go straight to the recipe

I get pretty crabby when I see dessert menus around Adelaide these days. What I fail to understand is, when everyone is complaining about head spent why not a couple of decent desserts. The reputation for a good dessert can add at least $15 AUD to the bill, maybe more if they are enticed to have a dessert wine.

What especially annoys me are the failed attempts to be innovative. Freezing cold tasteless Bunya nut thingy on the menu of an acclaimed restaurant for months on end. A plum tart with, being generous half a plum. Also a highly acclaimed restaurant. A chocolate tart of suspect quality that has been languishing in the fridge for way too long. I have given up ordering dessert.

Some of the best selling desserts are the classics. Yes they require a level of skill, but they walk out the door.

Alan Weiss, of the long since closed Magic Flute Restaurant, was a devotee of the modern French masters of the late 70s and early 80s and this fantastic dessert, from the Michelin three starred Michele Guerard, always appeared on his menus in the apple season. I recently noticed it appeared in Australian Gourmet Traveller without giving credit to Guerard.

AO 29 MAY 2023

put in the

serves 16 – makes 1 x 28 cm torte

for the caramel
350g caster sugar
120g water

for the cake

approximately 6kg apples [1]
1 lemon, sliced and squeezed into a bucket half filled with cold water
2-3 unwaxed lemons or limes

1 x 28 cm diameter x 10 cm high round seamless tin

[1] You can buy the waxed Granny Smith apples at your fruit and veg, but if you have a local farmers’ market there’s a good chance you could purchase some unwaxed old varitey apples. A particular favourite with us was the French Colleville that we used to be able to get from Kalangadoo Organics when they came to Adelaide to do deliveries.

Cut a disk of baking paper the same size as the tin.

Make toffee with the sugar and water and tip it into a seamless 28 cm cake tin. Allow to stand for a minute then taking great care not to burn yourself roll the toffee around the sides of the tin. Allow to cool completely and set before proceeding.

Peel the apples and put them into the acidulated water. Working four at a time, dry them, quarter them and slice them very finely and make a spiral layer of apple on top of the toffee – refer to images. Continue the process meticulously for four layers and then continue the layers slicing off two sides in rounds and the other two sides and continue until the tin is completely filled — see notes.

Cover with the prepared disk of baking paper and then tightly seal with a double layer of foil.

pre heat oven to 150°C

this fabulous
dessert cannot be

Fill a deep roasting dish with very hot water and put the cake in the water. Cook for six hours then check. The cooking time depends on how long the apples have been picked, but it is easy to tell when it is cooked. The level will have dropped by about 50% and the apples with have a translucent caramel colour.

Cool the cake on a rack and when cool enough refrigerate overnight.

to serve
This is very important. Select a large deep round serving plate. Run a knife around the edge of the tin, and remembering that there will be a lot of syrup invert the cake onto the plate.

When using the 10 cm high tin, despite going another 5 c over the top of the tin you end up with a 5 cm high cake.
This marvellous cake is also brilliant made in a loaf tin or terrine.

Overnight chilling is critical to firm this cake up.

Some versions of this recipe add sugar to the apples. We prefer to keep the tart apple taste and think there is enough sweetness in the caramel.

author’s note
The images left are from my first attempt at this wonderful dessert and the apples were sliced too thick. Always use a Japanese mandolin and slice about 1 mm thick for the best result.


Don’t forget to check the water level from time to time, and always top with boiling water.