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.