Quatre Quarts Gateau

77 Comments

My mother, who just turned 91, has a scale that I used to love playing with as a child. I knew it wasn’t a toy, but I just liked weighing random items and gradually adding weights until both plates balanced perfectly. I was always nerdy.

Weighing ingredients makes so much more sense than measuring to me. I’d rather weight 4 ounces of chopped nuts, than use a measuring cup, especially with a critical ingredient.

In any case, the reason I mention this ancient scale (sorry Mom!) is because this cake recipe is based on one weight alone – the weight of eggs. There are four ingredients in this cake – eggs, butter, sugar, and flour, and the weight is the same for all four ingredients. The recipe is called Quatre Quarts, meaning four quarters.

These days, digital scales make weighing ingredients a breeze. So I’m making this cake using my small kitchen scale, just like in the “old” days! It brought back wonderful memories of my mother making the cake over the years.

Quatre Quarts Gateau

4 eggs
Unsalted Butter
Sugar
Flour
1/2 teaspoon vanilla powder, optional

Preheat the oven to 350 F.   Butter and flour a deep 8 inch loaf pan. 

Weigh the eggs in a small bowl after you’ve removed the weight of the bowl. My eggs weighed 192 grams, or about 6.7 ounces.


Then weigh out the 192 grams of butter, sugar and flour.

Melt the butter in a sauce pan or microwave (carefully).   When it begins to melt, remove it from the heat and let it cool. 

Using an electric hand mixer, beat the eggs and sugar for 5 minutes in a medium mixing bowl.

Add the flour and mix just until it’s incorporated. I also added some vanilla powder.

Then add the cooled butter. Using a rubber spatula, make sure the batter is smooth.

Pour the mixture into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 10 minutes. Reduce the oven to 300 degrees F and the timer to 45 minutes.

Turn off the oven completely and set a timer for 10 minutes.

The cake should be cooked through the middle; I always use a cake tester to make sure. But if you see a puddle of soft cake in the middle, don’t even bother opening your oven to test the cake. It needs more time.

There should be some slight browning around the edges, but not much. Remove the cake from the oven and let sit for 15 minutes. Then remove the cake from the loaf pan and let it cool on a rack.

You can tell the cake texture is much like a pound cake. If you prefer a lighter texture, separate the eggs and after the egg yolks have been well blended with the sugar and butter and after the flour is combined, fold in beaten egg whites.

Note: There are other options for flavoring other than vanilla extract or powder or even scraped vanilla beans. You can use an extract like sweet orange oil or lemon zest. But I wouldn’t add a liqueur or anything volume of something liquid that will offset the ratio of the ingredients.

This cake is very delicate in flavor. I’ve never toasted it but I bet that would be good, with some added butter of course.

It’s perfect for an afternoon tea-time snack, a morning treat with coffee, or even an sweet evening nibble with a glass of sherry.

77 thoughts on “Quatre Quarts Gateau

  1. Oh, this looks amazing, Mimi! I love the story about the scale, too. I have a digital scale in my kitchen that I use all the time, but seeing the old school version is pretty awesome. Almost as awesome as this cake, haha! I’m not familiar with a Quatre Quarts cake, but it looks similar to pound cake…and I love a good pound cake. Thanks for sharing this one!!

    • It’s very similar, nothing fancy. I also like it with the egg whites whipped. I don’t know what I’d do without my scale!

  2. Dear Mimi, you bring the memories back of my grandmother : she used to make exactly that kind of cakes and this one is such a perfect occasion to do it ! Thank you so much !

  3. I love this. It’s that kind of recipe that you’ll commit to memory. And that scale! Granted, the new ones are more practical, but I love that you still have it. It’s beautiful and has memories attached to it, rather than something purely decorative.

    • Thanks! Yeah, there’s no way one could forget this recipe! It’s so easy. I do love my digital kitchen scale, tho. What a brilliant invention!

    • This is the second time I’ve seen white port mentioned. I’ve never had it! Too bad Amazon doesn’t sell it.

    • It’s so simple, and you know I’m not a baker! I do also like this cake with the egg whites whipped and folded in.

  4. Sometimes I weigh, sometimes I measure, and sometimes I just toss things together willy-nilly! This is one I will weigh! Can’t wait to try this, Mimi!

  5. I always bake with a scale, so this recipe is perfect. Thank you, Mimi! I’m going to make this for a dinner party we’re going to next weekend. Can’t wait to taste it!

  6. I love this recipe and will try it. (Might not be quite the same/as good b/c I’ll try it with GF flour so my son can have some.) And I really LOVE that scale – SO cool! I like baking with a scale, too.

  7. I have only been weighing my ingredients for a few short years now, and I can’t believe I went my entire life without even knowing that to be an option! It’s a wonderful freedom to find that accuracy. This looks delicious, Mimi, and I’m sure to bake it.

    • I’m glad you discovered weighing. It still bothers me to see something like “1/2 cup of olives” in an ingredient list, even though they’re probably not going to affect the outcome. But still…

  8. A cake like your Quatre Quarts Gateau is my favorite way to enjoy Strawberries. What a wonderful scale and fine heirloom. I’m a big time scale guy. I weigh most everything I can. I just find it more accurate especially when baking. Thanks for sharing the recipe and scale story.

    • Thanks, Ron. Especially in baking, yes, but still, some ingredients should be listed more precisely, I feel. Even if they wouldn’t negatively affect the overall result. I’ve always fumed at “1/2 cup walnuts.” Just a pet peeve I guess!

