Apple Gateau

Apple Gateau

I’ve got a lot to cover in 300 words today. So let me start with the five most important words: Apple Gateau from Anne Willan.

There are at least three good reasons you’re seeing those five words today (Apple Gateau from Anne Willan).

The first is. I did a bastardized version of this recipe recently, and it turned out to be rather popular. It may be pumpkin season, but people seem to have apple on the brain. In the post for that confection I mentioned Anne’s Apple Gateau as the genesis for the Apple-Pie Cake that you all seemed to love so much. I was first introduced to it through Martha Stewart’s television show in the 1990s. The recipe I present here today is an adaptation of Anne’s original version.

The second reason you’re seeing the original, so soon after I presented a shortcut version, is serendipity. I happen to have been sent a copy of Anne Willan’s memoir One Soufflé at a Time by her publisher St. Martin’s Press (the very same week I posted my simplified version of Anne’s Apple Gateau). I started reading the book even before the wrapper it came in found its way to the recycling bin. That’s what I call serendipity. The book chronicles a time when cooks like Julia Child and Anne Willan were introducing Americans to classical French cuisine. The book has recently been re-released in paperback, and it’s a read all cooks will savor.

Especially my mom. I wish she’d lived long enough to read this book. Every word in the book reminds me of her. She’s the third reason I spent 14 hours in the kitchen making Anne’s Apple Gateau.

The only way to talk about a memoir I suppose, is to spill a little something personal of my own.

I’ve said this before, but the 1970’s were when my own awareness of food began to develop. My mother was a fantastic cook. She probably learned most of her skills during this same period and I’d bet that Julia Child, Simone Beck and (yes) Anne Willan were her primary sources of inspiration. While other kids were scarfing down “Tuna Twist”, “Mug-O-Lunch” and “Shake-A-Puddin”, my mom was serving us Bouillabaisse, Duck à la Orange, and Mousse de Foies de Volaille. She even taught my little brother and me how to make perfect little crêpes, so that she could have 2 or 3 pans going at once for her famous dinner parties.

I’m coming up on a big birthday. It’s not a birthday that ends in a zero. But it’s a big one none-the-less. On this birthday I will be older than my mother ever was. So you see, this book, those times, and even Anne’s Apple Gateau are woven into the way I think about cooking. This style of cooking is not the latest trendy (gluten-free) thing, it’s not fast or always easy, and I’ll admit there are reasons you shouldn’t eat like this everyday, but as Julia Child once said “I was 32 when I started cooking; up until then I just ate.”

My mother turned 32 in 1972, we moved to Farmington Hills, MI about the same time. My mother got a big suburban version of a French kitchen. We had bentwood bistro chairs in apple green; there was a Parisian Boulangerie print paper, and real brick on the walls. There was even a wood-burning oven (on top of state of the art gas and electric appliances in a deep coppery brown).

My views on the world, our family, even my own self began to develop during these years, through a particular point of view, heavily influenced by my mother. It wasn’t always easy… whose youth really is? But that point of view, that particular point of view always included family, friends and food. If that’s a feeling you can relate to, you’ll love this book– and you’ll love this Apple Gateau. You won’t even care that it takes you 14 hours to make, or that it took me more than 600 words to explain why you should. GREG

apple gateau from Anne Willanapple gateau

Apple Gateau from Anne Willan 

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 8–10Source Adapted from Anne WillanPublished

You may serve the gateau as is, or garnished with yogurt, crème anglaise or caramel sauce.

Apple Gateau from Anne Willan


  • butter (as needed)
  • 2 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 6 ½ pound tart apples (such as Granny Smith)


Heat oven to 175 degrees F. Generously butter a 1 ½‑quart straight-sided souffle dish and a wide strip of parchment paper to form a collar extending at least 3 inches above the rim of the dish. Press the buttered side of the collar against the inside of the dish. Chill until butter is set and the paper sticks to the dish.

Mix sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl; set aside.

Peel, halve and core the apples. Cut each half crosswise into very thin slices, no more than 1/8 inch thick, work in batches placing sliced apples into a very large bowl as you work. A food processor fitted with the slicing blade works very well for this job. Alternately, slice apple halves using a mandoline, or a chefs knife. 

Remove the prepared dish from the refrigerator. Sprinkle bottom of with about ½ teaspoon of the sugar mixture. Toss the sliced apples with the remainder until well distributed. Arrange a layer of apple slices in a tightly overlapping circular floral pattern in the bottom of the dish. Repeat with at least a second and third layer of apple running in the opposite directions. This crossed pattern of slices ensures that the cake holds together when unmolded.

Once a stable and attractive base is set (remember this will become the top) continue filling the dish with apples that are laid flat, pressing them down as you work to fill as many gaps as possible. Fill the entire dish and all the way up to the extended collar, which should be at least 3 inches above the rim. (They will shrink down into the souffle dish during baking.) Cover the top with a round of parchment paper. Lay a small stack of plates slightly smaller than the souffle dish to seal and weigh down apples.

Bake on a rimmed baking sheet until apples are much reduced and meltingly soft when pierced with a skewer, 12 to 14 hours. Tear off the top of the paper collar, and let cake cool to room temperature. 

Carefully unmold gateau onto a rimmed or slightly slopped platter and remove parchment. The top should be lightly caramelized with syrupy juice running down the sides. 

Slice and serve.