Cathy Thomas Makes a Parisian Apple Lady Cake

Pandemic nights often bring dreams filled with Parisian streets scenes. I long to be back in the spot that has offered me many joyful journeys. Gratefully, I can taste the place.

This Apple Lady’s Apple Cake is one of my longtime favorites. It’s a recipe from an apple vendor at an open-air market in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. The cake is like a crustless pie, with only enough eggy batter to hold the tart-sweet apple wedges together.

The recipe appeared in Patricia Wells’ “The Paris Cookbook” (William Morrow, $30). Wells was the much-respected longtime restaurant critic for the International Herald Tribune and is the author of several best-selling books (such as “The Food Lover’s Guide to Paris,” Workman, $16.95). A Wisconsin native, she and her husband, Walter, have lived in Paris for more than 30 years.

Her words capture the Parisian pulse, especially when it comes to cuisine. I was lucky to interview Wells in 2001 when “The Paris Cookbook” was published. One of the topics was this delicious apple dessert.

As we spoke, she wove the story of her favorite apple vendor from the farmers’ market along the Avenue de Saxe. I could hear the love in her voice. She spoke of the seller, Evelyne Nochet, who sold apples from her family orchard. Wells had pleaded with Nochet for her favorite apple dessert recipe. One day her handwritten recipe for this apple cake appeared on her doorstep.

Bake it long enough for it to turn golden and you will be delighted with the taste and texture. I use a dark-colored springform pan that works well in my oven to aid in the browning, but you can use a light-colored pan and just bake it a little longer. Turn on the oven light and keep an eye on it.

I serve it either at room temperature or a little warm—alongside a scoop of vanilla ice cream or whipped cream. But honestly, it’s so delicious, you can serve it as is without any accompaniment if you like; it’s especially delicious that way as a breakfast treat.

The Apple Lady’s Apple Cake

Yield: 8 servings (6 at my house)
Softened butter for greasing pan
For cake:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons vegetable oil or extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup whole milk
4 to 4 1/2 baking apples (about 2 pounds), such as Granny Smiths, peeled, cored, cut in thin wedges, see cook’s notes
For topping:
1/3 cup sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Optional for serving: Ice cream or whipped cream

Cook’s notes: When apples are smallish-medium in size, I use 4 1/2 apples. You can use Gala or Fuji apple varieties if you prefer; they will yield a sweeter flavor profile. Wells suggests serving this tart accompanied with ice cream. She also suggests serving wine, such as a “good German, Austrian or Hungarian white or a lovely wine from the Loire, such as a sweet Bonnezeau, Chauteau de Fesles.”

  1. Preliminaries: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter 9-inch springform pan; set aside.
  2. Prepare cake: In large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt; stir to blend. Add vanilla, eggs, oil and milk; stir until well-blended. Add apples and stir to thoroughly coat with batter.
  3. Spoon mixture into prepared cake pan. Even out the apples using a silicon spatula. Place pan in center of oven and bake until fairly firm and golden, about 25 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, prepare topping: In small bowl, combine sugar, egg and melted butter; stir to blend. Set aside.
  5. Remove cake from oven and pour topping mixture over it, spreading it out with a silicone spatula. Return cake to oven and bake 10 minutes, or until top is deep, golden brown and cake feels quite firm when pressed with fingertip.
  6. Transfer cake pan to rack and let cool 10 minutes. Run table knife around sides of pan; release and remove springform side, leaving cake on pan base. Serve at room temperature, cut into thin wedges. Serve with ice cream, if desired.

Nutritional information (per serving without ice cream): 226 calories, 3.6 grams protein, 31.6 grams carbohydrates, 10.2 grams fat, 41 percent calories from fat, 93 milligrams cholesterol, 245 milligrams sodium

Source: “The Paris Cookbook” by Patricia Wells (HarperCollins, $30). From Evelyne Nochet, Le Nouveau Verger Pommes et Poires de Touraine Marche Breteuil, avenue de Saxe, Paris 7 (Thursday and Saturday); Metro: Segur

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