I posted so many things for National Library week last week; I thought I’d give you all a little breather to catch up. A week has passed, you’ve cleared out your Google Reader (Feedly?) by now, so I’ll resume my post-Easter 2013 food recap, since we still have the desserts to go.
It’s been a little while, but do you remember that yellow sunshine cake I made for the Easter festivities? That was a french butter cake called a “sableuse,” pronounced – so far as I can tell – “sableeeuuuussse.” You know you want to say it like that too, so don’t deny yourself that one tiny pleasure. The sableuse was a very different cake recipe than I’ve ever tried by the manner in which you put it together, so I thought it safe to go about it on a holiday where there would be another cake in place, were this one to fail. Thankfully, it didn’t fail, and what resulted was pretty magical.
I’ve never met a cake that’s this light in weight yet so dense and rich on the tongue. It’s almost impossible to experience, because cakes that are this rich generally have quite a bit of heft to them; you could have flung this one into the air like a Frisbee. Because of this, it’s a great warm weather cake; just throw some fresh whipped cream and berries alongside of it, and you have a lovely dessert that doesn’t seem overdone. It’s sunshine yellow due to a massive amount of egg yolks inside it, and comes out in much the way that a sturdy pound cake would, which means nothing will fall apart on you in the heat.
I love the way you make this cake; it’s really quite delightful. First, it’s backwards; the butter gets melted, cooled, and added in at the end. Before the butter finale, you get to whip everything else together for a small eternity until the batter balloons out into a thick pile. Then you carefully stir in your butter, get all of it incorporated, and pour it into the pan. And then? You get to make your cake a tin foil helmet.
That’s right: a foil hat. “Sableuse” may or may not be French for “conspiracy theorist,” but it most certainly feels like it should be protected from alien death rays or government mind-control. You need to wrap the cake top to bottom with foil (as instructed), so either use my instructions for how to do this, or devise your own way of doing it which allows you to see how your cake is baking while at the same time limiting its exposure to death rays. Your cake will appreciate this, as will you; you really just don’t want to mess with hot foil while trying to keep a cake still.
So here it is: simple, straightforward sableuse. Aside from the name, it is a very unfancy cake. It’s bakes up on the dry side, which makes a perfect vehicle for any whipped cream and fruit combination you could dream up. You could also slice this up to either toast or grill, just as you would do with pound cake. Once we get our grill going, I’m going to try some grilled with caramelized peaches alongside. If you feel silly making yourself a whole cake just because, please don’t; it freezes perfectly and will keep for several weeks.
Adapted from my newest Food & Wine acquisition, The Food & Wine Annual Cookbook 1997: An Entire Year of Recipes from America’s Favorite Food Magazine. You read that right, friends; 1997. I normally order these online for like, no money apiece, but this one I was lucky to scavenge from a Florida thrift store. I don’t know who would willingly part with this, as it is just packed with recipes.
Sableuse (and a postscript about fruit compote)
- 9 large egg yolks, at room temperature*
- 1 large egg, at room temperature*
- 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 2/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- 2/3 cup cornstarch
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) plus 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
*I never kid about room temperature eggs or egg yolks. If you’re making chocolate chip cookies, it doesn’t matter that much if your eggs are warm or cool. However: when attempting something that uses eggs in a starring role, temperature is key. Room temperature eggs allow themselves to be whipped into big, balloony puffs much more than their cold counterparts, so please do yourself a favor and get those eggs nice and cozy before starting this recipe.
A word about Berry Compote:
I just didn’t feel like this was a “recipe” because I mix it up every time, and because you’ll need to adjust your ingredients depending on the season and quality of your berries. To make what I tumbled over this cake above, throw a pint or two of berries together into a medium saucepan, add several tablespoons of sugar, and squeeze a lemon over top. Cook it how you like: to get that “we’re still berries” look above, only heat on medium until the sugar dissolves and the berries look darker and have released just a bit of juice. They should still be a little firm and hold their shape; it only takes a few minutes. For more of a saucy jam, cook it for longer until the berries start to become very soft.
You’ll notice you have a choice in an 8 or 9-inch cake pan. I made this in both pans, and I like it either way; just wanted to give you a little flexibility. The results are obvious; the 9-inch will be slightly flatter and wider, but they both cook within the time guidelines I give in the recipe; the 9-inch will go a little faster than the 8-inch.
And so, let’s cake:
Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Butter either an 8-inch or 9-inch cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. Butter the paper.
Sift together the flour, cornstarch, and salt in a small bowl. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg yolks, egg, and sugar at medium speed until pale yellow in color and fluffy, about 15 minutes.
With the mixer on low speed, beat in your flour mixture about 1/4 cup at a time, adding more only when the last addition has been absorbed. When you are finished with the flour, increase your mixer to medium speed and add the butter in 3 parts – 2 parts with the mixer on, and saving the final part for folding in (I just didn’t want you to go about your additions and not see that until it was too late.)
Before the second addition of butter has been completely incorporated, stop the mixer and remove the bowl from the stand. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the final butter addition gently, until the batter is completely homogenous. Stop folding as soon as it is combined.
Scrape the batter gently into the prepared pan. Using two sheets of aluminum foil, wrap the pan completely top and bottom, with the top foil overlapping the bottom (so it’s easy to remove to check on the cake). Tent the foil (like the photo above, although you could be less dramatic about it) to allow for expansion. Bake in the center of your oven for 35-45 minutes, checking at the 30-minute mark for doneness. Your cake is done when it has risen and springs back in the center when lightly pressed.
When the cake is done, remove it immediately (oven mitts!) from the cake pan, peel off the parchment paper from the bottom, and right the cake back onto a plate. Allow to cool completely before serving.
Stores well in an airtight container for up to 2 days. If you still have more, throw it in a freezer bag and store for later use. As I’m typing this, I realized I still have some in the freezer and now I want some. It’s that good out of the freezer.