice.  The family didn’t give me much time to photograph it and, as it was at the end of the day, the sun was playing up and I was juggling the rest of dinner.  There wasn’t even time to do a photo set-up. Plonk! Snap! But enough of my excuses. I suggest you make this and show me your better shots!  What counts is that it tastes fabulous and I’ll have to make it again soon.

upside down dark chocolate coffee pear cake recipe

Upside-Down Chocolate, Coffee & Pear Cake

Serves 6-8

Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 30 + 10 minutes

2 tbsp water

100g sugar
25g butter

3 pears (Guyot or Conference)

Chocolate Cake:
50g sugar

4 eggs
250g dark chocolate (at least 64% cocoa solids)
175g butter (unsalted)
1 tpsp coffee powder

1 tbsp plain flour

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F (gas 6). Butter a 25cm cake pan (no need to if using a silicone round cake mould, or moule à manqué).

2. Make a caramel by stirring the sugar into the water in a heavy-based saucepan.  Leave to simmer (don’t stir at this stage) until a golden caramel forms then stir in the butter.  Immediately pour the caramel into the cake pan.

pears in cake pan on top of caramel and before the chocolate mix is poured on top

3. Peel the pears and cut them in half.  Remove the cores with a sharp knife then cut each half into three slices. Arrange them as packed together as you can on top of the caramel and bake in the oven for 5 minutes then remove to cool slightly.

4. Using a hand whisk, beat the eggs with the sugar in a large bowl until pale and creamy. Break up the chocolate into pieces and melt it together with the butter and coffee powder in a heat-proof bowl on top of a pan of simmering water (bain-marie), ensuring that the water doesn’t touch the chocolate bowl. When smooth and melted, whisk together the chocolate into the egg mix then pour the chocolate batter on top of the pears.  Bake for 25-30 minutes.

5. Leave to cool slightly for about 10 minutes. Using a sharp blade of a knife, go around the sides to ensure nothing is sticking.  Place a large serving plate over the pan and, holding on to both plate and pan, flip the plate upside down to demould the cake.

dark chocolate coffee pear cake

Serve either cold or slightly warm with cream but it’s just as good entirely on its own.

Next time I’m adding some candied ginger and perhaps a teaspoon of ground ginger to replace the coffee. What do you think?  Are you more for classic plain or spicy with pear and chocolate?


Passion Fruit and Raspberry Macaron Filling

Standing in the buzzing queue of many of Paris’s best pâtisseries, I often realise that decision-making has never been one of my strong points. Well, how can you blame me? With such sumptuous choices to ponder over, there are a number of pastry classics that look up from the shiny museum-like glass counters, saying “Go on – don’t forget me! Pick me!”

raspberry giant macarons with passion fruit cream

Admittedly, picking one or two out has become quicker, thanks to taking around eager testers in the  chocolate and pastry groups with Context Paris. What a responsibility it can be to choose a wide enough variety of fabulous samples without them all floating off into a sugar coma.

One of the lighter popular classics is a giant pink macaron garnished with pastry cream and surrounded with fresh raspberries. What’s more, it’s gluten-free. However, it’s not that easy to cut up into sample pieces!

macarons ispahan style in local patisseries

Pierre Hermé, dubbed by Vogue Magazine as the Picasso of Pastry, christened the most famous of giant raspberry macarons the Ispahan, named after a tender, fragrant Iranian rose. The giant pink macaron is filled with a rose and lychee cream and finished off with beautiful fresh raspberries.

So many pastry shops in Paris have drawn on his inspiration with their own take on it. Even our local pâtisserie had their version (above) with the bottom macaron shell upside down…

Raspberry passion fruit giant macaron

As you can imagine, such Parisian pâtisserie temptations are a constant source of exciting inspiration.  For this dessert classic I replaced the lychee and rose with a zingy passion fruit filling, adding that extra acidic touch to the raspberries.

Truth be told, I ran out of passion fruits as I thought two would be enough. But after tasting the cream, I felt it needed another passion fruit for that extra fruity punch.  So instead I added some extra passion fruit purée as an emergency back-up. I use an excellent passion fruit purée from Monin. Incidentally, I also love their floral syrups to quickly and easily add that delicious fragrant touch to pâtisserie recipes such as rose, elderflower and violet for a summery Teatime in Paris.

