The notion of “cake” (pronounced “kek”) in France is a many splendored thing. It can as easily refer to a savory bread like the one here, or a sweet confection studded with candied fruits, drowned in sugar syrup, injected with rum. The word itself simply refers to whatever is baked in a loaf pan and winds up rectangular in shape.
I was introduced to the savory cake when I first moved to France and invited an elderly friend for dinner, along with a handful of others. She arrived with the most delicious situation on a plate – slices of savory cake. Hers was pale green with fresh parsley, flecked with cubes of ham, vivid with mustard that had been folded into the batter. I immediately asked for the recipe and I’ve never turned back. Savory cake is my kind of thing. It’s nutritious, delicious, and a chameleon – the same basic recipe adapts to its surroundings.
(Great for Kids)
(It’s also a great thing to serve kids as a snack or quick meal, by the way. It’s as nutritious as a quiche, a way to get vegetables into kids, a way to introduce them to interesting flavor combinations and textures, and along with a big green salad or a plate of crudités, it makes a fun meal. Many is the time a savory cake saved us all on a busy day!).
The Cake and…the Seventies
It is said that the cake became a feature of French cuisine in the seventies though it may have been around long before that. Some say it is an adaptation of an English recipe; others claim it is a natural outgrowth of the quiche, just more substantial. And there are those who say it’s a great way to turn the little bits of leftovers in the fridge into something memorable.
Adapt and Adjust
Wherever it originated, the “cake” is brilliant and can be so delicious that you’ll want to eat every morsel on the plate. This cake with the smoked salmon and almond combination is inspired, the cheese a must. You can follow this recipe to a T, or you can adapt and adjust, substituting ham for the salmon, walnuts or hazelnuts for the almonds. Look in my books for other variations – hint: NUTS IN THE KITCHEN has a couple of fantastic recipes for savory “cake”.
Keep the Basics the Same
When you adapt, keep the basics the same, from the eggs and flour to the cheese. Beyond that, the cake is yours to experiment with. It’s an easy appetizer and it makes people happy. That is the aim of the food game, after all!
“Kek” From Dancing Tomatoes!
So, try this cake, then experiment as you will. You can impress your guests with a little story and say “Oh yes, this is a French “kek,” an idea from the seventies, and I learned about it on …Dancing Tomatoes!1
SMOKED SALMON BREAD - CAKE AUX SAUMON FUME ET AMANDES
- 1-1/2 cups; 200g all-purpose flour
- 1-1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon piment d’Espelette or hot paprika
- 1 cup; 15g flat leaf parsley leaves, gently packed
- 6 large eggs
- 1/4 cup; 60 ml extra-virgin olive oil
- The zest from 1 lemon diced
- 8 ounces; 250g smoked salmon, diced or crumbled
- 1/3 cup; 50g lightly toasted almonds coarsely chopped
- 2/3 cup; 2 ounces; 60g finely grated cheese such as Gruyère, Comte, or a medium-sharp cheddar
- Preheat the oven to 400F (200C). Oil an 8 ½ x 4 ½ x 2 ½ inch (21 x 11 ½ x 6 ½ cm) loaf pan. Line it with parchment paper, lightly oil the paper and dust it with flour.
- Sift the dry ingredients, including the Piment d’Espelette, together onto a piece of parchment paper.
- Mince the parsley leaves.
- In a large bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer, mix the eggs until they are well blended. Add the oil and mix until combined, then whisk in the flour mixture just until it is blended with the eggs and oil. Do not mix too vigorously at this point or the cake may be tough. Fold in the lemon zest, the smoked salmon, the almonds, the cheese, and the parsley, then turn the mixture into the prepared pan, and rap it once on a work surface to release any air bubbles. Bake in the center of the oven until the top is golden, and your finger leaves a slight indentation when pressed on it, about 50 minutes.
- Remove the bread from the oven and turn it out onto a wire rack. After about 10 minutes, peel off the parchment paper and let the bread continue to cool to room temperature.