Nantes Cake (Gateau Nantais) 8.000

Tom McCorkle for The Washington Post; food styling by Lisa Cherkasky for The Washington Post

Jan 15, 2019

This rich yet simple cake has been a specialty in the western French city of Nantes since the 18th century. Its deeply golden, almond genoise is soaked in a rum syrup (dark rum was brought into the city's once-great port from the West Indies) and cloaked in an elegant drape of rum-infused royal icing.

Salted butter is a must in this recipe, as it is in all traditional recipes of Nantes -- once the capital of Brittany where sea salt is harvested.

You'll need an 8-inch round cake pan (or springform pan) with sides at least 2 inches tall.

To read the accompanying story, see: What raising multicultural sons has taught me about food and appropriation.

Make Ahead: The finished cake needs to rest at room temperature for a day before serving.

8 - 10

When you scale a recipe, keep in mind that cooking times and temperatures, pan sizes and seasonings may be affected, so adjust accordingly. Also, amounts listed in the directions will not reflect the changes made to ingredient amounts.

Tested size: 8-10 servings

  • For the syrup
  • 5 tablespoons (75 grams) granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup (155 milliliters) water
  • For the cake
  • Scant 9 tablespoons (1 stick plus 1 tablespoon; 125 grams) salted butter (see headnote), at room temperature, plus more for the pan
  • 3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated sugar
  • Generous 1 1/4 cups (125 grams) almond meal/flour
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/3 cup (40 grams) all-purpose flour
  • Scant 1/2 cup (100 mls) dark rum
  • 7/8 cup (100 grams) confectioners' sugar
  • Water, as needed


For the syrup: Combine the granulated sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves, then increase the heat to high and bring to a rolling boil. Immediately remove from the heat; cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Use some butter to grease your 8-inch cake pan, then line the bottom with parchment paper. Lightly butter the paper, too.

Combine the 9 tablespoons of butter and the granulated sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer or handheld electric mixer; beat on medium-low speed until creamy and smooth. Add the almond meal/flour, beating until well incorporated, and then the eggs in three or four additions, beating until well incorporated.

Add the flour and 3 tablespoons of the rum; increase the speed to medium and beat just long enough to create a smooth, thick batter.

Transfer the batter to the pan, spreading it evenly. Bake (middle rack) for 40 to 45 minutes -- just until set in the center and the cake begins to pull away from the sides of the pan. The finished cake should be a deep blond/golden color. If the cake seems to be browning too quickly in the last 10 or 15 minutes of oven time, cover it loosely with aluminum foil.

Stir 4 tablespoons of the remaining rum into the cooled sugar syrup.

As soon as the cake is out of the oven, slide a knife around the edges to loosen it from the sides of the pan. Carefully turn out onto a wire cooling rack, quickly peel off the parchment paper and then turn it top side up onto a second rack seated in a rimmed baking sheet.

Immediately brush about half of the rum-infused sugar syrup all over the cake. Let it cool completely; then brush it again with the remaining syrup (you may not use quite all of it).

To make the icing, whisk together the confectioners' sugar and the remaining rum in a bowl, until very smooth, adding just enough water to create a thick yet drizzling consistency (like royal icing). Use a spatula or offset knife to spread the icing over the top of the cake, allowing it to drip down the sides.

Let the cake rest for a day, so the syrup can fully soak in. The icing will set, helping to keep the cake moist.

When ready to serve, cut into thin wedges.

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Recipe Source

From cookbook author Jamie Schler.

Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick.

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