Giant raspberry macaron with passion fruit cream filling

Passion Fruit Cream Filling for Giant Raspberry Macarons

I used the basic macaron recipe in “Teatime in Paris” adding a pinch of deep raspberry pink powdered colouring (if using “Mad About Macarons”, use the measurements specified in the Annex of the book, under “Egg White Reference Chart” based on 100g egg whites).  This will make 12 large macarons.  The filling is based on a classic pastry cream (recipe also in “Teatime in Paris”) but I’ve adapted it here based on the liquid of the passion fruit.  Don’t forget that macaron shells can be frozen, so I often prepare them in advance and defrost them the day of a dinner party and the rest is easy to put together.

Serves 6

Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: about 15 minutes
Chilling Time: 1 hour (minimum)

250 ml full-cream milk
1 vanilla pod/bean, seeds scraped out (optional)
3 egg yolks
50 g sugar
30 g cornflour
juice of 3 passion fruits (the equivalent of 4 tbsp once seeds removed)
2 punnets of fresh raspberries

1. In a medium saucepan, gently heat the milk with the vanilla seeds, if using. Meanwhile, using a balloon whisk, mix the egg yolks and sugar in a large bowl until creamy, then whisk in the cornflour until smooth.  When the milk is hot (but not boiling), add half of the hot milk to the beaten egg yolk mixture. Whisk vigorously then quickly add the mix to the rest of the milk in the saucepan while whisking continuously.

2. Continue to whisk over the heat until the mixture thickens. Cover with cling film so that no skin forms on the surface and leave to cool for about 10 minutes then chill in the fridge for at least an hour.

3. Meanwhile, using a sieve, strain the juice and remove the seeds.

4. When chilled, whisk in the juice of the strained passion fruits and continue to chill until closer to serving time.

Spoon or pipe out the filling into the middle of 6 giant macaron bases and arrange about 8-10 raspberries (according to size) on the outside and finish off by topping with a macaron shell.

Giant raspberry passion fruit macaron

Speaking of passion fruit, have you tried the passion fruit and lemon meringue tartlet recipe from Teatime in Paris yet? My lovely friend, Christina, of Christina’s Cucina has just made them and posted the recipe, plus is hosting a Giveaway of the book!  You must pop in for a Parisian teatime in California – and please say hello from me.

French Clafoutis – Baked Cherry Custard

Clafoutis is one of my French Mother-in-law’s specialities. It’s also one of my husband’s favourite desserts.  When we visit Antoine’s parents in Provence in the summer, Madeleine proudly makes a point of rustling up her baked cherry custard finale for son grand, her eldest son. Call me a Scottish ostrich who hides her head in the hot sand but, as a result, I have always shied away from serving it at home. Until fairly recently.

Would you believe I finally plucked up the courage to make this ridiculously easy pudding after twenty years? What was I imagining? Could Mother-in-law really discover I’d slightly changed her recipe and stone me with the beautiful plump, dark cherries from her neighbour’s provençal orchard? With such a blossoming cherry season around Paris, it has been my wake up call.

baked cherry custard dessert clafoutis

So many clafoutis recipes call for pitted cherries. Madeleine normally throws in the cherries as they are and most of us politely dispose of the stones at the table (I say most of us, as Antoine – in his more natural Corsican style – rocks on the back of his chair, plotting his target as he catapults and projects them less than delicately into the garden – “Heh, je plante!”, he shrugs at us all.  It’s his Corsican sense of humour of saying he’s planting cherry trees. Oh, pl-ease!).

I may mock but whole, unpitted cherries do keep in their flavour, and it’s far quicker than standing over the kitchen table with dark cherry-stained hands looking like Jack or Jill the Ripper. So just throw them in as they are naturally then get the family to do the gardening at the table. Otherwise pit them if you prefer, especially if you have a cherry stone extractor.

This almond-topped clafoutis has been tried, tested and approved by Antoine, Julie and Lucie. Just don’t tell his Mum.

French clafoutis easy recipe


Recipe adapted from one of my all-time favourite cookbooks, France: The Beautiful Cookbook – Authentic Recipes from the Regions of France by The Scotto Sisters and Gilles Pudlowski (I added baking powder, another egg, more milk and cut down on the sugar and butter.) The almond topping is pinched from my friend, Véronique (merci!). You could replace the almond extract with a tablespoon of Kirsch or Amaretto liqueur, for a more adult version.

Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 35-40 minutes


500g fresh black cherries, washed, not pitted

For the mould (china or earthenware dish):
10g butter
10g sugar

70g plain flour
good pinch of salt (fleur de sel)
1/2 tsp baking powder
3 medium eggs, organic
1 egg yolk
80g sugar
270g full-cream milk
25g butter, melted
few drops of almond extract (optional)
25g silvered almonds (optional, for garnish)

Pouring clafoutis batter on to cherries

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F (gas 4). Butter an ovenproof china or pyrex dish (22cm diameter and 5cm deep) large enough to hold the cherries in a single layer.  Sprinkle in the sugar, shaking it all around so that it coats the surface of the dish and place the cherries in it.

2. Combine the flour, salt, baking powder and sugar in a large bowl.  Add the eggs and yolk and, using a balloon whisk, mix well until the mixture is smooth.  Continue whisking adding the milk, almond extract and melted butter. Pour over the cherries.

French clafoutis before baking

3. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until browned. Toast the flaked almonds in a non-stick frying pan for a few minutes on medium heat until they’re golden and sprinkle on the Clafoutis with a dusting of icing/confectioner’s sugar.

Serve warm directly from the dish.

clafoutis cherry baked custard dessert

Don’t forget to join me on Instagram (or Facebook), where I’m having fun posting shots from day to day around Paris – from the market, to chocolate and pastry walks, to views of Paris, to mad family life.

cherry French dessert clafoutis

And for more cherries on top, I’m off to make some pistachio and cherry tartlets – recipe in Teatime in Paris!

Summer Fête Carrot Cakes

Today I’m still cringing.  When was the last time you had an embarrassing instant of saying something without thinking it through, then spent the following hours and day wishing you could correct it and hit replay?  Even on a day like French Mother’s Day today, I can’t ask for that gift.

Such a wincing-induced moment came yesterday. It could have been straight from a Desperate Housewives’ scene; Bree standing in frilly apron, smiling proudly from ear to ear behind the baking stall at the School’s Summer Fête.

summer school fete at the Lycée International St Germain

As the director of the school chose a cake for his offspring, just as he was about to turn and continue the rounds, my mouth opened and blurted, “I baked these”.


These three pathetic words are still teasing me, as I’m desperately trying to convince brain to train mouth. The only consoling thought is that everyone seems to love a good carrot cake – now including French hubby, who normally only appreciates spices in a curry or tagine.

carrot mini cakes

For the Fête, I chose to make light individual cakes, as I was simply too lazy to cut up a large cake!

carrot cake muffins


Recipe from BBC Good Food. The recipe is super in that there is not as much sugar as other recipes I’ve tried and I love the proportion of carrots, making the cakes very light.  I only adapted it very slightly by lowering the sugar, adding extra zest to the frosting for more zing, and on the icing quantities as I had too much in proportion to the cake mix.

Makes 12 large cakes using muffin moulds and paper cases (@ 7cm diameter)


200g plain flour (or half each of plain and wholemeal flour)
150g light brown sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp gingerbread or mixed spice
zest of an unwaxed orange (keep some aside for the icing)
2 eggs
150g sunflower oil (or other neural oil)
200g peeled carrots, grated


75g butter, softened
225g soft cheese, at room temperature (e.g. Philadelphia or St Moret)
75g icing/confectioner’s sugar, sifted
1 tsp vanilla extract (or add 1 tsp zest from the orange)
Sprinkles to decorate (optional)

1. Heat oven to 180°C/360°F/160°C fan (Gas 4).
In a large mixing bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, spice and orange zest.  Whisk together the eggs and oil, then stir into the dry ingredients with the grated carrot.

2. Prepare a 12-cavity muffin tin with paper cases. Divide the mixture between cases and bake for 20-22 minutes until a skewer poked in comes out clean.

3. To make the icing, beat the butter until creamy, then beat in the soft cheese, icing sugar and vanilla/orange zest.  Either swirl the icing on top of the cakes using a palette knife or use a piping bag with a star tip to pipe out spiral toppings and sprinkle with edible glitter to your fancy.

carrot cake muffins recipe

Enjoy!  Just watch what your mouth says.

Happy New Year with a Cheesecake from Paris!

Happy New Year to you from a chilly Paris!  I hope you all had a chance to have a good break, pick up a book now and again, stick your feet up and enjoy spending time with the family.  If you’re like me, you may have also spent much quality time in the kitchen – but it’s my favourite, cosy haven to concoct new dishes and bring out old favourites to the table, making the family happy bunnies.

