Always on the look out for regional French baked goods, this one came to my attention some months ago thanks to a link to a Washington Post piece (from which the recipe comes) sent by my friend MBT. I’ve had it on my to do list ever since and finally got around to purchasing a bottle of rum, an ingredient that typically doesn’t grab my attention nor my taste buds!. Buuuuutt - desirous of keeping to the classic recipe I simply had to include the rum n’est-ce pas?
The preparation is oh-so straight forward but give yourself a day or two ahead of serving since it’s recommended that you let this rum soaked/glazed cake sit for a day for the flavors to infuse. And be sure you have SALTED butter on hand, an absolute when baking anything even remotely associated with Brittany. While present day Nantes is located in the Pays de la Loire region, it was once the capital of Brittany and home to les Ducs de Bretagne. Those Bretons do love their butter.
There are three components: rum simple syrup, almond sponge cake and confectioner’s sugar glaze.
Make the syrup: Heat 75 g granulated sugar with 155 ml water over low-medium heat in a small saucepan. Stir occasionally to dissolve the sugar then increase to high and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat, cool then add 3 tablespoons dark rum. This can be made several days ahead and held in the fridge. The recipe makes plenty for one cake and any leftover will keep in the fridge for weeks as any simple syrup will.
Make the cake: Heat the oven to 350ºF. Butter an 8” springform pan, line the bottom with a round of parchment then butter the parchment.
Place 125 g salted butter and 150 g granulated sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer (or use an electric handheld mixer) and beat with the paddle on medium low until creamy. Add 125 g almond flour and beat to incorporate. In a separate bowl lightly beat 3 large eggs and add them to the batter in three or four additions, blending well after each addition. Add 40 g all purpose flour and 3 tablespoons of rum and beat on medium to create a smooth batter.
Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan.
Bake 40-45 minutes until set in the center and beginning to pull away from the sides of the pan.
Once out of the oven, loosen the pan, turn the cake out onto a cooling rack, remove the bottom parchment than flip right side up onto another cooling rack set over a sheet pan. Brush the warm cake generously with about half of the rum syrup.
Once the cake has cooled completely give it another decent brushing of rum syrup.
For the glaze: mix 100 g confectioner’s sugar with 1 tablespoon rum and add small amounts of water until you have a glaze that will drizzle and spread smoothly. You can spread it on top only, as I did, or let it drip down the sides - it’s up to you.
Now it’s ready to cover and let sit for a day. Steve and I behaved ourselves and waited the requisite time frame before diving in for a taste.
To our delight, the rum essence was not at all overpowering and the cake offered a pleasing density, moistness and all around lovely taste. My one regret is that I didn’t avoid the top-of-the-cake grid marks from the cooling rack but that certainly didn’t detract from the overall enjoyment. One small slice is all it takes to comprehend le gâteau Nantais. Now we just have to visit Nantes and enjoy a slice! Maybe we’ll see you there?