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.