The thought of baked cakes had always conjured to my mind sweet confections savored as dessert. Here in France though, I learned that baking cakes extends beyond the confines of sugary sweets. Among the simplest of these baked goods is cake salé, which translates to savory cake. The French refer to anything baked in a loaf pan as cake, sweet and savory alike. Whereas, pastries that we Americans know as cakes are called gâteau(x) in French.
I had my first taste of French savory cakes at an office potluck, and I was hooked from the first bite. These sugarless cakes are, in essence, spruced up quick breads with a texture that is akin to that of a muffin. But, they differ in that they tend to be more moist and a bit richer. At its base, the core ingredients making up savory cakes include flour, baking powder, eggs, a fat (butter or oil) and a liquid (milk, cream, wine, etc). Though commonly flavored with lardon and gruyère cheese, the combination of added ingredients is endless and limited only by your imagination.
I put my own twist on this contemporary French classic by infusing it with Vietnamese flavors. My variation takes the essence of a traditional Vietnamese chicken curry and infuses it into a radiantly colored loaf. In place of a dairy-based liquid, I added a splash of coconut milk, which gives the cake a slightly custard-like texture and cuts its spiciness. The morsels of chicken give it a hearty kick, while the carrots impart a sweetness that balances the punch from the curry and lemongrass.
You’ll often find cakes salés served alongside apéritifs during the cocktail hour. Given how easy they are to make and their versatility, they also make an ideal hors-d’œuvre for picnics or potlucks. They travel well and can be served warm, room temp or even cold.
Cake Salé au Poulet et Curry | Chicken Curry Savory Cake
Makes 1 loaf cake
1 chicken breast, deboned & skinless
2 carrots, julienned
200 g flour
2 tsp baking powder
100 ml coconut milk
80 ml vegetable oil
1.5 tsp + ⅛ tsp curry powder
¼ tsp turmeric
2 tbsp lemongrass, minced
1 bird’s eye chili, minced
salt + pepper
Preheat oven to 180°C (360°F)
Season the chicken breast with salt, pepper, ⅛ tsp curry powder, and a light sprinkling of some of the minced lemongrass and bird’s eye chili. Cut the chicken into bite-sized cubes and set aside.
In a mixing bowl, sift the flour with the baking powder, about ¼ tsp of salt, the remaining curry powder and turmeric. Create a well in the center of the flour mixture and add the eggs to it. Whisk the eggs into the flour, while gradually incorporating the oil and then the coconut milk into the mixture. Mix in the remaining lemongrass and bird’s eye chili and then fold in the julienned carrots and chicken breast cubes.
Brush the inside surface of a loaf cake pan (~26 x 10 x 6 cm) with vegetable oil. Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 40-50 minutes, until the surface is golden and a cake tester comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and let the cake continue to cool on a rack. Slice and serve warm, room temp or even cold.
For a nicely, rounded opening on the top surface of the loaf cake, lightly split the surface of the cake with the tip of a knife after 10 minutes of baking in the oven.
Bonne dégustation & thanks for reading!