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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Last month I found "Clementine in the Kitchen" the first 1943 edition at a ratty bookstore in Antigua. It was so old that the book is riddled with holes from being eaten by insects. I love this book. The recipes are delicious. The book is now in my kitchen with all my ecletic cookbooks and Clementine in the Kitchen immediately became my go-to cookbook when I want to impress my husband or our guests.


Heidi, I love you! I think you somehow manage to read my mind as this is not the first time I've stood in my pantry wondering what to do with an ingredient only to load up your site and see a new recipe featuring it. Last week it was sweet potato, this week it's buckwheat flour! I had bought a bag of buckwheat flour to make your Nibby Buckwheat Butter Cookies (delicious) and have been wondering what else I could make with it. This cake sounds *perfect* for a dinner party I'm headed to on the weekend and I can even bake it up in the new tart pan I found on sale a couple of weeks ago and again have been wondering what to do with. This is a most fortuitous blog post--thanks! :) PS. The sweet potato falafel were amazing and I also won raves for your curried egg salad the other night. This is absolutely the best food blog out there, hands down.

Lynne P

- provocative: Three Cups of Tea (non-fiction) - the writing isn't fantastic but it sure is eye opening - it's about an American man who builds schools in Afghanistan, 1000 Splendid Suns - better than Kite Runner (perhaps the female perspective?) - nice stories: Secret Life of Bees, #1 Ladies Detective Agency series, Elm Creek Quilts series - classics: The Caine Mutiny, To Kill a Mockingbird, Cry the Beloved Country - also Eat, Pray, Love which people either love or hate!


Oh, don't get me started on books!! I worked in a bookstore for 8 years and there are just too many to mention. I checked out "White Tiger" from the library a few days ago and am looking forward to it, but right now am reading "How to Pick a Peach" by Russ Parsons for a foodie book club I started on my blog. I warmly invite any other bookworms here to stop by and join in the book club if interested! HS: Russ is great. I was lucky enough to be on a panel with him last year. Quite possibly the nicest person ever.

mlle noelle of simmer down

If you are in the mood for some heart wrenching fiction... may I suggest My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult. Just finished it and I also recommend it because the movie will be coming out this summer! I would also like to suggest a great book/ cookbook by a chef here in Houston. It is called Empty Bottle Moments by Clive Berkman. It contains stories about days when he owned a restaurant and his experiences in the food world and includes some of his most amazing recipes!!!


Heidi, you should get a good reads account ( and people who enjoy your blog can also see what you are reading/have read. I would love to see what some of you other favorite are. Funny you should mention it Marci - I have one. I use it to keep track of books I want to read, and also to get ideas from friends as well. I'm not great about checking my messages and stuff there though.


I love Donna Tartt (the Secret History and The Little Friend). A book I read recently and LOVED was in the same vein as The Secret History - Tana French's The Likeness..great read.


I second the recommendations for Laurie Colwin, Carol Shields , Amy Bloom and Michael Chabon - I really liked The Mysteries of Pittsburgh. I love anything by Anne Tyler, especially The Accidental Tourist and Ladder of Years; Richard Ford esp. The Sportswriter and Lorrie Moore. I believe an anthology has just been published of her short stories. I just finished The Private Lives of Pippa Lee by Rebecca Miller and am now reading The Sorrows of an American by Siri Hustvedt (Paul Auster's wife). It's her latest book and I recommend her previous three., The Enchantment of Lily Dahl, The Blindfold and What I loved. Reading, eating, it's hard to pick which I like the most. I tend to do both at once, which I know is not supposed to be good for one's digestion..........


What a wonderful idea! I'll be sure to read through the comments here. I would recommend: Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrel by Susanna Clarke--a wonderful book about magic in 19th century Great Britain The Forgery of Venus--Michael Gruber Lulu in Marrakesh--Diane Johnson The Night Villa--Carol Goodman The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo--Stieg Larsson Currently I'm reading The Rose of Sebastopol by Katherine McMahon P.S. Here's another tasty buckwheat cake recipe!

Sarah Breeze

Lovely, especially the traditional criss-cross detailing. I have to say I'm partial to Buckwheat Gateau Breton made with Anson Mills buckwheat flour. Before my mouth and nose met this flour I barely cared about buckwheat. Glad to see the recipe reach more people. While it's not a 'cake' by American standards, it's an amazing way to highlight a gorgeous, particularly flavoured flour.

shuna fish lydon

Not fiction, but I loved Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson. Not at all what I expected and it opened up a whole world I didn't know about in Pakistan. I'm so glad I discovered your website. The recipes inspire me to get outside my box (of chicken nuggets) and explore the world.


I loved the Kite Runner. It's a great book. You will not be able to put it down.


OH! And as far as books go: Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel I LOVE that magical book about food, life and love.


The recipe is intriguing. Thanks for suggesting substitute varieties of flour, in particular a substitute for Buckwheat. I'm allergic to buckwheat. Where can I buy Teff? HS: HI David, you can find it at some natural foods stores (although I would call first)...or you can order it directly from a company like The Teff Company.

David Teague

OK BOOK me find this might have been on the NYT best seller list about a decade ago. The narrator is a pre-teen girl. It tells the story of her teenage older brother's flight from (i think) Minnesota to (I think) North Dakota after he kills someone (I think accidently). It is a motherless family I think there is a 3rd child the dad takes the remaining family to the road to search for the missing brother. The author is male. WE READ IT AND LOVED IT LONG AGO. I WANTED TO READ IT AGAIN, AND FOLLOW UP ON THE AUTHOR. I BELIEVE IT MIGHT HAVE BEEN HIS FIRST NOVEL THANKS FOR THE HELP. BTW we have a small organic farm and grow buckwheat so this recipe is a special treat !


I will definitely try this - I love buckwheat. I've only had buckwheat pancakes and waffles - so I'm intrigued to try this. Heidi - just wanted to say I love your recipes and your book. Last night I made the garbanzo burgers (a favorite) and tonight my housemate looking through the book to try out another recipe. You bring so much inspiration to our house and our meals. Thank you for sharing your healthy recipes.


I love the pretty pattern that the fork print makes on the top as it bakes! I would have never thought to add that, but it's a beautiful touch! I just finished reading The Girls by Lori Lansen and it's a pretty unique, touching novel. Also, Very Valentine by Adriana Trigiani - who is my favorite author and I highly recommend all of her other books. Other than that, I haven't been reading novels, but light-hearted mysteries because I love my brain ticking away trying to figure out "whodunnit?"


I really enjoy reading The Gift by the Sufi poet Hafiz. It is a nice one to just open up at any page and soak in the beauty and wisdom.

Marissa Makes

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver.


So many great books listed here! I'm currently reading Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum and it's haunting. One of the best I've read this year is Let Me In by John Lindqvist.


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