Gâteau Breton is a shortbread/pound cake hybrid from Brittany. Very similar in proportions to pound cake, which has equal weights (historically a pound each, hence the name) of of sugar, butter, eggs and flour, the only difference in Gâteau Breton is it uses just egg yolks instead of whole eggs. It’s dense, crumbly, and immensely buttery; sturdier and less crunchy than shortbread but not as fluffy as pound cake.I used a recipe from Nigella, but reduced the sugar and added a tiny bit of rosemary. Next time I’d cut back on the sugar further because I still find it slightly too sweet, but, having said that, it’s just nice as it is if accompanied with a strong cup of tea or coffee.
I’ve written about these carrot cakes before over a year ago here. It’s still my favourite recipe for carrot cake; always consistently moist, not too sweet, and subtly spicy. I’ve made them even tinier this time around for a special order and decided that the drippy icing would make transporting the cakes a bit of a messy ordeal so instead of thinning the icing with milk I just piped the thick icing on in spaghetti-like squiggles with a #2 piping tip. It’ll help if the icing is not fridge cold, it’ll be nearly impossible to squeeze it out of the tiny tip and you’ll end up with a sore wrist and a burst piping bag. Lesson learnt.
I used my favourite combination of sprinkles- toasted coconut, dried cranberries, pumpkin seeds and toasted nibbed almonds. It gives just the right amount of crunch and nuttiness.
I love chiffon cakes! It’s so light and fluffy that you can easily eat a quarter of the cake in one sitting. And it’s really versatile, you can flavour it any way you like by changing the liquids; ie in this case, I subbed the orange juice called for in the original recipe with a strong cup of earl grey tea. Another of my favourite liquids to use is soy milk, it yields a cake that is slightly denser with a lovely soy fragrance. Or, instead of changing the liquids in the recipe, you can add a dry ingredient like spices, herbs and cocoa powder, or pastes like adzuki bean or black sesame, or even fruit purées.
Just a quick tip though, if adding an “oily” flavouring like sesame paste, reduce the oil in the recipe slightly to compensate for the additional oil from the flavouring. This is because oil/butter bursts precious air bubbles and this will result in a flat, heavy chiffon cake.
And the most important thing you need to know when making chiffon cakes- don’t grease the tube pan (yes, you need one)! And flip it upside down to cool immediately so it doesn’t collapse when cooling.
One of my favourite places to wander around in London is Seven Dials in Covent Garden. I miss the independent shops and boutiques, Monmouth coffee and, the shop I miss the most, Neil’s Yard Dairy. I remember going through an Eccles Cake Phase and buying one of these St John eccles cake at least twice a week, sometimes with a loaf of bread, until the man behind the cheese counter could recognise me and would tease me with a “Hello, again!?”. It’s never a cheap experience stepping into that shop, one simply can’t buy eccles cake without a sliver of cheese to go with it. The saltiness of sharp Lancashire cheese is the perfect complement to the sweet and spicy eccles cake.
Having left London, it’s impossible to find this sweet pastry on this side of the world. It’s not difficult to make and the St John recipe is easy to come by on the internet, and since I had leftover rough puff pastry from my apricot tarte tatin recipe I think the stars are aligned for me to make eccles cake today, right now, right away. So I did. It was pretty much a 5 minute affair to make the filling, roll out the pastry and fill them. After 20 minutes of baking, they were done and THEY WERE HEAVENLY. They tasted exactly the same as I remembered, only without the accompanying cheese, unfortunately. But thank you, thank you St John’s for generously sharing the recipe without messing it up to deliberately screw us all over.. this happens way too often with “Secret Recipes”. Anyway, here’s the recipe. The temperature is not stated but I baked mine at 180°C. Also, mine are teeny tiny because I accidentally cut the pastry discs too small but they turned out fine, I actually prefer this filling/pastry ratio because we all know the crust is the best part!