Our French visitor offered to make a cake for us. “It’s very simple and common,” she said. “Everyone makes it.” She called it “Quatre Quarts.”There are only four ingredients, all in the same amounts. That is, if you weigh your ingredients, like the Europeans do. She didn’t know how we managed to cook without a good scale. To a girl used to working in grams, all of those measuring cups and spoons sure seemed like an odd way to bake.So she wrote out the ingredients, and I thought, “Hm, that sounds suspiciously like a pound cake to me.”And it was.So “Quatre Quarts” is translated literally “Four Quarters” or “Four Fourths.” You could have some etymological fun trying to figure out how a French cake called “Four Fourths” ended up being called a Pound Cake in English.She said the ingredients were simply:250 grams butter250 grams sugar250 grams flour3 eggs (weighing, I presume, about 250 grams)It’s easy to remember. No need to drag out a recipe book.Here’s the recipe and instructions in French with nice step-by-step photos of the process and progress you can refer to, if you’ve never made pound cake (and want to practice your French). Our guest didn’t beat the egg whites stiff and left out the salt, and it was still delicious. I think that beating the egg whites and incorporating them into the batter must result in a fluffier “Quatre Quarts.”Here’s the recipe modified slightly for American measurements.And here is Meredith’s (Like Merchant Ships) All-American version of a pound cake, which she offered in the comments section of this post. The post includes mouth-watering photos of the cake served with peaches. Meredith’s recipe doesn’t at all follow the “four fourths” balance of the French “recette,” but I love the idea of the vanilla flavor. And the baking powder probably makes it rise nicely.
I have tried (and enjoyed) the all-butter poundcake from the Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook, but truly I think this old-fashioned version with Crisco has a finer crumb and moister taste.This recipe is from the vintage Nashville Cookbook, published by home ec teachers and nutritionists across the region.1/2 lb butter1/2 cup crisco1 tsp vanilla3 cups sugar, scant5 eggs1 cup milk3 cups flour1/2 tsp baking powder1/4 tsp saltPreheat oven to 350.Grease and flour 10-in tube pan (or use Baker’s Joy spray).Cream butter, Crisco, vanilla, and sugar, adding small amts of sugar at a time.Add eggs, one at time.Sift flour with baking powder and salt. Add to creamed butter alternately with milk, beginning and ending with flour.Pour into pan. Bake 1 hour or until cake tester comes out dry.(Mine usually takes 1 hour, 10 min to develop a nice crust.)I let mine sit 10 minutes on the counter before unmolding.Greasing with Crisco and flour gives a crunchier crust, but Baker’s Joy spray is more reliable for perfect crusts.
Our guest said that in France, they serve dessert every night, which took some getting used to when she moved there from Belgium. In Belgium, she said that desserts were reserved for dinners with guests or special meals.But, I’d like to point out that she sliced it very thin. Maybe you can get by eating cake every night if you slice it thin. And only eat one piece.So, once again, I was reminded that the French know how to indulge…with restraint.