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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If you'd like to mix adventure with cooking, read Patrick O'Brien's sea stories. The film 'Master and Commander' was based on two of them. Once you're hooked on those, see if you can find "Lobscouse and Spotted Dog" by Anne Chotzinoff and Lisa Grossman-Thomas. They were mother and daughter (Anne, sadly, passed away a few years ago) and they are entertaining, skilled, funny and will cook anything. It's a cookbook that you'll read like a novel.


Wise Children by Angela Carter is a really delightful read. Also, Angel by Elizabeth Taylor, The Green Knight by Iris Murdoch.

Lindy Leech

A Book of Common Prayer by Joan Didion. This is the book I go back to most often. Some other novels: A Personal Matter by Kenzaburo Oe, The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje, The Collected Stories by Amy Hempel, Disgrace by JM Coetzee and anything by WG Sebald. You will LOVE these.


The Plague is my most favorite book of all time. My current fave reads include *anything* by Haruki Murakami, including his non-fiction. I have re-read The Poinsonwood Bible probably 4 or 5 times, so that's a winner. Oh, and most anything by Camus or Orwell.


The best book I have read (twice) recently is The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. My spouse and I read it out loud to each other, which I highly recommend. I read Kavelier and Clay and loved that too. Middlesex was pretty good. I am currently starting Death Kit by Susan Sontag. You don't learn about this one in school, and I can't wait to get into it.


Just last night I finished The Girl the Dragon Tattoo (Stieg Larsson), a fascinating murder mystery with an intricate plot and memorable characters set in Sweden, written by a Swede. It just gets better the more you read. The word is that the sequel, The Girl Who Played with Fire, due out this summer is even better. Thanks for all your inspiring recipes!


As a card carrying member of the "must have at least three books in progress at all times" club, I love this topic. I also was excited to see that I have read over 50% of all the books mentioned... maybe, it actually means, I need to get a life. Hmmm. Right now, I am on The History of Knowledge (van Doren), Ishmael (Quinn) and How to Cook Everything Veggie (Bittman). Past favorites: anything by Tom Robbins, Michael Pollan or Bill McKibben, The Mists of Avalon (Zimmer Bradley), The Art Spirit (Henri), My Antonia (Cather) and A Prayer for Owen Meany (Irving). Thanks for the great topic Heidi!


using buckwheat cake in a sweet cake is an innovative idea......sounds delicious..!!! must try at home now


Oh, books! Here are a few I've loved recently: A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving), The Toughest Indian in the World (Sherman Alexie), Red Dirt: Growing up Okie (by a fellow San Franciscan, Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz), The Mammoth Cheese (set on a cheesemaking farm, can it get any better? Sheri Holman), The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini), Crescent: A Novel (about an American Iraqi chef in LA, complete with recipes...Diana Abu-Jaber), and, if you haven't read them yet, The Interpreter of Maladies (Jhumpa Lahiri) and The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver) are two of my faves.


The best books I've read recently are Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides, and The Abstinence Teacher by Tom Perrotta. They are all insanely fascinating!

¡Yo Soy Liz!

If you like short stories, any volume by William Trevor is wonderful. He writes with compassion for the foibles of his characters. Muted and spare prose but it will resonate with you for days afterwards. By the way, I really enjoy your blog.

Cha sen

Growing up we didn't have much money. The library was like a pot of gold! I carried home huge piles of books constantly. One of my favorites then, and now, is The Phantom Tollbooth. More adult reads I recommend: Everything is Illuminated, John Updike's Rabbit Run series, and The Corrections

Michelle @ Find Your Balance

"The Book of Lost Things".... John Connolly


I've never posted before, but wanted to tell you that your brocolli crunch salad went down brilliantly, as did the carrot and walnut cookies AND the carrot/banana cake which I don't think I made correctly but still tasted lovely! If you haven't read Birdsong by Sebastian Faulkes you should, it's amazing and even better because it's like 2 kinds of book in one. HS: Glad you are liking the recipes Charis. :)


OH! If you've never read any Carol Shields, she's awfully good. Sorry for my creative spelling.


So, so, so delicious! I love buckwheat so much. I have a hard time choosing "favorite" books because I'm such a bookworm that choosing one hurts. But the best read I've had this year so far was Bill Bryson's Shakespeare book. Such fun.


I second Megs on Kavalier and Clay. My recent favs are the under-40 crowd - Foer (I loved Everything is Illuminated) and Eggers (A Heartbreaking etc) and Chabon (he must be over 40 by now.) Nonfiction-wise, I seem to have fallen into a thicket of food memiors - Reichl, Buford (I loved Heat), Jay Rayner. A weird memoir I loved: Pretty Girl in Crimson Rose by Sandy Balfour - globetrotting journalist explores his expat identity through an obscure sort of crossword puzzle. That may be the best book I've read this year.


My two favorite book recs are The Little Friend by Donna Tartt and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer. Can't wait to try this recipe!


a couple friends and I just formed a little book club of sorts and one of the books we have decided on is "The White Tiger". I have not read Camus's "The Plague" but I did read "The Stranger" and was not a fan.


I've always loved reading too, and I'm usually reading a few different things at once. Right now, those are My Life in France and Local Flavors, and I just finished The Simple Art of Murder. Baltasar and Blimunda was a dreamy kind of book in the magical realism style, but in that genre, I really loved The Hummingbird's Daughter. In the last year, I most appreciated reading Where Shall We Go for Dinner and In Cold Blood. Find me on Goodreads!


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