Oh no, don’t worry, despite the name (piège means trap in French), this is not the sort of cake that’s designed to snap closed onto the unsuspecting, eager-for-a-slice hand. I’ve named this cake le gâteau Piège — with a capital “P” — after Jean-François Piège, chef at Les Ambassadeurs [warning: muzak ahead], who shared the recipe in ELLE a few weeks ago.
It was published there as le gâteau de mon enfance (the cake from my childhood), but I can’t reuse the exact phrase for fear of confusing the reader (this is my childhood cake), and if I name it Le Gâteau de l’enfance de Jean-François Piège, well, that’s a bit lacking in the snap department. So, le gâteau Piège it is.
Because he described it as a cross between a clafoutis and a quatre-quart, because it was orange-flavored, and because it looked easy as pie (or here, cake), it had my name written all over it. The little recipe card was creased, folded, and carefully snipped out along the dots.
My first attempt was a relative fiasco. “Fiasco” because it didn’t turn out at all like the picture or the description (in the interest of complete Rousseau-like transparency, I confess that I tried to outsmart the recipe on a few too many counts); “relative” because the mean orange pancake I retrieved from the oven was entirely to Maxence’s taste, and he polished it off rather swiftly.
But still, an orange pancake wasn’t what had rocked little Jean-François Piège’s world, and I was determined to try again, following the recipe more closely this time: I used softened butter (not just butter that you remove from the fridge, dice, and count to ten before you decide it is soft enough), regular white sugar (on second thought, Piège’s maman probably didn’t use rapadura), and the prescribed amount of baking powder (I had decreased it the first time; what can I say, it just sounded a bit much).
I also think I had used too large and juicy an orange the first time, but in my defence, the printed recipe just called for “the juice from an orange,” which left me in the dark concerning the actual amount of orange juice I was supposed to use.
And well, as one might imagine, or just plainly see from the picture above or this one, my second cake was much closer to what I had signed up for: a warmly aromatic cake, not too sweet but nicely buttery, with a soft, spongy crumb and a delicately caramelized crust that made the rim area the best part.
Le Gâteau Piège
For the pan:
1 fat pat butter
1 heaping tablespoon sugar
For the batter:
120 grams (1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon) unsalted butter, softened (I mean it)
120 grams (1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons) sugar
1 medium organic orange (about 200g/7oz), scrubbed
120 grams (1 cup) flour
1 sachet (1 tablespoon) baking powder
A good pinch of salt (I use salted butter so I omit this)
Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Butter the bottom and sides of a 22- or 25-cm (9- or 10-inch) round cake pan with the pat of butter. Sprinkle with the heaping tablespoon sugar, then shake and tilt and swoosh the pan around to coat. It is fun.
Cream together the butter and sugar. Add the eggs one by one and mix until thoroughly combined. Grate the zest from the entire orange over the bowl. Juice the orange and add 125 mL (1/2 cup) of the juice (give or take a little) to the batter. Mix until smooth.
In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Whisk the flour mixture into the batter and mix until just combined. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 20 minutes if you used a large pan, 25 to 30 if you used a smaller one, until the cake is golden brown and starts to pull away from the sides of the pan. Let cool on a rack for ten minutes (no more, or the caramel on the crust will harden and stick to the pan), then flip onto a serving plate. Let cool completely before serving.