‘Let them eat cake’ revisited

Food & Cooking, France

It’s almost the end of the month and I haven’t yet revisited a post from our years in France. Becky introduced her readers to Flashback Friday. That’ll do me. Especially in the week of the Great British Bake-off final.

‘LET THEM EAT CAKE’ 27th November 2012

Back in the UK, I hear everyone’s gone baking mad, that the entire nation was glued to its screens to watch the final of  ‘The Great British Bake-off’.  Here in France, it’s the one branch of cookery in which the average French person will allow the average Brit some supremacy.

The French are rightly proud of their high-end patisserie, the delectable tarts and gâteaux which traditionally come to the table at the end of a family celebration or Sunday lunch: from the baker’s naturally, no shame in that.

More day-to-day baking is a different matter, however.  Plainish cakes, loaf-shaped and known in France as ‘cake’, are a big disappointment, especially if they’re from the supermarket.  I find them over-dry, over-sugared, too strongly flavoured with something, such as vanilla, that should be a subtle undertone.  I never thought I’d find myself saying this, but even cakes available in any old British supermarket can be quite a treat in comparison.

McVitie’s Jamaican ginger cake, for example, dark and sticky, is just the thing with a hot cuppa after a brisk country walk in winter: it even has its own website.  And while I’m not sure that Mr. Kipling makes exceedingly good cakes, they’re – well – not too bad.

No wonder then, that when we run our cookery workshops at Découvertes Terres Lointaines, and announce that we’ll be turning our hands to British tea-time treats, the group is immediately oversubscribed .  Scones, coffee and walnut cake and a nice of cup of tea anyone?

Supermarket scene in France

58 thoughts on “‘Let them eat cake’ revisited

    1. Annoyingly, I had tried to correct this immediately after publication but I can’t seem to get it to ‘take’ – I’ll try again later . Off out now.

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  1. I used to bake cakes and biscuits all the time when my children were at home. Not now though. Occasionally I will buy a cake from a farm shop. Never from a supermarket. And you can’t beat a good Yorkshire parkin.

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    1. Oh yes. You can’t have November without parkin. And once children have left home, how can two would-be healthy adults scoff a whole cake down?

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      1. I’ve just read our Tier 3 regulations and found this:
        Avoid travelling to other parts of the UK, and under no circumstances go for a walk with anyone named Margaret. If walking in Yorkshire, under no circumstances should Kendal Mint Cake be consumed.

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  2. I love how Bake-Off has captivated people all over the world, and was mightily displeased to find our telly companies aren’t showing it any more ☹️ Definitely not a fan of supermarket cakes, and to be honest, even the high-end specialist cake shops that have sprung up seem to be all about elaborate icing and pretty average cake.

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    1. Oh, supermarket cakes are Not Worth Getting Fat For. But they’re better than French ones, which is saying something. Here, cup cakes in cake shops still seem to be a thing. Inches-thick mounds of icing. .. shudder. I presume NZ abandoned Bake-Off when Bake-Off abandoned the BBC?

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  3. It’s not really a cake, but one supermarket confection I recall from my times in the UK is Bakewell tart. Under a sort of marbled icing it was almond-flavoured sweet stodge, but somehow moreish. I have always meant to try making one, but decades later I still have not got around to it!

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