Tarte tatin on a plate

Discover the traditional French Tarte Tatin recipe, a delicious upside-down cake with caramelized apples, a crunchy dough … the simplicity of a dessert to be eaten warm with a nice thick fresh cream or vanilla ice-cream. Only for the greediest!

The real story of Tarte Tatin

As most of the famous French recipes, this one has a story too. And as I love telling you stories, here are a few secrets about this mythical pie baked upside down and eaten right side up.

The myth of the Tarte Tatin tart

Legend has it that the Tatin sisters, owners of a hotel-restaurant in Lamotte-Beuvron in France, accidentally invented it. One of the sisters, while trying to make an apple pie, forgot to put the dough in and added it on top during the baking process.

Another version of the legend says that Stéphanie Tatin would have spilled it when it came out of the oven. Wanting to make up for her mistake, she would have picked up the tart and served it upside down.

According to the Grand Larousse Gastronomique, this is indeed a legend. Although the Tatin tart was democratised by the Tatin sisters at the end of the 19th century in their restaurant in Lamotte-Beuvron, it was never the result of a mistake. The Tatin sisters were neither clumsy nor foolhardy, but rather they were experienced managers of a reputable establishment.

But where does the Tatin pie really come from?

This upside-down apple pie, which has now become tarte Tatin, is actually derived from an old Solognese speciality made with apples or pears. It has existed for a very long time, and the recipe was passed down from mother to daughter. It was then popularised by the Tatin sisters in their hotel-restaurant.

It was later served at Maxim’s restaurant in Paris where it remains a speciality. The story goes that the chef of Maxim’s came to spy in the hotel restaurant’s kitchen to “steal” the recipe. Here again, the truth remains a mystery….

Back then, The legend of the Tatin sisters had been told by the gastronomic critic Maurice Curnonsky who wanted to create around the new recipe he had found, what we would call nowadays: a “buzz”.

Tarte tatin on a plate
Tarte tatin on a white plate

The traditional French Tarte Tatin

Prep time: 30 minutes.

Cooking time: 1 hour

Rest Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients for 6 people:

  • 2 kg of apples
  • 250 g sugar
  • 125 g soft butter
  • 50 g salted butter
  • Cinnamon
  • 1 pure butter puff pastry


  1. Cut Melt 50 g of salted butter in a mould and spread it over the entire surface (bottom and edges). Line the mould with sugar, leaving the excess in the bottom in a layer of about 3 mm. Sprinkle the sugar with a pinch of cinnamon. Set aside. Do not make caramel in the mould because the annealing of the latter gives it an unpleasant bitterness in the mouth.
  2. Peel the apples and cut them into 8 (personally, I prefer Granny Smith apples for their cooking properties and their acidity that goes well with the sweetness of the butter and sugar). In a frying pan, melt 1 good tablespoon of sweet butter with about 1/2 glass of sugar mustard, add a pinch of cinnamon, brown the apple pieces. Repeat several times if necessary if your pan is too small to hold them all. The apples will soften slightly, and you will be able to distribute them better in the pan.
  3. Arrange the apple pieces harmoniously in the mould, squeezing them lightly. The result will be more aesthetic, and your pie will be less likely to sag.
  4. Cover the first row of apples with a little sugar, a knob of butter and a pinch of cinnamon. Repeat the operation until the apples have been used up. On the last layer, add about 3 tablespoons of the cooking syrup (if leftover) and the apple pectin, contained in the syrup, which helps the pie hold together.
  5. Bake in an oven thermostat 7, 210°C for about 20 minutes. It is not necessary to cook these apples that have been primed in the pan any further. Remove the pan from the oven and leave to cool for about 30 minutes.
  6. To finish, place the disc of dough on the pan and roll the rolling pin over it to cut the dough. Cover the edges well. Return to the oven for about 40 minutes to bake the dough and candy the apples, while watching for discolouration (use aluminium foil if the dough browns too quickly).
Tarte tatin on a plate

Let me know if you try this French recipe 😉

Find more sweet recipes on my blog and feel free to follow me on my Instagram, Facebook & Pinterest pages @alacartedele. Always available if you have any questions.