Cake in Other Places: France - No. 156
A new series! My 5 questions for Aleksandra Crapanzano, author of a new cookbook all about French cake.
I’m thrilled to announce a new series for paid subscribers about cake in other places. This is an idea that came to me walking off calories from baking and eating so much cake! And it fits with what I want to write about in this space. I want to step out of my world to see how others bake. First up is France. What better place to begin, right?
WE ASSOCIATE FRANCE WITH detailed, triumphant confections that appear not humanly possible to create. We plan trips to Paris just so we can look into the windows of Pierre Herme and other pâtisseries and drool. We sign up for cooking classes to bake French. But, honestly, do the French even bake cake at home what with all the pastry at their doorsteps?
It just so happened that Aleksandra Crapanzano, who has written a dessert column for the Wall Street Journal for nearly a dozen years, and who grew up in Paris and New York City, could help me answer that question. Her new book, Gateau, is just out, and it offers 150 recipes for French cakes, from fancy to everyday.
During the pandemic, Aleksandra’s editor told her not to write about anything too expensive or difficult. With all the uncertainty, people were craving simple. So she set out to simplify French cake.
At the same time, she wanted to write about all the cakes of France, the ancient ones and the ones from memory as a girl growing up in Paris as well as the ones she had baked more recently in her New York kitchen with French friends. Aleksandra’s mother, Jane Kramer, was a European correspondent for The New Yorker, based in Paris, so that’s why her family moved there. And it’s where Aleksandra learned that French schoolchildren make yogurt cakes using the jars that yogurt comes in to help them measure. But I’m jumping ahead of the story. Let me back up and ask Aleksandra some questions and then share her simply fabulous recipe for yogurt cake.