Breton Buckwheat Cake Recipe

A deliciously dense, buckwheat flour cake that can be baked off in a tart or cake pan. From David Lebovitz's new book, The Sweet Life in Paris.

Breton Buckwheat Cake

I thought we might chat a bit about books today. I wonder if you love reading as much as I do? As a kid, my mom would take me to the local library every couple of weeks and allow me to fill a boot box with whatever books I could carry. I had a little light that clipped onto the headboard of my bed, and I would read most nights until glow from my room was the only light in the house. Who doesn't love the way a good book can take you to places you've never been, or even better, introduce you to people from times you'd never know otherwise. Anyhow, it is a habit that stuck, and I'm always on the lookout for the next page-turner. Right now I'm reading Richard Price's Lush Life, Camus' The Plague, and David's The Sweet Life in Paris. A bit manic, I know. But seriously, 178 pages into The Plague, one welcomes a solid dose of Lebovitz-style humor. And the great recipes don't hurt either.

Buckwheat Cake Recipe

When a friend asked me to bring dessert to dinner the other night, I cheated and peeked ahead at the recipes in the back of David's book, and discovered this Breton Buckwheat Cake with Fleur de Sel. It's a simple, deliciously dense, buckwheat flour cake that can be baked off in a tart or cake pan. You'll love it. You can serve it with any sort of seasonal fruit compote. I imagine a dollop of floppy whipped cream would be great - or, do as I did and whisk a splash of maple syrup into greek yogurt on your way out the door and serve that on top (or to the side) of each slice.

Buckwheat Cake Recipe

Recipes and cookbooks aside, I was thinking it might be fun to trade some book suggestions. I imagine everyone needs summer reading ideas. So, what is the best book you've read in the past year? Off the top of my head I can recommend The White Tiger, The Other, and The Talented Mr. Ripley. On deck I have: Beautiful Children, Wide Sargasso Sea (re-read), City of Djinns: A Year in Delhi, and Baltasar and Blimunda. Looking forward to your suggestions (particularly fiction). -h

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Breton Buckwheat Cake with Fleur de Sel

I made David's recipe verbatim, but for those of you who are interested, I imagine you could experiment with various flours - for ex: whole wheat pastry flour in place of the all-purpose flour. Or another kind of flour in place of buckwheat flour (teff?) - for an entirely different cake. David notes that if you don't have buckwheat flour, you can substitute one cup (140g) of all-purpose flour for the buckwheat. Also, if you don't have fleur de sel, use a light tasting sea salt, one that is not finely ground, or in a pinch kosher salt will work too. Well wrapped in plastic, this cake with keep for up to four days at room temperature. You can also wrap it in plastic, and then in foil and freeze it for up to two months.

For the cake:
7/8 cup (140g) buckwheat flour
1 cup (140g) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon plus 1/3 teaspoon fleur de sel
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 pound (240g) unsalted butter, at room temp
1 cup (200g) sugar
4 large egg yolks
1 large egg
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons dark rum

For the glaze
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon milk

Butter a 9 or 10-inch (25-cm) tart pan with a removable bottom or a 9-inch/23 cm springform cake pan). Preheat the oven to 350F degrees (180C).

In a small bowl, whisk together the buckwheat and all-purpose flour with 1/2 teaspoon salt and the cinnamon.

In the bowl of a standing mixer or by hand, beat the butter until light and fluffy. Add the sugar and continue to beat until smooth.

In a separate bowl, beat the 4 egg yolks and whole egg with the vanilla and rum with a fork, then gradually dribble the egg mixture into the batter while beating. If using an electric mixer, beat on high speed so the butter gets really airy.

Mix in the dry ingredients just until incorporated. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top as flat as possible with an offset metal or plastic spatula.

Make a glaze by stirring the single yolk and milk together with a fork, then brush it generously all over the top. (You may not use it all, but use most of it.) Take a fork and rake it across the top in three parallel lines, evenly space; then repeat starting from a slightly different angle to make a criss-cross pattern.

Crumble the remaining 1/3 teaspoon salt over the gateau with your fingers and bake for 45 minutes (hs note: you might want to place a rimmed baking sheet on the rack below your tart in case it leaks at all - also, don't over-bake or it will be on the dry side - start checking after 35 minutes or so). Let cool completely before unmolding.

Reprinted with permission from The Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz. Broadway (May 5, 2009)

If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!

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Definitely read The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, it is absolutely excellent. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman won the Newbery Award this year and is wonderfully creepy. If you want books written for book-lovers, try the Thursday Next series (first book is The Eyre Affair) by Jasper Fforde. They are crazy, but so much fun to read. Still Alice has also been a good recent read of mine - the topic is sobering (Alzheimers), but the approach is quite unique and moving.


Wow! Great recipes and book ideas too. I also have memories of weekly trips to the library, creating a love of books which has remained an important part of my life. Food and books are a great combination - I recently recreated a vegetarian version of Babette's Feast (based on the Karen Blixen novel which also became a movie) - great fun! Favorite recent books: A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks


I was just like you when I was growing up! I had books stashed everywhere "just in case." My mom used to come in to turn off my light, and I would sneak into the bathroom with a book and read in there for hours. I've recently started reading in both English and French, so my list of books I'm currently reading is twice as long as it used to be.


I simply adore your posts and your recipes - they're not like any others that I see on the web. I love how you use healthy ingredients to create such lovely dishes. Again, this one doesn't disappoint!

