The Sweet Life: Breton Buckwheat Cake

After a long time on the BPL waitlist, I finally received a copy of David Lebovitz’s The Sweet Life in Paris. I’ve enjoyed reading his blog, so I figured his memoir would be an equally enjoyable read. This book did not disappoint. Each chapter takes on a new idiosyncrasy of life in Paris. David is able to deliver these vignettes with a straight face and a sense of humor. He has approached the Parisian way as an American, a chef, a foodie, and most importantly, as someone who is curious, open-minded and eager to learn. Each chapter is enhanced by a recipe or two that (mostly) pairs with the topic at hand.
basic cake ingredientsTo fully experience the genius of this book, I had to try a recipe. The first time I made the Breton Buckwheat Cake, one of the more unusual recipes in the book, I followed the recipe exactly as written. It was well received and was finished before it even had time to fully cool. Bringing a warm cake to a neighborhood bar certainly enhances the celebratory mood. This cake is also is a perfect accompaniment to beer – the dark complex flavors of the buckwheat flour and rum offset my amber ale beautifully.

Breton Fleur de Sel cakeA second try with this recipe led me to a gluten-free version, to the delight of several friends, including one with Celiac disease. With a simple substitution of rice flour for the all purpose flour, I was able to create a gluten-free alternative. Although I didn’t do a side-by-side comparison, I think both versions tasted basically the same – flaky, wonderful, and with a surprisingly sophisticated salty finish. Basically, it’s the perfect dessert to pair with beer, friends and celebrations. Or, to enjoy while reading a good book, such as The Sweet Life in Paris.

I recommend this book and all of the recipes (or at least the ones I’ve tried). After renewing the book twice, I had to eventually return it to the library so the next person could receive it. I found myself missing the book, and wanting to look back through the recipes. Many of the recipes are online, but the internet does not provide the same sense of comfort and reassurance that a solid book does. I soon found myself ordering my own copy of this book, nearly a year after I first requested it from the library.

Breton Buckwheat Cake with Fleur de Sel
serves 8-10

For the cake:
7/8 c. (140g) buckwheat flour
1 c. (140g) all-purpose flour (use 1 c. rice flour instead if you want a gluten-free version)
1/2 tsp. plus 1/3 tsp. fleur de sel
heaping 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 lb. unsalted butter
1 c. sugar
4 large egg yolks
1 large egg
3/4 tsp. vanilla extract
2 Tbsp. dark rum

For the glaze:
1 large egg yolk
1 tsp. milk

1. Butter a 9 or 10 inch removable bottom tart pan. Preheat oven to 350 F.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together the buckwheat and the all-purpose flour (or rice flour) with 1/2 tsp. salt and the cinnamon.
3. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter until fluffy. Add the sugar and mix until incorporated. You can also do this step by hand with a sturdy wooden spoon and a strong arm.
Start with ingredients4. In a separate bowl, beat the egg yolks, whole egg, vanilla and rum. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the egg mixture to the batter. When it is no longer splashy, raise the speed to fully combine.
5. Lower the speed and delicately add the dry ingredients. Mix until just incorporated.

Mixing up the buckwheat batter6. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and use a spatula to make the top as smooth as possible. If the batter sticks to the spatula and is uncooperative, you can dip the spatula in cold water to facilitate the smoothing process.
7. Make a glaze by mixing the egg yolk and milk together. Brush generously over the top of the cake. If you don’t have a brush, you can drizzle it on and gently use a paper towel, the back of a spoon, or your fingers to spread the glaze.
Preparing cake for the oven8. Use a fork to make three evenly spaced lines across the top of the cake. Rotate the cake and make three more lines. This forms a lovely criss-cross pattern.
9. Sprinkle the remaining 1/3 tsp. sea salt over the cake.
10. Bake for approx. 45 minutes until cake is golden.
11. Let cool completely before removing the pan.
Breton Fleur de Sel cake12. For parties you can easily decorate this to match the occasion.


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