French cake a week #3 – Gateau savarin

Gateau Savarin

In which Claire, who doesn’t speak french, bakes her way through the cake section of a french cookbook from 1962.
Oh, how we laughed as we made this cake! We gathered in my immaculate kitchen, my perfectly obedient boys danced around me, singing songs about raspberries and strawberries in fluent french. Every stage of the process went perfectly, and we smiled as we popped the cake in the oven! We certainly didn’t curse the fact that we know french much less well than we thought. We certainly didn’t swear at google translate for making absurd suggestions as to the translations of french words. We didn’t frown anxiously as Malcolm said, “are you sure that’s the right amount?” We didn’t get called away from the dough at a critical moment, and leave it in Malcolm’s capable but unpredictable hands. We didn’t hear him say, “Ooh, t’s like play-doh!” as we left the room, and we didn’t think about the fact that when Malcolm plays with play-doh I generally have to peel it off the ceiling. We didn’t let it rest for an hour and then find a lump of stodgy dough with bits of dried yeast clinging to it. We didn’t add lots of other ingredients that didn’t mix in, only to find ourselves up to our elbows in a a sludgy mess. Certainly not!

I let Malcolm choose which cake to make by opening to a page in the book, and seeing which name he liked best. He chose the gateau savarin. It’s a yeasted cake with very little sugar, and then you pour a sugary, alcohol-laden syrup over, which soaks in and sweetens and flavors the whole thing. Kind of like a rum baba, really! If I was being perfectly honest, I would tell you that I had some trouble with this one. (Spoiler alert, it turned out very good in the end, and it was worth all the trouble, and I’m glad I didn’t give up half way through and throw the dough against the wall and stomp out of the house in a terrible temper, which, of course, I wasn’t tempted to do at all.) I have diagnosed my problem, and I think it’s because the yeast I used is the little packets of yeast granules, and I have no earthly idea what kind of yeast the recipe called for, but it certainly wasn’t the kind I used! My food processor saved the day, and with its noble help, I was able to pull everything together in the end. I’m going to give you instructions to make this the way I would make it with packets of yeast. It should all go smoothly from there. It’s supposed to be made in a ring-shaped mold, but I don’t have one, so I used a regular cake pan. Apparently you can use rum, kirsch or curacoa. I’d like to have used kirsch, but I don’t have any, so I used a bit of rum, a bit of cassis.

Here’s Django Reinhardt with Nuages
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