Author Donna Hay doesn’t elucidate for us the source of this recipe’ unusual name of cheat’s apple tarts. First I thought perhaps it was an interesting Aussie moniker—maybe the name of the person who created the recipe. An image of Mrs. Cheat, a stout woman with a stern face, was irresistible to me—but alas, it was ill-founded. After making the tarts, I understood the name refers to the shortcut of using store-bought puff pastry to cheat in terms of time. The only caution I’d add is to buy the very best quality puff pastry you can afford. It makes all the difference, not just in terms of taste but in presentation, too.David Leite

Four mini apple tarts made from apple slices in puff pastry shells on a plate.

Cheater’s Apple Tarts

4.91 / 10 votes
This cheater’s apple tarts recipe, made with puff pastry, apple slices, cinnamon, lemon, and brown sugar, is an easy dessert baked in muffin tins.
David Leite
Servings6 servings
Calories476 kcal
Prep Time20 minutes
Cook Time20 minutes
Total Time40 minutes


  • Six 1-cup capacity muffin cups


  • 1 1/2 sheets puff pastry*, (see *What You Need To Know About Puff Pastry below)
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus more for the pan
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 3 apples, cored and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • Heavy cream or ice cream, for serving (optional)


  • Preheat the oven to 355°F (180°C). Butter six 1-cup-capacity buttered muffin cups.
  • Brush the tops of the puff pastry sheets with the 4 tablespoons butter. Cut the sheets into a total of 6 pieces.
  • Press 1 piece puff pastry into each muffin cup. You want the pastry to just peep up out of the muffin cups. Trim and discard any excess pastry.
  • Sprinkle the puff pastry with the granulated sugar.
  • In a bowl, combine the apples, cinnamon, brown sugar, and lemon juice and toss to coat. Divide the mixture evenly among the puff pastry cups, nestling the apples among the pastry.
  • Bake directly on the oven rack for 20 to 30 minutes, until the apples are tender and the pastry is golden and crisp.
  • Serve the apple tarts warm with, if desired, a dribble of heavy cream or a dainty scoop of ice cream.


*What You Need To Know About Puff Pastry

Australian recipe maven Donna Hay cleverly notes that you may be able to order puff pastry from any of your local pâtisseries (that’s French for “bakeries”). Of course, you can instead just pick up a package of puff pastry from the freezer case at your local grocery store. While we’ve got nothing against store-bought puff pastry, which do you think is going to taste better, something made with countless multisyllable ingredients of questionable origins that’s been collecting ice crystals for lord knows how long or something, or that’s made from real butter, whether that’s the Dufour brand or you’ve gently kneaded the butter into the flour by hand? Exactly.
The Instant Cook by Donna Hay

Adapted From

The Instant Cook

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Serving: 1 tartCalories: 476 kcalCarbohydrates: 46 gProtein: 5 gFat: 31 gSaturated Fat: 11 gMonounsaturated Fat: 15 gTrans Fat: 1 gCholesterol: 20 mgSodium: 156 mgFiber: 3 gSugar: 16 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2004 Donna Hay. Photo © 2004 Con Poulos. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

What a quick and easy recipe to throw together. My 3 apples yielded enough filling for 8 tarts instead of 6 tarts. What a bonus!

I try to keep a package of puff pastry in the freezer for quick emergency appetizers (“Sure, you can stop by.”) Now that I have this recipe, I can see making these tarts often. They can be made any time of year, using whatever fruit is in season. Oh, and I didn’t feel like I cheated at all. They went beautifully with a glass of homemade kumquat liqueur.

I couldn’t find 1-cup capacity muffin tins. The largest muffin pan I could find in the store only held 2/3 cup. I ended up buying individual 1-cup glass custard cups.

The next time I put them directly on the oven rack and they browned much better but still lacked the amount of filling I would have liked for this size dish. I feel I could have used the 2/3 cup muffin tins and had a more equal amount of filling in the tart.

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    With local apples on hand and a package of store-bought puff pastry in the freezer, these Cheater’s Apple Tarts satisfied our craving for a little something sweet. This simple recipe for individual apple tarts baked in muffin cups is not only scrumptious but easy-as-pie. (Pun intended)

    A simple filling of apples, cinnamon, lemon juice, and brown sugar is fragrant and becomes a bit caramelized in the hot oven while the puff pastry shells get nicely browned and flaky. These individual apple tarts are adorable and perfectly sized! I highly recommend a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream to accompany them as well. Oh, and I added some chopped pecans to the tops of each tart for an added crunch…