Savoury Cake

Yes, yes, I know, it sounds so strange – a savoury cake?

This is exactly the reaction I had when watching a new series by the lovely Rachel Khoo, who runs a little restaurant in Paris from her studio apartment. How little? Well, she folds away her bed and can seat just two people in there. So while I think my kitchen is on the “bijou” side, I suspect she might be defying various laws of physics by producing lovely-looking food out of such a tiny space. Plus, she does it all while looking very chic and Parisienne, but happily for us, she’s a London lass at heart providing her take on classic French dishes.

So what is this savoury cake business? This is one of the recipes featured on the show. I’ll fess up to the fact I’ve never heard of this before, and my initial reaction was rather skeptical. I’ve often thought of savoury food, such as sauces, stews, soups, as being the sort of place where you can play fast and loose with the ingredients – a dash of this, a spot of that, and keep tasting to make sure you’re on the right track. In contrast, I tend to think of baking as being much more scientific – mix the same ingredients in one way and you get biscuits, another way and you end up with cake. Use the wrong quantifies, and things can go terribly wrong. Get the technique wrong, and you face collapsing macarons, sticky meringues of sunken cakes.

Coming at it from this perspective, the thought in my mind was…alors, le sucre? Yes, what would the absence of sugar mean here? I mean…how could this turn into a cake? How? How?

Well, let’s just think about what Rachel had to say on the subject. These things are (apparently) very popular in France, and so that alone should have given me some confidence. And her recipe looked fantastic – goat cheese, juicy prunes and pistachios struck me as a lovely combination, and the method did look very simple. Just whisk up the eggs, add milk, olive oil and yoghurt, then fold into the dry ingredients and bake. I imagined that the result would be something like a giant savoury muffin, studded with lots of flavoursome and complementary flavours. So…I crossed my fingers, baked one, and here it is:

I’m happy to report that this really is a delicious recipe. The crumb is soft and indeed very savoury, and it provides a medium for all the other flavours. In particular, the sweet-ish prunes and lightly acidic, tangy goat cheese were a great combination. I probably kept the chunks of cheese and prunes a little on the large side compared to the version that Rachel makes, but that’s only because I like them to be quite obvious when you cut the slices.

While delicious, this was actually ridiculously easy to make. I can definitely see myself making this a lot this summer. It’s a great way to make something for a picnic, it transports so easily, and you get lots of flavours in there. It also leaves lots of scope to adjust the recipe according to what you’ve got the cupboard or fridge – olives, nuts, cheese, dried tomatoes. You name it, it can probably go in here. I’m also going to try making half a batch to make into breakfast muffins, so I’ll let you know in due course how that goes.

And to response to my worries about what happens when you skip the sugar in a cake – it’s a cake, not perhaps as we know it in Britain, but very tasty nevertheless. Rachel has converted me.

To make a savoury cake (recipe slightly tweaked from Rachel Khoo)

• 250g self-raising flour
• 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
• 150g soft goat cheese, cut into chunks
• 80g pistachios, chopped
• 100g soft prunes, cut into pieces
• 4 eggs
• 150ml olive oil
• 100ml milk
• 50g natural yoghurt
• 1 tsp salt
• 1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F). Line a loaf tin with greaseproof paper (no need to grease – the oil in the cake takes care of that).

Put the flour, baking powder, goat cheese, prunes and pistachio nuts in a bowl, and stir gently so that everything has a good coating of flour.

In a separate large bowl, whisk the eggs until very light and fluffy. Stir in the milk, olive oil and yoghurt. Add the salt and pepper, and fold in the dry ingredients. Use a spatula to mix until just combined. Over-mixing is not good, and you don’t want to smash the cheese into smithereens.

Pour the batter into the tin and bake for 30 minutes – the cake should be golden and an inserted skewer should come out clean. If it starts to get too dark too quickly, cover loosely with tin foil for the rest of the baking time.

When done, remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tray.

Worth making? This is an unbelievably easy recipe. In case you doubt me, this is likely to be my summer staple for days out and picnics – customise the additional ingredients and you’ve almost got a whole meal in there to keep you going on busy sightseeing days. Highly, highly recommended!

12 Comments

Filed under Recipe, Savoury

12 responses to “Savoury Cake

  1. Savoury cake sounds like an intriguing idea and I really like how simple it sounds but at the same time it packs a real flavour punch.

  2. Madame Jojo

    On the topic of savoury surprises, have you ever tried a savoury cream tea? Savoury scones topped with onion chutneys and cream cheese instead of jam and clotted – very nice when I had in a tea house up in Harrogate one visit!

  3. I saw that episode too and am pretty much sold on the idea. I’m just not as proactive as you are. And thinking about it, muffins are just little savoury cakes, aren’t they?

    • Ah, this is where British and American English collide! I’ve got in mind the American-style muffins (so like blueberry, but with, eh, feta and tomato). But I do have to try making English muffins at some point, I’ve heard the home-made ones are by far and away the best.

  4. Hi London Eats,

    Savoury cake isn’t that strange for me but I loved how you talked about it in this post.
    A detour from the usual sweet cake is refreshing, yes?

    -Cath

    • Hi Cath – funny you say that, of course it’s such a “normal” recipe elsewhere. Just happens that I’ve never, ever seen this recipe anywhere. I expect next time I am in France, I’ll start to notice it. You’re also right that it’s a pleasant change – love how you can stuff so much into it to make a “mini-meal”.

  5. jacquelineroll

    Very original recipe and great idea to have them on a picnic or for breakfast.
    I also watch Rachel Khoo and remain baffled as to how she manages to host supper clubs in her little flat. She must have an extra oven…..right?

    • Thanks – you’re right about the picnics. I’m trying to work out a few combinations. I’ve thought up feta/olive/tomato and pear/walnut/gorgonzola so far. Fingers crossed!

  6. Pingback: French Food | Annotary

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