Tarte Tatin with Salted Butter Caramel Recipe

Tarte Tatin

This is the dessert I made for our New Year’s Eve dinner.

We had decided to have a luxurious picnic rather than an elaborate meal, so we had toasts of foie gras (brought back from our vacation in the Périgord), a fruity duck magret salad whipped up by our neighbor Stéphan, and some Coquilles St-Jacques, lovingly hand-opened by Maxence and myself, simply sauteed and served with matchstick raw veggies (black radish, carrot and zucchini). In passing, this brilliant accompaniment idea gave me my first mandolin-induced injury, and allowed my friends to rise up to the occasion and finish the vegetable cutting while I watched from the safety of a bar stool, slightly queasy and hugging my bandaged thumb.

It would have been very much out of character for us if we hadn’t had a little cheese, too — after the usual ceremonial of “oh no I couldn’t possibly”, closely followed by “if you have some I might join you for just a teeny slice”, ending up in the final “oh boy this is so good, you have to try that Brie de Melun!” and “is there any more bread?”.

For dessert, I was going to make a pineapple tarte tatin, but when I told Maxence he paused, cleared his throat and asked in his most diplomatic tone if I could maybe just make a regular apple one? Pretty please? He is a strong believer that some things just can’t be improved upon and that there is usually a reason for classics to be classics.

Mini Cookbook of French Tarts

I was hesitant because I had already made a classic tarte tatin for new year’s eve two years ago and could I still look at myself in the mirror if I repeated the same recipe on the same occasion and for the same guests? But I figured I was probably the only one who remembered, and if anyone else did, it was probably that they had liked the tarte tatin in the first place, no?

So I went with Maxence’s wish (a good omen for 2005, he probably reflected) and took out my little notebook in which I preciously hold my mother’s recipe, as dictated to me a while back. I chose to use salted butter in the caramel that coats the pan, and this lent a wonderful caramel au beurre salé flavor to the warm, soft apples and the crispy tender crust. Mmm… Maxence sure has a point.

And um, did I mention we had a fabulous chocolate cake made by Ludo to go with that? Ahem. An auspicious start to the year, indeed.


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Tarte Tatin with Salted Butter Caramel Recipe

Prep Time: 40 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Total Time: 2 hours, 30 minutes

Serves 6 to 8.

Tarte Tatin with Salted Butter Caramel Recipe


  • For the dough:
  • 170 grams (1 1/3 cups) flour
  • 85 grams (1/3 cup) sugar (I use an unrefined blond cane sugar)
  • 85 grams (3 ounces) semi-salted butter, chilled (if you use unsalted, add a good pinch of salt)
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons milk
  • For the caramel:
  • 70 grams (1/4 cup) white sugar (the unrefined type does not caramelize well)
  • 35 grams (1 1/4 ounces) semi-salted butter, diced (if you use unsalted, add a good pinch of salt)
  • For the fruit:
  • 1 kilogram (about 2 pounds) apples, of a variety that keeps its shape when cooked


  1. Prepare the dough. In a medium mixing-bowl, combine the sugar and butter with a fork. Add in the flour, and keep mixing with the fork. When the dough forms even crumbs, add in a dash of milk, and knead the dough with your hands to form a ball. If the dough does not come together after about a few seconds, add in a tad more milk and knead again. The idea is to add the milk little by little to stop at just the right dough consistency (if you've added too much and the dough gets impossibly sticky, compensate with flour). Wrap in plastic wrap and put in the fridge to rest for 30 minutes.
  2. Butter the sides of a 25-cm (10-inch) cake pan.
  3. Prepare the caramel. Put the sugar with a tablespoon of water in a small heavy-bottomed saucepan, and place over medium-low heat. Once the sugar is melted and starts to boil, let it cook for a few minutes, until it caramelizes and turns amber. Remove from the heat, add in the butter and stir to form a paste. Pour this paste in the cake pan, and use the back of a spoon to spread it over the bottom. It's okay if the bottom is not entirely covered, but try to make it as even as you can. Set aside. (Note: if your pan can be used on the stove, you can make the caramel directly in it.)
  4. Preheat the oven to 180°C (360°F).
  5. Peel and cut the apples in fourth or eighth, depending on their size. Arrange the apple pieces prettily over the caramel in the pan.
  6. Take the ball of dough out from the fridge and let it rest for a few minutes on the counter so it's not too cold (or it will crack when you try to roll it out). Lightly flour a clean work surface, and use a rolling pin to roll the dough in a circle that's slightly larger than the pan.
  7. Transfer the dough over the apples, and tuck it in all around. Prick the dough in a few places with a fork.
  8. Put into the oven to bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the dough turns golden and your home is filled with wonderful caramely apple fumes.
  9. Take the pan out of the oven, run a knife around the sides of the pan and flip onto a serving dish. If one or two apple chunks are stuck to the bottom of the pan, just scrape them off and put them back on the tart where they belong.
  10. Serve warm (not piping hot) on its own, or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, or a dollop of crème fraîche/sour cream/yogurt.

