Gateau au Chocolate a’la Dominique

July 15, 2014


After Valentin had been with us for a week or so, I asked him if there were any dishes from home that he missed. He thought for a minute and said, “Well, I do miss the bread in France. American bread is not very good. But you cannot really do anything about that.”

Funny thing is, I’d been making an effort to get the best-quality bread offered in our grocery store, hoping it wouldn’t seem too inferior. So much for that theory!

Then he went on to say, “I do miss my mother’s chocolate cake. It is very good and very easy. Should we make it? I can write her for the recipe?”

I thought this sounded like a great idea because a) it would be a bonding experience for us to cook together and b) the kid had me at “good and easy” and c) baking a cake sounded hella lot easier than trying to replicate a crusty French baguette.  Just the thought of mucking around with yeast gives me the willies.

Plus, it’s cake. Duh. My kids were going to think I was a rock star because I only bake them sweets at Christmas and maybe on their birthday. I’m a cook, not a baker, much to their disappointment.

A day later, Valentin handed me the printout of the recipe. And that’s when I freaked out a little bit. The instructions were in French and the measurements in European-style (grams, kilograms, etc.) and, ahem, I am kind of rusty with the whole conversion process. Sometimes, the Internet is a wonderful thing.

Conversions scribbled down in the margins of the recipe, Valentin and I braved the supermarket for ingredients. And then I encountered our second obstacle. The recipe called for “chocolate noir.”  Ooookay. “Dark chocolate”  is kind of vague. Did she mean bittersweet chocolate, semi-sweet chocolate or unsweetened baking chocolate? It would take another day to get a response to that question, and we were already at the grocery store, so I did what I so often do in all kitchen matters–I just figured, “Hell, just wing it.”

Ooof. Baking is not really “winging-friendly,” though. Which is why I dont’ bake. Plus, I live at high altitude, and  that’s problematic. Even if I follow a recipe to the letter, with no substitutions and no guesswork whatsoever, it sometimes doesn’t work out anyways. Cakes rise high and then fall. Cookies flatten like crepes. Pie crusts burn on the edges and stay raw in the middle. It’s maddening!

But I had an earnest little sidekick with big brown eyes and a taste for chocolate cake, so bailing was out of the question, let me tell you. Winging it was in our future.

I looked at the amount of sugar called for in the recipe and decided that bittersweet chocolate was our best bet. *fingers crossed*

Once we got home and got started, I realized that I didn’t have to worry about the actual directions on the recipe sheet (the ones in French), because Valentin has made the cake often enough with his mother that he pretty much knew what to do by instinct. So then I only had to fret about the measurements, the chocolate and the altitude. Small, insignificant things like that.

We melted and whisked and stirred and sprinkled. Valentin showed me that he is a world-class bowl/spatula licker. I don’t think Mozzy could have gotten that bowl any cleaner. That kid’s a pro.

Then, we waited. 20 minutes later, delicious smells permeating the kitchen, the timer went off. I opened the oven door with trepidation, wondering what kind of oddity I’d find in there.

I found cake. A perfectly respectable, yummy-looking cake. I’ll be danged.

Sometimes, I guess, the baking gods smile on you. This cake is rich enough not to need any kind of frosting, but a nice dollop of whipped cream or a small scoop of vanilla ice cream is certainly not amiss. I melted some mint/chocolate gelato and drizzled it on the top of ours and that was lovely, too. But it’s good on its own.

We made this cake weekly during his visit, Valentin and I, and it never lasted more than 2 days. I’d catch all sorts of Minx and Men casually cutting little nibbly slices throughout the day.

Sadly, my baking assistant is now back in Lyon, France. When he left us, he cried and I cried, but it was a bittersweet cry. Sort of like the chocolate in this cake.

Until we meet again, mon cher.




Gateau au Chocolate a’la Dominique (V’s mother is Dominique–is that name glamorous or what?)

serves 6-8, although Valentin swears it only serves 4


7 ounces good bittersweet chocolate (I used Ghiradelli 60% cacao), broken into pieces

1 stick + 1 tablespoon butter, room temperature

1 cup sugar

4 eggs, room temperature

6 tablespoons flour

pinch of salt


Cut butter into small slices. In a heavy medium saucepan over VERY low flame, heat the butter and chocolate until just melted. Add the sugar, cook a minute or so more and then take pan off the flame.

Let the mixture cool just a bit, about 2 minutes or so, and then beat in the eggs, one at a time, with a wire whisk. Add the flour one tablespoon at a time, whisking constantly. Add a pinch of salt, whisk in.

Pour the mixture into greased and floured 8 or 9-inch round cake pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.


{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

Alison July 15, 2014 at 6:37 am

I love chocolate cake. And I love chocolate cake that only needs 6 ingredients.
Thank you Valentin!


Laura July 15, 2014 at 7:30 am

What? You didn’t get him bread from a real bakery?