Orange and cinnamon cheesecake with macarons for Teatime in Paris

A cheesecake fit for a King or Queen this Epiphany and for a macaron blog

While I’m making the traditional royal French Galettes des Rois this week for Epiphany, I’ve also had a crescendoing urge to make … cheesecake!  Julie is the greatest cheesecake fan I know –  training her eye to spot them from a distance – as New York-style cheesecakes are gradually appearing more in Parisian pâtisseries. Since her major discovery of Gontran Cherrier‘s deliciously tangy Yuzu and lime cheesecake, festive shopping trips to St Germain-en-Laye up the road have had a major attack on her pocket money. So, Mum to the rescue, it was high time to stock up on some cream cheese and make one family-sized this weekend.  Besides, I wanted to ensure she was eating enough fruit.  Excuses over.

orange cheesecake decor close-up

In my RECIPES TO DO pile, has been the most sumptuous-looking cheesecake on the 7th cover edition of Fou de Pâtisserie magazine: by Chef Jean-François Piège.  He owns Thoumieux: a restaurant, a hotel and brasserie (see my reviews here), plus one of my favourite pâtisseries in Paris, Gâteau Thoumieux – at 58 rue Saint Dominique.

Chef Piège’s ingredients’ list is precise with 401g of cream cheese, but I should have taken note in step 2 that you only need 300g of the base – I used all of it in the recipe which was too much for a 16cm diameter cheesecake mould.  The next time I make this, I’ll reduce the base by a 1/3 and add a little more butter, just to keep it better together.  However, the extra base was excellent as a crumble topping!  The cream cheese was divine – I added half the zest of an unwaxed orange, just to give it that extra tang.  He doesn’t mention this, but I recommend that your cream cheese filling ingredients are all at room temperature in order to mix well.

Teatime in Paris with cheesecake and macarons

Le Cheesecake de Gâteau Thoumieux

Recipe by Jean-François Piège and Ludovic Chaussard (Paris), extract from Fou de Pâtisserie magazine, September-October 2014 Number 7 (Cover feature).

Serves 6
Preparation Time: 45 minutes
Cooking Time: 1 hour 15 minutes

Biscuit base:

260g plain flour (type 55)
110g butter 1
55g icing/powdered sugar
1 egg
1g salt
1g orange and lemon zest
(I added 1 tsp ground cinnamon)
65g butter 2
35g soft brown sugar

Cream Cheese:

401g Philadelphia (R) cheese
50g sugar
55g single cream
1 egg yolk
2 eggs
(I added the zest of half an unwaxed orange) 


Rose petals, coriander and parsley flowers, quenelles de mascarpone, almond streusel (According to the winter season, I instead used physallis, pomegranate jewels and my leftover macarons – over to your imagination!)

1. Make a shortcrust pastry with all the ingredients except the Butter 2 and soft brown sugar.  Bake the pastry then, using a paddle beater of a mixer, break up into pieces when cool. (I mixed all the ingredients to a crumb consistency like shortbread and baked in the oven at 160°C fan /180°C for about 15 minutes). Add the Butter 2 and brown sugar.  Mould 300g of the cheesecake biscuit round by 16cm diameter.  Set aside.

2. To make the cream, mix the Philadelphia cheese with the sugar then gradually add the yolk, eggs and cream together.

3. To finish, pour the cream mix over the base and bake at 90°C for about 1 hour 15 minutes.  Leave to cool in the fridge.  Just before serving, decorate with the above suggestions.

orange cinnamon cheesecake with macarons

Another reason to have a stock of macarons in your freezer ‘bank’!

Now that we’ve devoured plenty of sweet treats this festive season, I’m back to soups and lighter savoury delights for a few days.  All the extra courses are now beginning to hang like a brioche over the jeans, which is not so sweet!  So it’s back to the yoga tomorrow but I also fancy trying out chef Piège’s Pizza Soufflé, a popular signature dish in his brasserie.

Join me on Instragram and Facebook for a daily dose of photos from Paris and the suburbs – this week I’m sure you’ll see scenes from the Sales (les Soldes) as of 7th January, plenty more Galette des rois cakes decorating the pastry shop windows and baking them chez ze Colonnas.

Cheers to you and a delicious 2015!