Tabitha (From Single to Married)

What is the What by Dave Eggers - AMAZING - I am in a book club of 11 women and we voted it book of the year last year. Agree with the earlier comment by Madelaine that Mr Pip by Lloyd Jones is brilliant and can also second Lisa in Oz's suggestion for The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon

Gourmet Chick

Just finished Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides and Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. Both AMAZING reads! cake looks delicious!

Amanda Lawrence

Here is a great book that I read a while back: The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards Also; A Family Daughter by Maile Meloy, has some strange themes, but a good read. Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones I read The Giver by Lois Lowry in school and I really loved it, if you're after something shorter. I also think The Book Thief is a fabulous book! I can't wait to read some of your suggestions!


Hi Heidi: I have a new friend who is basically allergic to everything except beef, pork and vegetables and fruit and its so refreshing reading your blog for your vegetarian dishes! Also, even though there is so much hype on the Twilight Series it is a great read for its timeless storyline :) I found there are a few people that have finished all 4 book, which are 300-500 pages each in 2 days!

Lick My Spoon

Thank you speaking of traditional recipe from my aréa "la Bretagne". Yes I'm "bretonne" and I love using buckwheat: in sweat cakes like yours and in "madeleines" it's gorgeous, and when I make dough for tarts I mix (half and half) buckwheat and classical flour. Come and see if you want on my blog a salted cake recipe (it's in french!)...

Dominique (de vous à moi...)

As a big fan of short stories, I am saddened that more people don't read them. Most can be finished in less than two hours, but often they resonate more deeply than novels. It's their distillation that gives them power more akin to poetry than prose. So, try this: I also love reading the father of the essay, Michel de Montaigne. If you've never read Calvino, please, please do. He is marvelous. Try Invisible Cities. Also, anything by Stewart O'Nan. His A Prayer for the Dying is radically different from The Speed Queen. Always brilliant. Just so ya'll don't think I don't read female authors, few writers are finer and more soulful than Flannery O'Connor. And... Transformations by Anne Sexton. Best novel in the last year: John Connolly's Book Of Lost Things. I love Patricia Highsmith, too. Glad you read her. Shoot, just three more, please: Elizabeth McCracken, A. Manette Ansay, and Paul Griner. Unsettling, but beautiful. Okay, gotta mention Amy Bloom. Wonderfully attuned to our complicated human thoughts and behaviors. Bloom is a lovely and assured writer.


BTW in the category of "cookery books to take to bed and read" rather than just cook from, I like Tamsin Day-Lewis.


I discovered your site today and it's inspired me to cook several things this weekend (I'm in the Middle East so our weekend is Friday and Saturday). I found it when I was searching for the Ottolenghi camargue rice and quinoa recipe to send to me sister in UK (so delicious). I love the tone of your writing and I have a family of bookworms. If you haven't read Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky yet, I urge you to do so (made more poignant by the incredible story behind the authors life and the discovery of the manuscript), likewise either of Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie's books. Best recent non-fiction The Sum of Our Days - Isabelle Allende. Now off to see if I can buy buckwheat in Dubai!


Man, you are killing me with this buckwheat cake! Here I was, all excited because I thought it was going to be a gluten-free recipe... and it wasn't. (Buckwheat is, after all, gluten-free). :( I've been reading foodie books lately. I was suffering through Piers Plowman in a effort to brush up for grad school, but it was so dreadfully dull. One of my favorites was Bill Burford's Heat. Definitely cured me of my desire to be anything but a home cook!


The Bad Girl by Mario Vargas Llosa. Such a nice rhythm. Do you ever feel like, with modern writers, sometimes they get carried away and it's like they're writing their daydreams? Sometimes it feels like I'm getting too much ego and not a lot of art. This is not one of those books. Simple, clean structure, slightly melancholy, reminds me of Flaubert. And I didn't read him this year, but Don Delillo rocks my world. White Noise.


I just discovered your blog recently and am thoroughly enjoying it! So many yummy veggie recipes on it :) Bookwise it's hard to know where to start but... Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen is a must (just finished reading for the gazillionth time) Some other excellent books that I've read this year are A Widow for One Year by John Irving Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels A Case of Exploding Mangoes by Mohammed Hanif Happy reading


Try anything by Bryce Courtenay - Power of One is a must (don't be put off by the crappy movie!). Kathy Kelly or Marion Keyes for a bit of light chick-lit when your brain needs a rest! Phillipa Gregory is great for historical fiction. I'm reading at the moment the fifth book in the Clan of the Cave Bear series by Jean Auel. Don't plan on getting anything else done!


It never occurred to me to use buckwheat in a sweet cake. Sounds wonderful! I can just imagine it with a spring strawberry-rhubarb compote and some fresh whipped cream.

Sarah (Coffee Beans and Curry Leaves)

I have so many! Not all of these are new, they're just ones I've read recently: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak Plague of doves by Louise Erdrich. The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry Pilcrow by Adam Mars-Jones The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon The Road by Cormac McCarthy The Shifting Fog by Kate Morton

Lisa in Oz

I just finished reading Kiran Desai's "The Inheritance of Loss," and I couldn't recommend it with more enthusiasm. Packed with insight into the human spirit and humanity's modern condition, it was a page turner that kept me up late with my clip-on book light, too...


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