Gâteau de Mamy: My Grandmother’s Apple Cake Recipe

G‰âteau de Mamy (French Grandmother's Apple Cake)

Photography by Céline de Cérou.

Le goûter is the afternoon snack kids are given when they come out of school around four. In my family, we called it simply le thé, and it was the highlight of the day. Around five on weekends, somebody would invariably ask, “On fait le thé?”


Cookies or cake, usually baked by my mother, would be served. For the grownups, black tea in a round-bellied, chocolate-colored teapot, kept warm in a blue tea cosy my mother had sewn. My father sometimes wore it like a hat to make us laugh.

Le goûter should always be turned into an occasion.

G‰âteau de Mamy (French Grandmother's Apple Cake)

And so, when friends came over with their children one recent Sunday afternoon, I baked this cake.

G‰âteau de Mamy (French Grandmother's Apple Cake)

This cake is a family heirloom called Gâteau de Mamy. As the name implies, it is my grandmother’s recipe, which she called “Gâteau d’Ella” because it was her dear friend Ella’s recipe originally. It is anybody’s guess what Ella called it. It was also one of my father’s hands-down favorites.

G‰âteau de Mamy (French Grandmother's Apple Cake)

It is the kind of cake that is described as an upside down cake, meaning you lay fresh fruit at the bottom of the pan, and pour the batter on top. It’s only after baking that you flip it to serve ; sort of a cake tatin. It works with many kinds of fruit: my grandmother made it most with apples, but pears, apricots, and plums are just as welcome.

G‰âteau de Mamy (French Grandmother's Apple Cake)

The resulting cake is golden, buttery and moist, with a slightly caramelized edge. It works hard to make you want a second slice. But if you stop at one and there are leftovers, the reward is that this cake tastes even better the next day.

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My Grandmother’s Pear Cake Recipe

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Total Time: 55 minutes

Serves 8.

My Grandmother’s Pear Cake Recipe


  • 125 grams (1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 500 grams (a little over 1 pound) tart apples (substitute pears, apricots, plums...), peeled and cut into eighths
  • 150 grams (3/4 cups) sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 70 grams (1/2 cup) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder


  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Grease the sides of a 20-cm (8-inch) round cake pan with a bit of the butter, and line the bottom with parchment paper.
  2. Place the pears in a single layer at the bottom of the pan.
  3. In a medium mixing-bowl, beat the sugar and the eggs until the mixture pales slightly.
  4. In another bowl, combine the flour, salt, and baking powder. Add to the wet ingredients and blend well, but without overmixing. Pour in the butter, and blend again.
  5. Pour the batter evenly over the fruit, and bake for 40 minutes, until golden.
  6. Let the cake settle on a cooling rack for 10 minutes. Run a knife all around to loosen, and flip onto a serving plate.
  7. Let cool and serve, slightly warm or at room temperature.


Sometimes I'll use a mix of flour and almond flour (60 grams or 1/2 cup flour + 20 grams or 2 tablespoons almond flour)


G‰âteau de Mamy (French Grandmother's Apple Cake)

Photography by Céline de Cérou.

This post was first published in October 2003 and updated in January 2019.

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