Quatre Quarts : French Pound Cake

The name ‘Quatre Quarts’ translates as four fourths, to make up one whole, in this case one pound cake.

The Quatre Quarts cake is something French housewives throw together for afternoon tea, or in case a neighbor drops by. It would be impolite not to have something to serve. The ingredients here are so simple: eggs, butter, sugar, and flour, that anyone can keep them on hand. Merle Bennett is exposed to this cake on her first visit to Malcouziac, the fictional village in the Dordogne in Blackbird Fly. 

Because I live at high altitude I had to experiment with this cake. Also the fact that only the small oven in my range is working made me a little nervous. Experiment with it yourself. There are other recipes out there, like Eugenie’s and Jacques Pepin’s. 

Here is the one I used.

3 large eggs

1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup sugar

3/4 cup butter, salted or unsalted (1 1/2 sticks).

Pour the sugar in a bowl. Add the melted butter and blend it in with a wooden spoon until smooth. Separate the egg yolks from the whites. Set the whites aside. Add the egg yolks to the sugar-butter mix. Stir well. The more you beat, the lighter the cake. Slowly add the sifted flour and incorporate it gradually Add some salt (up to a whole teaspoon) if you’re using unsalted butter only. Add a pinch of salt to the egg whites and beat until stiff. If the egg whites have been beaten enough you should be able to flip the bowl upside down, in other words, very stiff peaks.

Incorporate the egg whites to the batter, a big spoonful at a time, carefully making under-and-over motions until evenly blended. The foam of the meringue should stay intact. This is important in getting a fluffy cake. Pour the batter in a buttered 9-inch round metallic cake pan.

Bake at 350F for about 45 minutes or until golden (if you stick a knife in the center of the cake it should come out dry).

how it should look!

I won’t show you the photo of my cake as it was rather sad. I decided to use the labor-saving, baking powder method instead of beating the egg whites: NOT recommended. It did not rise at all and began to over-bake by 35 minutes. It still tasted pretty good though (we ate it for breakfast) and I will try it again with my mixer to beat those egg whites! No short-cuts allowed.

Do you make pound cake, French or otherwise? Do you add almonds or fruits? Love to hear in comments about your successes!


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