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One French word: gâteau, a French recipe : gâteau aux pommes

Gâteau = cake, masculine noun (le gâteau = the cake, un gâteau = a cake, des gâteaux = cakes)

Pronounced ga-tow (even in the plural, you don’t say the x)

There are quite a few expressions in French which use the word, among others:

C’est du gâteau” = Easy-peasy.

Des parts du gâteau” “Partager le gâteau” = a share of, or to share the spoils, the booty, the profits.

Marie-Antoinette’s famous phrase at the time of the bread riots in Paris: “Qu’ils mangent du gâteau” = Let them eat cake! (There is some doubt whether she ever pronounced the words, and in the affirmative, exactly what it was she meant.)

My recipe for today is a gâteau aux pommes (= apple cake), quite easy to do, very useful to have on hand for teatime or even breakfast.

For one cake for about 6/8 people you will need:

  • 160 gr self raising flour (or plain flour and a teaspoon of baking powder) (de la farine)
  • 160gr melted butter (it can be salted or unsalted) (du beurre)
  • 160gr sugar (or less if you like less sweet, about 130gr would do) (du sucre)
  • Eggs (weigh them with their shell, you need 160 gr in all) (des oeufs)
  • Three apples peeled and cored (these should be fruit that stay firm when cooked, you don’t want them to go mushy) (trois pommes*)

Now don’t panic if you can’t get your eggs to weigh the right amount. Just weigh three or four eggs, and adjust the amount of the other ingredients to be exactly the same, OK?


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C
  2. Grease a cake tin.
  3. In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs well with the sugar. Add  the flour, stir well and add the melted butter. You can do all that in a mixer if you wish. BUT do not put the apple in the mixer. We don’t want to end up with apple purée.
  4. Use one cored whole apple to cut a few fine rings with which to decorage the top of your cake. Chop the rest of the apples into little chunks, about the size of your thumb nail.
  5. Stir these delicately into the cake mixture, pour into your cake tin, and gently place the apple rings on top.
  6. Put in the oven for about half an hour, but this varies so greatly from oven to oven that you will have to check. First of all you will notice that your cake is beginning to smell “cakey”. This will remind you to have a look if you haven’t set a timer. The cake should be brown but not black on top. It may crack open a little, pleasingly, on top. Test the inside with a skewer, it should come out clean. If it doesn’t, pop the cake back for 10 minutes. It is maybe better slightly, slightly undercooked than overcooked. If you use free range eggs (des oeufs de poules élevées en liberté), it will be a beautiful golden colour.

Gâteau aux pommes

This gâteau aux pommes  is good warm or cold. It will keep for a couple of days wrapped (once cool) in tinfoil. But actually it disappears amazingly quickly. Take a slice to work for your dessert. Eat a slice for breakfast or tea.

You will notice that the basis of the cake, without the apples, consists of the same quantity of four ingredients. In French, this base is also called a “quatre quarts” (four quarters). If you want to make a bigger or smaller cake, use any quantity you like,  as long as they remain equal (weigh the eggs in their shells). The only ingredient you can use a bit less of is sugar.

A quatre quarts base can be used plain, without the apple, with grated lemon or orange zest and a teeny bit of juice, with caraway seeds, with a tablespoon of rum,  a handful of ground almonds, your imagination is the limit, to make a whole host of different variations.

I like to bake it in a bread tin, rectangular rather than round. It makes cutting slices so much easier and the slices cut this way are simpler to pack in a lunchbox for instance than the triangular shaped slice cut from a round cake.

Bon appétit.

*There is an expression “Haut comme trois pommes” which is used affectionately, most usually of children, who are not yet very tall (literally “as tall as three apples”).


About OneFrenchWord

I was a professional linguist and have been a life-long foodie. I am now lucky enough to be retired and free to roam the beaches around my home at the tip of the Finistère (Brittany, France). Writing is occupying a larger place in my life, with this blog and a children's book in preparation. I shall feel much happier calling myself a writer when I have published a book. And so posts on OneFrenchWord will be published first as an e-book, my ambition being to see a glossy volume on French language and cuisine in print some day. So keep reading, and snap up the book when it appears!

4 responses »

  1. Yum. I might have to try this…. It’s a little easier to understand than the one I featured here..

  2. Your word blog is making me really hungry. =)

  3. Pingback: Black Forest Gateau « Kerrys Recipes

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