Thursday, February 4, 2010

Olives, Ham and Cheese Savory Pound Cake

You are all familiar with traditional French dishes: Quiche Lorraine, Boeuf Bourguignon, soufflés au fromage, and now Gougères, etc. The reason is that they are offered in the US with some/or no variations. One dishI have not encountered a lot (if any) here, although there are very common in France, are Cake salés (savory pound cakes).
We use the English word "cake" in French to describe a loaf-shape pound cake traditionally made with eggs, flour, sugar,and fruits. The most common ones are the Cake aux Fruits Confits (candied fruits pound cake) and Cake au Citron (lemon pound cake). More sweet versions have been added : cake au chocolat, cake aux amandes et fruits rouges (almonds and berries pound cake), etc.... More interestingly, savory versions appeared in the mid-eighties.. and stayed. A Cake Salé is generally made in the Summer to bring along to a pique-nique or to eat as an entree for lunch/dinner along a big salade. French people love them and I was surprised that with the American tradition of eggs-for-breakfast and brunch, I had not seen many Cake Salés in the US.

I personally love them (but prefer the Gougères even if they have little in common beyond eggs, cheese and flour!!) but had almost forgotten about them (I have been in the US too long, I am forgetting my French dishes!!!). I was cleaning one of my bookshelf the other day and found a cooking book on cakes! I immediately wanted one. I therefore made the most common one: Cake aux olives et au jambon. My children liked this savory cake and I packed a slice for my daughter's school lunch the following day. My husband took two extra slices for his lunch (always a good sign!!)

The following recipe is, I think, the easiest one to introduce to your children. I have other (read : fancier) recipes on hand that I will bake and share with you one day... For now, if you are looking for something new to make for your family or if you are hosting brunch or a party soon, this might be another option to consider. You'll get closer to real French food! Bon Appétit!


- 1 slice (1/2 inch thick) of ham to cut it into dices.
- 1 cup of pitted green (or black) olives (see note).
- 4 eggs
- 1 Tb of Herbes de Provence or Fresh thyme
- 1 2/3 cup (200 gr) all purpose flour
- 1 ts of baking powder
- 1/2 ts baking soda
- 1/4 cup (5 cl) Olive oil
- 1/2 cup (10 cl) beer
- 1 cup (75 gr) of Swiss cheese or Comte (Shredded)
- a pinch of Chili Pepper (optional)
- Salt and pepper

  • Preheat oven to 330 F (165 C)
  • In a bowl, whisk the eggs together
  • Add flour, baking powder and baking soda and mix well
  • Pour in olive oil and beer and stir until the dough is smooth
  • Add  Herbes de Provence/thyme, chili pepper, ham dices, olives, cheese and mix well.
  • Add salt and pepper to taste
  • Butter a loaf pan (or used a non-stick one!)
  • Put in a rectangular loaf pan (9 x 5)
  • Bake for 45 minutes. A knife should come up clean.
  • Cool on a rack before serving but I like it a little bit warm.
My Personal Comments:
  • You can used canned olives but make sure that they have some flavor. I have been very disappointed with some store-brand canned olives that have no flavor.
  • Other recipes call for white wine or even heavy cream for the batter. I have to explore and I will get back to you whether I like them or not... but I figure, Americans always have beer available, don't they?
  • I like to add a few drops of chili hot sauce when I eat it.


  1. I have never heard of these. It reminds me of a Venezeulan christmas bread that I like to make but this is quicker because there is no yeast. I have bookmarked to try

  2. This one is the best. I have tried pound cakes with different flavours but the olive, ham and cheese one is the best. I always mix green and black olives.