Dana Talusani July 15, 2014 at 9:46 am

We get bread from Udi’s bakery and La Brea bakery in our grocery store. That’s what I bought. Still…not up to standard! :)


Karen July 15, 2014 at 8:25 am

Definitely going to try this cake, it sounds yummy! As you know my husband is French and we love baking, he never measures…drives me crazy.

So agree about the bread. Once you’ve eaten bread baked in France no other bread measures up.

Happy you enjoyed your time together. If you’re interested in a 23 year old pain in the ass French girl, I can send one over to you next summer.


Barbara July 15, 2014 at 8:34 am

That’s a beaut! So now you’re a baker, right?


Dana Talusani July 15, 2014 at 9:47 am

Barbara, Ha! Not even close!


elizabeth July 15, 2014 at 9:31 am

Now THAT is a chocolate cake recipe I can get behind! I’m definitely saving this–it looks so simple and chic and oh-so-French, perhaps with a little yogurt cream on the side.


Wendi @ Bon Appetit Hon July 15, 2014 at 9:36 am

Can I just say that I like Valentin’s momma’s gateau better than the David Lebovitz version that I made? This one looks like a big hunk of brownie and doesn’t require you to separate eggs and beat whites to stiff peaks….in other words it is right up my alley.


Dana Talusani July 15, 2014 at 9:48 am

I am so bad! Any recipe that requires me to separate eggs and beat the egg whites and fold them in? PASS.


Erica July 15, 2014 at 11:04 am

I love to bake! But haven’t done much of it lately since we’re all trying to eat healthier (ie no sugar). However, I’m going to make this cake!


Valentin Garrigues July 15, 2014 at 11:12 am

Sorry Dana, I love american bread I didn’t know that this one was the best you can find in the shop. Thanks for post the recipy, it was so funny to see that on facebook and it’s true that the recipy it easy. Bye


Dana Talusani July 15, 2014 at 5:58 pm

Sweet Val,

I thought it was funny and absolutely correct that American bread cannot compare to France. I ate the best bread ever in Paris. Love you and miss you!


Biz July 15, 2014 at 12:48 pm

Aw, what a great experience you had him! I love that you bonded over cake. I am not a baker too – too scientific or me and I am a “wing” it kind of cook too.

I am confident you’ve made a life long friend!


Annie July 15, 2014 at 1:29 pm

This sounds easy and perfect! I’m so glad you had success. We will give it a try soon!


Bananas4Bourbon July 15, 2014 at 7:21 pm

Mon dieu! Chocolate cake recipe from France! I live in the swamp they call Houston. Do you have any modifications to suggest please for my altitude?


Dana Talusani July 16, 2014 at 7:43 am

Bananas (cool name, by the way),

I have no idea what baking is like in Houston, but if this cake is as adaptable as I think it is, it probably will work fine as is. I think the trick is all of the eggs in the cake which add leavening and lift to the cake. I’ll be interested, if you try it, to hear how it turns out for you.


Shannon July 16, 2014 at 6:11 am

I will be bookmarking this page so that I can make this cake over and over. And I will think of you every time. Chocolate cake with a story on top? What could be better?


Sherri July 16, 2014 at 9:37 am

You’ll all have to go and visit your baking assistant :). France next year? :). This cake looks fab – making it asap.


C. Troubadour July 16, 2014 at 9:49 am

All I have to say about Valentin + cake + getting Kitch to bake: awwwwwww.

High altitude baking is nuts when it comes to yeast (and don’t even get me started with gluten-free alterations to boot). I say you picked the right choice for baking experimentation!


Rudri Bhatt Patel @ Being Rudri July 16, 2014 at 10:25 am

I heart this post, Kitch. I love that you fumbled through this with Valentin and you not only baked a cake, but created a lasting memory for you, your family and him.


Autumn July 16, 2014 at 2:50 pm

I have been literally dying for cake but cannot justify turning the oven on for an hour plus when it is so effing hot out. 20 minutes in the oven= perfect= making this tonight!


Kim Jorgensen Gane July 16, 2014 at 2:52 pm

Mmmmm!!! So little flour is called for, should be super easy to substitute any basic #GF flour blend and get good results. Here’s to sweet Valentin, and bittersweet good-byes. xo


Justine July 16, 2014 at 7:57 pm

It’s 10PM, and I’m craving chocolate cake. It’s all your fault! (Mmm….delicious, moist, heavenly cake.)


Tiffany July 18, 2014 at 6:27 am

Yummmmmmm! I’m so glad he had a wonderful time…and you did too!


pamela July 18, 2014 at 1:09 pm

YUM! I miss your little French sous chef. Keep us posted on what he is up to.


Tinne from Tantrums and Tomatoes July 22, 2014 at 2:01 pm

Mmmh lovely cake… My guess is that chocolat noir refers to 80% uber dark chocolate.
And the bread question.. yeah sorry but there is NO competing with French bread.


Janet March 25, 2015 at 9:00 am

love the pics! your mom looks exactly the same as she did 20 years ago. you both look great! my mom LOVED her nekcalce btw, thanks again!


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