It’s berry season! And what could be a better pairing for berries than a hefty slice of pound cake with a generous dollop of whipped cream? But not just any pound cake, a Breton Pound Cake!
In French, this Breton Pound cake is called a “quatre-quarts“, which translates to “four quarters”. It is very popular in Brittany, of course, but also widely known and enjoyed all throughout France. It consists – just like a classic pound cake – of four ingredients of equal weight: one quarter flour, one quarter butter, one quarter sugar and one quarter eggs. It traditionally doesn’t require any leavening agent (ie. baking powder) or flavoring (ie. vanilla extract).
So what makes this Breton Pound Cake different from a classic Pound Cake?
Instead of classic salted or unsalted butter, this cake requires the use of sea-salted butter, known in French as “Beurre Salé”. This “Beurre Salé” is commonly consumed in the North-Western part of France (especially Brittany) and is used heavily in local baked goods (like in these Salted Butter Breton Sablés). It includes 3 to 5% more salt than the salted butter found in the US/Canada, which is in the form of sea-salt flakes. It gives this pound cake lovely salted-buttery notes, all while enhancing all the flavors.
If you live outside of France and can’t buy “Beurre Salé”, you can recreate it by using unsalted butter with some sea-salt flakes (such as Fleur de sel or Maldon). I do not recommend you use salted butter as a substitute: it usually has a higher water content than unsalted butter, so it could give you an inconsistent result.
This Breton Pound Cake (Quatre-quarts) is so humble, yet moist, with a slightly dense crumb (not too dense, nor gummy) and with lovely salted butter notes. In the Spring, it is the perfect canvas for whipped cream and fresh berries. Pairing it with fresh strawberries is actually very common to do in Brittany, using small local strawberries from Plougastel, which are so beloved in the region.
In the Summer, you can use stone fruits like cherries, peach or apricots. In the Fall, spiced stewed apples and in the Winter, a warm chocolate sauce or blood orange marmalade. The next day, you can toast slices of it in your toaster (it is delicious!) or make French Toast with it. It is also ideal for trifles.
Weigh your ingredients, rather than using cups.
Generally speaking, I am a huge advocate of using a food scale for baking. And this couldn’t be any truer when baking a Pound Cake: it is all about having the exact equal weight of eggs, flour, sugar and butter – so using a food scale is essential. Start by measuring the weight of your 3 eggs (3 large eggs, out of the shell – it should equal about 150g), and use the exact same weight of flour, sugar and butter.
Have all your ingredients at room temperature.
The eggs should be at room temperature for them to retain more air when beaten. If too cold, the whites will be sifter and won’t welcome in air as much.
Use an electric beater or a stand mixer (or some elbow grease!).
A Pound cake doesn’t rely on any leavening agents (ie.baking powder) for it to rise. Instead, it relies on the air that is trapped within the egg whites when beaten to a firm peak. For this reason, the use of an electric beater or stand mixer will be very helpful. If not, the recipe is doable by hand with a whisk, but get your wrist ready for a whole lot of beating.
A few flavoring twists.
I love the simplicity of this Breton Pound Cake, and enjoy it as is, allowing the lovely salted-butter notes shine through. But if you wish, you can add any of 1 tsp vanilla extract, ½ tsp almond extract, 1 tsp lemon zest or 1 tsp orange zest to add some different notes.
Note: This recipe is based on 3 eggs weighing 150g. If your eggs weigh less or more, adapt your other ingredient measurements accordingly.
3 large eggs (150g)
150g unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tsp flaky sea salt, such as Fleur de sel or Maldon
150g All-purpose Flour, sifted
Whipped Cream (about 3 cups, whipped, for the whole cake)
About 2 cups of fresh berries (strawberries, raspberries and blackberries), washed and hulled.
Pre-heat your oven to 350°F (180°C).
Melt the butter in a saucepan and set aside to cool.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until foamy and lighter in color. Whisk in the cool melted butter. Switch to a spoon or spatula, and mix in the flour and salt.
In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until firm. Add a spoonful of the egg whites to the batter and mix to loosen the consistency. Add the rest of the egg whites and gently fold in with a spatula.
Transfer the batter to the prepare pan and bake for about 1 hour, until golden and knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool for 10 minutes. Remove the cake from the pan and let cool to room temperature completely, before serving.
Just before serving, top the cake with whipped cream and decorate with fresh berries.
If you try this Breton Pound Cake (Quatre-Quarts) with berries and whipped cream recipe let me know! Leave a comment or share a photo using #pardonyourfrench on Instagram. Bon Appétit!