3 Easy, Dinner-Party-Worthy French Cakes
Written by: Kelly Martin
Published on: December 15, 2022
James Beard Award–winning dessert columnist Aleksandra Crapanzano has the secret to confidently, casually chucking a cake in the oven while you pour yourself another glass of wine and get back to the table: Make like a French girl. That is, keep it classic, put your trust in a time-tested recipe, and—while you’re totally free to riff—resist the urge to overcomplicate things.
Crapanzano would know: She spent her childhood in Paris,
where she learned that some very good cakes take just five
minutes. And dessert doesn’t have to be flashy to impress.
In her new cookbook, Gâteau, she shares her Rolodex of fantastic French cakes that you won’t spend three days psyching yourself out over—with tips on how to build confidence in the kitchen. (Throw in a bit of lavender here, raspberries tossed in sugar there, a couple tablespoons of Grand Marnier in the buttercream…)
Gâteau: The Surprising Simplicity of French Cakes
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Almond Yogurt Cake
“French kids learn how to bake yogurt cake in kindergarten,” Crapanzano says. “It’s like our Toll House cookie—a back-pocket recipe that everyone knows how to make. It’s stood the test of time. Like, who’s going to refuse a chocolate chip cookie? Who’s going to refuse a yogurt cake? It’s classic and beloved.”
This meringue-based cake is naturally gluten-free and perfect with whipped cream and sweetened fruit. And because you leave pavlovas in the oven after you turn off the heat, you can bake this in the morning, let it rest all day while you go about your biz, and come home to a finished dessert.
Cake with Brown Sugar, Rum, and Chocolate Chips
“The way the French use alcohol in baking is not necessarily to create a very boozy cake, but it’s to just give that extra dimension, right? So that you taste something that has nuance and has depth,” she says.
If the baker in you is craving more, Crapanzano’s Gâteau, of course, is full of recipes, tips, and ways to develop your own creativity in the kitchen.
Gluten-free nectarine and blackberry crisp is delightful for summer; in the winter, swap in apples for the nectarines.
Jessica Seinfeld’s vegan chocolate banana bread is a crowd-pleaser.
To spruce up store-bought cake mix, allow us to introduce: better boxed cake.
If you’re starting with a well-stocked pantry, carrot and rosemary cake with labneh and cacao-butter frosting is gluten-free and easier than it looks.
This sesame almond cake with pear is vegan and looks impressive—perfect for times when you’re charged with bringing a beautiful dessert.
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