Lesson 3 & 4: Cake et OFII

Posted on: June 30, 2010

Week two began with a lesson on simple cakes.  We learned different methods of incorporating butter to make three different types: madeleines, cake aux fruits, and week-end.  To the delight and dismay of everyone, during the practical we made madeleines (delight) and fruit cake (dismay).  Most students (the sane ones) would have much preferred taking home two loaves of the more tedious lemon glazed week-end, but unfortunately we ended up with 250 grams worth of disgusting candied bits of jellied fruit embedded in rum drenched cake.  One of my cakes found a good home with my friend’s boyfriend who likes cake aux fruits (really?), and the other “somehow” found its way to the trash (surprise!).  I did eat some of it, carefully picking out the neon nibs of toxic waste, but it turned out to be too much work for too little pleasure.  Fruit cake is actually more work and complicated to make than it seems.  It requires creamed butter, alternating additions of eggs and flour, and enough beating to make elastic.  I under mixed, which is why my cake didn’t rise and flattened at the top.  Over beating is probably worse, as it causes the cake to be tough, but it’s also not great to under mix as it doesn’t develop the gluten enough.  During the demo the chef flamboyantly decorated five different fruit cakes with an assortment of dried fruit and spices, but ours were more humble with just a sprinkling of powdered sugar.

Madeleines are easier to make and mine were a success.  A little too generous with the amount of batter in each mold, but a nice golden brown.  Simply mix melted butter with all the other ingredients and voilà, madeleines are done. What makes a madeleine unique is its shape: ridged like a seashell with a nice rump in the back.  Supposedly, the hump is key to its success.  Personally, I think looks weird.  An art history professor once told me that the cake was named after L’église de la Madeleine in the 8th district because the ridges were reminiscent of the columns that surround the entire circumference of the building, however I’ve never been able to find anything written anywhere else. I’m always intrigued by the genealogy of different foods.

Although I knew what madeleines were prior to making them for class, I was surprised to find that they tasted and felt nothing like the ones I’ve been eating all my life.  I always thought madeleines were small, heavily dense and moist cakes, similar to a financier.  However, these were light, slightly sweet, and spongy in texture.  I haven’t been able to make a comparison with Le Cordon Bleu’s madeleine with any of the patisseries in Paris, but maybe outside of France madeleines are being butchered into something else?  I’ll do a bit more field study and get back to you on that one.

Unfortunately for me, I had to miss lesson 4 because I had a mandatory medical exam with OFII, Office Francais de l’Immigration et de l’Intégration.  If you’ve ever had to obtain a visa for France, it is the most ridiculously complicated and illogical process I’ve ever encountered.  A real pain in the butt, however, this medical exam was the last step to finalizing my visa, so now I can’t be deported (which sort of happened with me and New York).

I don’t think I missed out on too much as my classmates told me we made gateau basque and diplomate pudding.  I have no idea what either of them looks like or tastes like.  I should probably try making them at home with the notes I copied, but I don’t have an oven and I’m not sure if we’ll be tested on it…hmm.  Dilemma.  However, first and foremost, I should probably find out what these things taste like to begin with!  More field study!


  • Doreen

    Wow amazing work. I can tell you are having fun! :D Haha I can’t wait for my cakes (next unit) to begin too. Currently at basic breads, just done with tarte, pate a choux and pate feuilletee! So you can speak French? I wouldn’t be able to understand what the chefs are saying if I attended the LCB in Paris!

    Hope to see more updates :P Take care!

  • Grace

    Jessica – congrats on getting the visa! Your teacher’s fruit cakes are really beautiful and I’m glad you’re having a lot of fun in Paris. Can’t wait to read about more of your adventures!

  • Swee San

    wow, I did my course in Sydney’s campus.. looking at this reminds me of those missed times.. sweet :)

  • Trendsetters

    wow….oh you re super blessed to be going to Le Cordon Bleu in Paris….great creations….lovely

  • Denise

    Hey Jessicca good job on the Madelines! They look fabulous. I am in LCB Orlando. We just finished cakes and are now going into Chocolates. Paris seems like it is zee best (:

  • babycakes

    madeleines are my fave.. but i dont know which i like better jess… spongey or cakey? -_- its weird cuz i loved them from what i ate all my life which was cakey…. so spongey madeleines were def bizarre. still yumsersssssss tho.
    he seriously went all out in those cake aux fruits decorations…. theyre trying to make up for the horrid taste.

  • Shelley

    Your post is bringing back memories! I did Accelerated Basic Patisserie at LCB last summer. I thought the madeleines were tasty but I didn’t care for the fruit cake.

  • Twinkle

    Wow, I had no idea you could under mix a cake batter. Baking cakes seem more complicated now! All the cakes and the madeleines look great =)

  • Kyle

    I took the short course on sauces last Nov. and loved it. A student in the breadmaking short course gave me a sugary, buttery coffee cake style cake that was delicious! My friends and I fought over it. But we missed the name and never got the recipe. Anyone heard of it? I think it was something like “Quinn Almond”? Thx.

  • Jessica

    Kyle- I think what you’re talking about is Kouing Aman! That was actually one of my favorite pastries from demo. We didn’t get to make it, but it’s made with croissant dough.

  • Kyle

    Jessica, thanks so much. This is it! I hope it turns out well. Many, many thanks.

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