The French use the word “cake” or quatre-quarts (four quarters) or sometimes even fondant for what English speakers call a pound cake. It can be either savory or sweet. The sweet version is in fact four ingredients (eggs, flour, butter and sugar) in equal quantities measured by weight (the French cook using weight not volume), so each is a quarter of the total, hence the name quatre-quarts. It is best to start with the eggs because you can’t use just part of an egg! So whisk and weigh your eggs (4 – there’s that number again – will make an average loaf) then weigh out the same amount of each of the other ingredients as you have eggs. Whisk the sugar into the eggs for 4 (!) minutes, then gently mix in the flour and lastly the melted but cooled butter. Some people like to add a sachet of levure chimique as well for a fluffier loaf. Add a bit of vanilla, rum, lemon peel, orange flower water to the batter… for extra style! Put in a loaf pan and the oven at 180° C for about 40 (another multiple of 4!) minutes. Or try this delicious recipe for mini quatre-quarts I love to make for gifts at Christmas time.
PS: the “pound” in pound cake refers to making a big loaf with a pound of each of the four ingredients. (We used to cook by weight before Fannie Farmer invented the measuring cup and standardized recipes in 1896!)
- 1 ½ cups (325g) unsalted butter
- 1 ½ cups (300g) sugar
- 4 eggs
- 1 cup (25cl) orange juice
- 1 cup (20cl) plain yogurt
- 2 T (2 cuil. à soupe) freshly grated orange zest
- 2 t (2 cuil. à thé) vanilla extract
- 4 cups (600g) flour
- 1 T (1 cuil. à soupe) baking powder
- ½ t (1 cuil. à café) salt
- 1 ½ cups (225g) dried cranberries
- 2 cups (300g) confectionners’ sugar*
- 7-8 t (7-8 cuil. à thé) Grand Marnier
Heat oven to 330° F/165°C. Butter two large or 6 mini loaf pans.
Cream butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time mixing after each. Add orange juice, yogurt, orange zest and vanilla. Blend.
In a separate bowl, whisk dry ingredients together: flour, baking power, salt. Add cranberries and mix to coat. Add flour mixture to wet ingredients gently.
Pour batter into loaf pans and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. 70-75 min for large size, 60 min for mini.
In a small bowl whisk Grand Marnier and powdered sugar together. Glaze should have the consistency of thick syrup.
Let loaves cool in pans for 10 min, then remove and place on a rack. With a toothpick poke holes in the tops of the loaves. Drizzle with glaze so that it seeps into holes and over the sides.
Allow to cool completely then serve or wrap and freeze.
If orange isn’t your favorite substitute milk for OJ, almond extract for vanilla, cherries for cranberries, amaretto for Grand Marnier and omit zest. Add 1 cup chopped almonds.
Either version is delicious!
* See this page to understand different types of sugars and what their names are in France. https://www.davidlebovitz.com/french-sugars/