This post was first published in January 2005 and updated in July 2016.

  • estelle2

    brilliant! You just melt the sugar and butter and the caramelization occurs later, in the oven, thus avoiding this bitter taste of burnt caramel. I had given up making tarte tatin because of that. I will try again, for sure!

  • Melissa Schneider

    Sounds like a delicious meal to ring in the new year, but I hope your thumb is okay. Ouch!

  • Angela


    Should the butter be cold or room temperature?

  • goody

    The perfect solution for caramelized pineapple pastry cravings for people with traditionalist french boyfriends:
    Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

    Makes one 10 1/2-inch cake

    1/2 cup dried tart cherries
    1 whole pineapple (about 3 1/2 pounds), outer skin removed and uncored
    1 cup cake flour
    1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
    1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
    12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
    1/2 cup packed dark-brown sugar
    1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped
    2 large eggs
    6 tablespoons whole milk
    1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
    1 cup heavy cream, well chilled
    2 tablespoons dark rum

    1. Heat oven to 350°. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Place cherries in a small heat-proof bowl. Bring 1 cup water to a boil in a small saucepan. Pour over dried cherries, and soak for 10 minutes. Drain well, and coarsely chop. Using a wide Japanese mandoline, slice whole pineapple as thinly as possible. Set aside. Sift together flour and baking powder. Set aside.

    2. Heat 1/2 cup of granulated sugar in a 10 1/2-inch cast-iron skillet. Cook until deep amber, about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat. Add 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon. Spread caramel evenly to coat the bottom of the skillet, and sprinkle with dark-brown sugar.

    3. Center one piece of pineapple in the skillet. Place pineapple slices in a tightly overlapping circle. Make a second ring, completely covering the bottom and continuing at least halfway up the sides. Place one remaining slice in the center of the skillet on top of the circles. (Be certain that there are no gaps as the bottom will be the top upon inversion).

    4. In a heavy-duty mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream remaining butter, remaining 3/4 cup of granulated sugar, and vanilla-bean scrapings. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Pour in milk and almond extract. Slowly add sifted flour, scraping sides as needed. Using a rubber spatula, fold in chopped cherries. Pour batter into pineapple-lined skillet. Spread batter evenly with an offset spatula.

    5. Place skillet on a prepared baking sheet, and transfer baking sheet to oven. Bake until golden brown and cake tester comes out clean, about 45 minutes.

    6. Meanwhile, pour cream into the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer. Add rum. Whip on high speed until stiff peaks form, 45 to 60 seconds. Remove cake from oven, and pour excess liquid from skillet into a measuring cup. Carefully invert onto large cake plate, and pour reserved liquid over cake. Serve with rum-spiked whipped cream.

    (recipe from the martha stewart site)

    The fun thing about this dessert is that everyone with an immigrant grandma says this is the one american sweet she knew how to make. It’s the official dessert of immigrant grandmas.

  • Caroline

    Ooh, this reminds me of my FAVORITE ice cream flavor at a little shop here in Columbus, OH. It is Salted Caramel with Smoked Almonds, and boy, is it good! For locals, you can get it in the North Market downtown…

  • Mary

    I agree with the awards people on your site. You write with elegance and certainly have a passion for cooking. Fabulous would be too weak a word. Keep it coming.

  • Hi Clotilde, I found you via the BOB awards and I’m already scouring your archives. I would love to see an RSS feed on this site so that I can add you to my “My Yahoo” page. Please?

    xx Jenny

  • Angela – Chilled for the dough, indifferent for the caramel!

    Goody – Thanks for the recipe: I’ve often heard about this cake, but never tried it. I must now!

    Mary – Thanks for the kind comment!

    Jenny – If you look on the left nav bar, in the “features” section, you will find a link to two rss feeds: one with abstracts, one with full entries.

  • sara

    Clotilde –
    mmmmm – one of my favorites! But I have two questions: 1/ have you tried this with pears and 2/ does it matter what kind of pan you use for the sugar-butter caramel? (I remember once trying to make caramel sauce in a non-stick and never succeeding)

  • heather

    Oh my! I feel your pain. I got a mandoline for Christmas, and the day after New Years I cut my thumb on the julienne blade….
    scared me to death…. but now I know not to try to reassemble the blades while they are damp. I hope you are well :)
    I read your blog all of the time :)

  • Sarah

    Happy New Year Clotilde! Congratulations on your well deserved award. Your website is such a warm, interesting place to escape to after a busy day. Thank you for creating such a special space!

