Jun 29 2011

A La Recherche du Gâteau Perdu

Published by Christine at 5:10 am under Sweets

“I raised to my lips a spoonful of the cake . . . a shudder ran through my whole body and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary changes that were taking place.”
Marcel Proust


As a child, I used to vacation with my father’s first cousin Nina, at her house in the small village of Champagné St-Hilaire, near the city of Poitiers (France). I would spend the month of July there, busy riding my bike and listening to music with the girl who lived across the street and who was a couple of years older than me. I also looked forward to visits from Nina’s friend Paulette and her British husband, with whom I was eager to practice the smattering of English I possessed then. He was very careful not to hurt my feelings when I asked him how good my accent was, although in retrospect, I know I must have sounded like a girly version of Jacques Cousteau.

Nina, who had remained single and childless, took very good care of me. The food at her house was simple but wonderful, mostly because the ingredients came straight from her garden, but also because she came from a long line of cooks and bakers and had picked up a few things from them. Her parents, Berthe and Georges, had owned a neighborhood restaurant and café on the Rue Riquet in the 18th arrondissement of Paris through the early 70′s. George’s mother had owned a bakery in Champagné (next door to what was to be Nina’s house), and she passed along many of her recipes to Nina, who faithfully transcribed them in notebooks; I remember reading from those notebooks as a child, looking for my favorite recipes and re-writing them on loose leaf so I could take them home with me. Somehow, they never quite came out the same. I think what she made simply tasted of vacation and long summer days in the country; hard to reproduce on a school night in the suburbs of Paris. And yet…

One of my favorites was her yogurt cake. This simple cake is one for which every French family has a recipe, and which every French school child has made at least once. She taught me how to make it; inevitably, it was the cake I requested when she asked me what I wanted for dessert (and there was always dessert at her house). I make it often still, and think of her each time. She is now 90 and in poor health, and her memory has largely faded, and so I remember some things in her stead. I don’t shudder like Proust at the remembrance, but it does make me smile.

Her (grandmother’s) recipe calls for containers of yogurt as a measure for the rest of the ingredients. In France, yogurt (plain or flavored) is typically sold in single-serve containers, which explains this preference. I am giving you the recipe with more common kitchen measures here, and a few adjustments I have made over the years; however, those of you intrepid francophiles can try Nina’s recipe, which I am including here:

The original


Le Gâteau au Yaourt


3/4 cup plain, unsweetened yogurt (whole milk is better)
2 cups cake flour (or 1 1/2 cup all-purpose + 1/2 cup corn starch)
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp amaretto, or rhum, or Grand-Marnier (optional)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda

Beat together eggs and sugar; add yogurt, oil and flavorings. Mix together flour, baking soda and baking powder and add to the wet mixture. Incorporate gently. Do not over mix.

The batter may look a little lumpy; that's okay.

Pour into an 8 or 9″ round cake pan. Bake at 350 for 30 min or so, until the toothpick inserted in the center of the cake come out clean. Cool 10 min in the pan, then on a wire rack.

Just out of the oven

Ready for a fork, or better yet, fingers


9 responses so far

9 Responses to “A La Recherche du Gâteau Perdu”

  1. Adamon 29 Jun 2011 at 12:40 pm

    I really enjoyed the story you started this one with. It has a certain verisimilitude.

    The cake was awesome as well.

  2. Christineon 29 Jun 2011 at 1:45 pm

    And now, you know how to make it as well. Stays in the family. :)

  3. Deb Amlenon 29 Jun 2011 at 3:32 pm

    LOVE this cake! So glad you put it up on the blog, and now I finally know the history! :)

  4. Deb Amlenon 29 Jun 2011 at 3:33 pm

    Ack! Where’s the recipe print button?!

  5. Christineon 30 Jun 2011 at 7:38 am

    It’s there now!

  6. Maryon 30 Jun 2011 at 2:52 pm

    This cake has wonderful memories for me as well. Have you read Orangette? She found her husband blogging about it.

  7. Christineon 30 Jun 2011 at 5:30 pm

    Had she lost him? ;) That sounds like a good story too.

  8. Katherineon 07 Feb 2012 at 7:24 am

    Delightful! So now there’s gateau perdu as well as well as pain perdu!
    Before making it, I want to check that the the cake pan is neither greased nor floured?

  9. Christineon 07 Feb 2012 at 12:14 pm

    Welcome to The Flex, Katherine. The cake pan should be greased, but it isn’t necessary to flour it. Please let me know how it comes out; happy baking to you!

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