Cake is a tricky word in French. Just look at the trouble that Marie Antoinette got into.
Let’s sort our pauvre Marie first of all. The consensus is that she never uttered these words; they were spoken by either the wife of Louis XIV or a Tuscan Dutchess, perhaps a hundred years earlier. And the offender actually said ‘Let them eat brioche’, which at that time may or may not have meant a rich egg bread, or may have been the scrapings from the baker’s oven, or may have been a bread named after brie cheese. Well, we’re not going to get bogged down in that debate.
I myself got crossed up with the word 'cake' the first time I made a skillet of southern cornbread to serve to Pierre. I like to spring new things on Pierre, he’s always curious, and willing. When he tasted it, he said, “Mais, c’est ‘cake’! (But it’s cake!).
Since the French word for 'cake' is gâteau, I assumed Pierre was sprinkling his French with an English word, which he occasionally does. Was my cornbread too sweet? Did it really taste like dessert?
Mais non. Pierre was in fact using the French word cake. It's another one of those dreaded faux amies. Cake in French is a savory loaf, a cake-like bread, which usually has meat or fish baked in. Confused now?
I’ve been served French cake several times since, usually with apperatifs. I’ve always found it to be a dry, boring affair, to be avoided. That is, until I tasted le cake of my neighbor Pascale. Tender, moist, fragrant with smoked salmon, it is a lovely thing to serve as a nibble with a nice glass of French Burgundy. Call it what you will, let us all eat cake, it's delicious.
RECIPE: Pascale's Cake au Saumon Fumé
When I made this I couldn't believe how yummy, and easy, it was. Since it's translated from the French it will help to have a Kitchen Scale (you'll need one anyway if you're in the US, all recipes seem to be headed toward weights, as they are in Europe), but I measured things out for you as well.
- 3 eggs
- 150 grams flour (a scant 1 1/4 cup)
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- a generous pinch of salt, and fresh ground pepper
- 100 ml (scant 1/2 cup) vegetable oil like canola or sunflower
- 125 ml (1/2 cup) warm milk
- 100 grams (4 ounces) grated cheese, gruyère or swiss
- 150 grams (about 5 ounces) smoked salmon, chopped
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
Pre-heat oven to 350F (180 C).
Beat the eggs, then stir in the flour, baking powder, salt and pepper until combined.
Pour the milk and oil together then add gradually to batter, mixing until it's smooth. Stir in the cheese, then fold in the salmon and chives.
Pour the mixture into a buttered loaf pan and bake for 45 minutes. (Check early, though; my oven was running hot and mine was done in 35. Also French loaf pans hold the same but are longer and narrower, which may reduce cooking time). It should be nicely browned on the top. Cut into slices and serve, warm or at room temperature, with a glass of white wine. It also makes a nice starter or a light lunch if you serve a slice with a little arugula salad on the side of the plate. I'm guessing this will freeze well, I've just thrown half of my loaf in the freezer to see.
By the way: want to know my new favorite cooking tool? My iPad ! In addition to a lot of great cooking apps, I've got all my favorite recipes set up as document files, many with photos too. I just cut/paste them from the web or type them in. Then I have them on my computer, and on my iPad to use while I'm in the kitchen cooking, and they even sync to my iPhone. A bit time-consuming to set up but I've done it a recipe at a time, here and there, over several years. I love having a personal, portable, mobile cookbook.
Favorite Reads: My friend Audrey brought me a copy of Le Road Trip: A Traveler's Journal of Love and France . Can't remember the last time I've read such a clever, witty, personal book. It's a picture book too, full of author Vivian Swift's whimsical water colors from her journey. It's going on my gift list for friends.
In the Comments: Another great (mis)translation from Mary James, which shows the danger of relying TOO heavily on your dictionary! And see Mark's comment if you want to follow up on the problems (for both us and the animal) with eating factory raised meat and egss.
News Flash!: TODAY at The Daily Basics magazine: They are featuring my article on my favorite painters who do wonderful scenes and landscapes from France and Italy. Don't miss it!