  • Meg

    Boy am I glad to know I’m not the only one who has managed to cut herself with a mandoline! I bought one with the idea that I would finally rid myself of cut fingers and promptly acquired two sliced digits!

    Great recipe, Clotilde – I am definitely going to try it because it’s always been one of my favourites in restaurants!

  • mmhh! pineapple tarte tatin! while i agree with maxence that often the simplest is best, we have a new patissier here in london (william hurley) who makes the most delicious (individual) spiced pineapple tarte tatins. The unusual flavour combination with vanilla, pepper, cardamom, cinnamon and star anise (there might be others I am not aware of) is something you just have to try to believe it – but it is heavenly! I might just try to make one using your recipe as a basis… thanks!

  • josephine

    oh, yum.

  • Alisa

    …..and, I am making this as soon as an occasion arises. Maybe sooner. It sounds and looks so delicious.

  • I made this for a dinner party last weekend and was very pleased with the result. I increased the amount of caramel by half (I love caramel) with no ill effect and used very tart Granny Smith apples to balance out the extra caramel. Thanks for the recipe!

  • Isabelle

    beurre salé or “demi-sel” please ?

  • Sara – I haven’t tried this with pears, but my mom has, successfully. The trick is to use a kind of pear that is not too juicy, and use them when they’re just barely ripe, otherwise they “leak” too much juice. As for the pan, I do use a nonstick pan, I’ll mention it in the recipe.

    Isabelle – I use “demi-sel” myself! I’ve updated the recipe to mention it.

  • Julsb

    When I saw this recipe, I knew it was a perfect excuse to buy some butter from my favourite French Butter Guys at Borough Market (London). My tart turned out beautifully – thanks, Clotilde!

  • evie

    i jusst made this with very ripe pineapple. it was so fast/easy and tastes fantastic. thanks for adding to me repetoire!

  • sweta

    i tried making this recipe this last weekend… it was really good even though i didnt have very much luck with the caramel sauce. i finally used homemade caramels to make the sauce.
    i am wondering about why i couldnt get the caramel sauce and have a question.
    what kind of brown sugar does the recipe call for… i used what we in the US call brown sugar, is that different from yours? mine turned hard as soon as it melted.
    thanks for the recipe, the crust was really really good.

  • Kristina


    I had the same problem with the caramel. I ended up crumbling the hardened caramel and dumping in the extra melted butter and putting the apples on top, hoping it would all magically remedy itself while baking. My tart just went into the oven, so I can’t say yet whether it’s worked or not, but I too am wondering if there may be a difference in our “brown” sugars.

  • Deirdre

    I just made this from your book and it was the hit of the evening. It came out wonderfully.

    I had been going to make an apple cake recipe that calls for calvados, but then I decided to make this, so I added the calvados I’d already bought to some whipped cream and served it alongside. It was very good.

    I think this is my new favorite apple dessert recipe, and I will make it regularly. Thank you!

  • oh thankyou Clotilde! I made this today, my first tatin, and it was delicious and easy! Thankyou so much for your site and sharing your creations and ideas. I am very excited to try more of your delicious recipes. I have already bookmarked 4 I want to try, not bad considering I only found your site yesterday. My boyfriend (and his stomach)is very happy! ha ha ha!

  • Vidya

    This sounds brilliant. I really like that this doesn’t really use a huge excess of butter – most tarte tatin recipes I’ve seen have so much butter, I just can’t bring myself to make it, but this looks like the perfect balance between a special treat and something that won’t necessarily clog all of your arteries after a bite.

  • Natalia

    My first Tatin, and just perrrrrfect! My boyfriend voted it the best cake I ever made – thank you, Clotilde :)

  • Natalia – So happy to hear it, thanks for reporting back!

  • Sigrid

    This might come a bit late, but since I want to try my second Tarte tatin soon I have to ask:

    Many other recipies (including Mark Bittman’s or the “original French recipe” on the internet) call for a lot more butter and sugar (113 g/150 g).

    But you use just a fraction of these amounts. I trust all the commenters here that it will turn out fabulously. But is there an explanation for these differences?

    • Most desert recipes can can be made with varying amount of sugar and butter, and I think this one is plenty satisfying the way it is written!

  • Vi

    I’ve been eyeing this recipe for way too long, I finally found myself bored, sad and in need of a baking fix tonight with everything on hand – I made it in a springform and wrapped three layers of titanium strength tin foil around the tin before baking so there were no drippings at all, just a bit of a pool of caramel sauce on the foil which was no problem, none at all…my only regret is that the apples did not turn out as lovely and dark and caramelized as in the picture, I think my tin was a fair bit larger so I think I’ll double the caramel next time and see if that makes a difference.

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