  9. Congratulations to your mother on just turning 91 Mimi. That’s a great age! Aren’t the old recipes the best ones? This quatre quarts cake looks lovely. I’d enjoy my slice(s) with my morning coffee and with strawberry jam on please!

  10. I always like weighing ingredients. Trying to work out the weight of 6 tablespoons of butter is a nightmare for me. I love your old set of scales and just think of all the wonderful food your Mother has weighed out in her years. Congratulations to your Mum for reaching such a wonderful age. You are a lucky girl to still have her around.
    I will enjoy making your pound cake and will think of your Mother making it over the years.
    Nice to have memories. :)

  11. I love your mom’s scale – what a treasure even though I would not have room to display it in my kitchen. I have an old fashioned Salter scale that I have fun weighing ingredients on. I can remember as a young child getting a microscope and loved looking at all kinds of things, but enlarged. Gadgets are just fun and I still (like you) enjoy using them.

    • They truly are fun! And it’s funny that you mentioned a microscope, because as a professional geologist I actually studied minerals by using various electron microscopes! So maybe we’re both nerdy!

  12. My friend, Valerie, and I were just talking about making this on Friday and then “wham bam,” you created it first! Way to go! We will definitely be making yours in the future – she has 9 chickens = too many eggs :-)

    • Thank you. Yes, a very simple cake. I actually prefer it with the egg whites whipped. It’s just a little lighter, which I like better!

  13. I couldn’t agree with you more Mimi….I prefer weighing all the ingredients over cup measurements.
    I simply adore this cake…it looks just like a recipe that I have been looking for…you see I LOVE pound cake and when I get off this low carb eating program (supporting my husband) I am definitely going to make this one. Fabulous!!!

    • My husband is the same way, which is so funny to me because he has about 4% body fat. I am the one who should be watching my carbs, and I do to an extent. But I certainly make exceptions. An girlfriend of mine died recently at 61, and she had always enjoyed life fully – a lesson to all of us. Not to get morbid, but I’m not going to ever deny myself pasta because of the carbs!

  14. What a beautiful old scale. I can see why it fascinated a young person. I, too, keep some old kitchen and dinner ware, of my grandmother’s, that are really precious to me. And as for the recipe, it sounds like the kind of thing that should be part of my regular rotation. I could enjoy that with coffee for breakfast on a daily basis!

    • Thank you Frank! I really was a nerd, in any case. I was a scientist in my “previous” life before retirement, looking at rocks with microscopes! The good thing about this cake is that you’ll never forget the recipe!

  15. I’m totally with you, Mimi! I think weighing ingredients (especially when baking) is the way to go! So much easier! Lovely cake, and sounds de-lic-ious!

  16. I’m absolutely fascinated by that scale! I can see why you would’ve loved playing with it as a kid – I’d love playing with it as a adult! I also love your cake. I read a recipe in an old James Beard cookbook about historic American cooking that had recipes like this in terms of relative measurements, but your cake method is far superior to those.

    • Interesting. James Beard knew his stuff. He was pretty fascinating. Just on the cusp, a little before Julia Child, but still he did his thing. I need to learn more about him. I think he was one of the chefs who penned cookbooks for the Time Life series of Foods of the World. And he also said they were too much in a hurry…

  17. I’ve always loved the name of this recipe ever since I first saw it as a boy in France. I actually think the name “pound cake” refers to the same: 1 pound each or flour, eggs, butter, and sugar. This is the first time I see it without baking powder (or flour and baking powder already mixed, called self-raising flour). You do a great job of not browning it too much, which will also dry out the cake. Interesting fact, in Italian this is called “plum cake”.

  18. It sounds perfect, Mimi, one of those cakes where the simplicity of the ingredients lets he flavours speak for themselves. I’m with you on the cups v scales argument. On some recipes I don’t mind if someone says a handful of this or a pinch of that, but with baking, precision is so important. As for white port (because I agree with Conor too) if I ever come back to the States I will bring you a bottle! Assuming I could ever get it through Customs, of course. Have a very happy Easter. Linda x

    • Thanks, Linda. Precision is certainly key with baking, which is why I typically don’t bake. But I think it also shows a lacking on the part of a recipe author when they list, say… 1/2 cup almonds or 1/2 cup olives. Are they whole? What variety are they? Are they chopped? How finely are they chopped or sliced? Makes me crazy. I’ll be waiting for that port…

  19. i love those scales mimi. so gorgeous. and i agree – i much prefer weighing ingredients to get an accurate measurement. cups and spoons are so ridiculously unreliable:-) cheers sherry

  20. We use our scale ALL THE TIME! In fact i just made coffee using it (I weigh both the water and the coffee beans to get the right ratio). Anyway, great cake. Haven’t had this for ages and ages — and so good, I need to make it again. Yours looks terrific. Thanks!

    • Oh wow! Now that’s very precise! Never thought about it for coffee. I love scales anyway. I used to work in a laboratory back when I was a geologist. I’ve always loved weighing stuff!

  21. What a beautiful cake! I think I would like it just as is, not lighter and I can almost taste it with that jam!! How fun to see the old scale and of course, hearing about your wonderful Mom!

    • Thanks! I’m not a huge cake eater, even this one, but I’ll always be able to remember the recipe!

      • I’m not a big cake eater, either….I could see this lightly grilled and drizzled with a lime or other citrus syrup, though! Or just as is with berries and cream.

  22. Hmm – I thought I left a reply but it has vanished into the ‘blog-ether’! What I wanted to say was thank you…. Madeira cake is something I never tire of, and something I often crave. This looks perfect 💛

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