Let them eat cake

Kath here.  Well, you asked for it!  The cake that WU contributor Sophie Masson’s French-emigre mother made while young Sophie was committing her literary crimes against her Aussie playmates . . . the quartre-quarts cake.  I’m making this tonight with the butterscotch glaze Sophie suggests.

Note: Castor sugar is sold in the U.S. as “superfine sugar”.  You can also make your own by grinding it in a food processor for a few minutes.  It is NOT powdered sugar.

Maman Masson’s Gateau Quatre-Quarts

Quatre-quarts means four-quarters, so it’s basically a cake made of four main ingredients, each of equal weight.

2 large eggs or 3 medium-sized ones

150g/5 oz/2/3 cup castor sugar (fine white sugar)

150g/5oz/10 tablespoons soft unsalted butter

150 g/5 oz/1 cup self-raising flour

2 heaped tablespoons ground almonds

Finely-grated zest of 1 lemon or orange OR a little vanilla essence.

Heat the oven to 180 degrees C/350 degrees F.

Beat together the eggs, sugar and flavouring until pale and a little frothy. Put the butter in a round cake tin and heat it in the oven till almost melted. Swirl to coat the tin lightly with butter, then pour the melted butter into the egg mixture a little at a time, whisking till completely blended. Sift the flour over the egg and butter mixture, a little at a time, then fold it in gently with a metal spoon. Now mix in the ground almonds. Dust the buttered tin with a little flour (or use baking paper if you wish), pour in the cake mixture and bake in the oven for a good 35-40 minutes. If the top browns too quickly, cover it with a piece of foil. To check that the cake is cooked, insert a skewer or small knife — if it comes out clean, the cake is cooked.

Turn the cake out on a rack and cool. Decorate if you wish, though it can be eaten plain. The cake keeps well for a few days too.

You can decorate with whipped cream or icing of whatever sort you’d like. I make a lemon icing with zest of lemon, a few drops of lemon juice, unsalted soft butter and icing sugar. Or else you could make a kind of butterscotch glaze: just heat some brown sugar, a little unsalted butter and a dash of cream together on the stove — it makes a thick sauce which you can then pour on the cake with praline almonds.

Or take some blanched sliced almonds (about 100 g, or a handful), put them in a saucepan with some castor sugar (about two tablespoons), and heat on the stove, stirring, till the sugar caramelises around the almonds. When they’re nice and golden-brown, take them off the stove, tip the almonds onto a plate to cool down, then sprinkle on the cake. You can use already-prepared Vienna almonds too if you like.


About Sophie Masson

Sophie Masson has published more than fifty novels internationally since 1990, mainly for children and young adults. A bilingual French and English speaker, raised mostly in Australia, she has a master’s degree in French and English literature. Sophie's new e-book on authorship, By the Book: Tips of the Trade for Writers, is available at Australian Society of Authors.


  1. says

    Thank god this is about baking. I’d been sweating my face up all day on various things, thought I should check this out and luckily … here I only lose face if I demonstrably point out that I know sweet FA about marzipan. Phew!

  2. Sophie Masson says

    It sure does taste as good as it looks! It’s the great basic French cake–and has a lovely moist texture. It’s very satisfying both to make and to eat!