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Breton Butter Cake

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Sunday Dinners comes to us from our own chef/photojournalist/farmer/father figure Tom Hirschfeld, featuring his stunning photography and Indiana farmhouse family meals.

Today: Tom goes gluten-free on a favorite old shortbread, with no regrets.

This morning little Lynnie keeps telling, "No," yelling and pointing in excitement at the cake I made for last night's Sunday dinner. She is telling me she wants it for her birthday. The heels on the last three slices of the cake have been nibbled. Last night she kept slipping her little hand in and under the wrap so she could pinch and sneak little pieces off. The edges now look like we have a mouse in the house, and I finally had to move the cake to higher ground.

We had guest last night for dinner and while making dessert yesterday I recalled making a promise this year to make more desserts. I haven't been. So I started thinking about this commitment while making this cake. I figured I need to sort out my likes and dislikes. Set some parameters and set myself up for success.


Most of the time I don't want anything sweet. I am not a big sweets person. When I do a simple, small piece of dark chocolate usually suffices. I don't want anything overly sweet.  

Not only that, but as with many chefs I have a certain disdain for making desserts. It’s not that I don’t like to make them but that these grumblings occur because I usually wait till everything else is done before I think to make something. It is like opening the dishwasher to to put in dirties only to find you haven’t yet put up the clean ones. I have no explanation for this other than I think it comes with the toque. It's why the gods made pastry chefs.


The idea of a dessert that holds the potential of a coffee or tea break snack but can double as an after-dinner treat always appeals to me. I am always out to kill two birds with one stone.

I have made this cake multiple times but I haven't made it since I became gluten-free, so I figured now would be as good a time as any. Knowing the kind of cake it is -- a very buttery shortbread -- I figured it would make the conversion without suffering. It did. In all honesty I think I like it better gluten-free. The rice flour really gives it a quintessential butter cake texture in a shortbread way.


There are technical things I like about it too, or maybe I should say, the lack of technical things. It is a put-all-the-ingredients-into-a-bowl, mix, dump and bake affair. Not a lot of extras to clean up.

It holds well too. It is on day three, still on the sheet tray, covered with plastic wrap and pieces keep disappearing.

It is a cake of no regrets and, if this afternoon I do have any, they are gone by the time I have finished my last delicious bite and sip the last sip of coffee from the cup. Again, two birds with one stone.

Breton Butter Cake

Makes 12 pieces

600 grams King Arthur all-purpose gluten-free flour, or 4 cups all-purpose flour
30 grams corn starch (1/4 cup)
395 grams sugar (2 cups)
448 grams salted butter, yes salted, soft (4 sticks)
140 grams egg yolk, (7 yolks)
22 grams rum (2 tablespoons)
1 egg yolk mixed with one tablespoon of milk

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by Tom Hirschfeld

Tags: Breton, cake, butter cake, French, dessert, gluten free, coffee, tom hirschfeld, bona fide farm food, special diets

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