French

Dorie Greenspan's Tarte Tropézienne

October 20, 2014

All week long, the lovely Dorie Greenspan is serving as a Guest Editor here at Food52, sharing recipes and stories from her latest book, Baking Chez Moi. We're also giving away a copy each day! Because we want to give the gift of Dorie.

Today: A glamorous cake with a glamorous story, straight from St. Tropez.

Shop the Story

The Tarte Tropézienne is easy to describe, the cult surrounding it less so. Pierre Hermé introduced me to it more than twenty years ago, and he told me it was mythique. I’m sure I nodded, but I know that I hadn’t a clue what he meant or really how mythic the cake truly was. I didn’t get an inkling until I went to Saint-Tropez, where the streets are lined with pastry shops, and each one has a Trop.

The story goes that a bread baker, Alexandre Mika, had a shop in Saint-Tropez and that he made this cake using a recipe that he brought with him from his native Poland. But it wasn’t until 1955, when a film crew set up across from the shop, that the dessert became the “it” cake. The crew included a bunch of then-unknowns: the actors Jean-Louis Trintignant and Curd Jürgens; first-time director Roger Vadim; and starlet Brigitte Bardot. When Mika started making meals for them, the cake became the most requested item on the menu. It was so beloved that Bardot is said to have advised Mika that he should have a special name for it and that’s when it was christened “La Tarte Tropézienne.”

The cake itself is an egg- and butter-rich brioche dough, rolled into a freeform round, washed with egg, and speckled with pearl sugar -- the original was probably made with crushed sugar cubes (still an option) -- and baked. Once cooled, it’s split like a layer cake and filled with a combination of creams: in some cases, buttercream, pastry cream and heavy cream. Here, I opt for thick vanilla pastry cream lightened with a little whipped cream. I’ve seen Tropéziennes flavored with rum (my favorite), kirsch (regionally incorrect, but delicious), and, most commonly and most authentically, orange-flower water. These days, the Trop can be found studded with berries or filled with chocolate, and every shop in the beautiful Riviera town has a picture of Bardot.

Tarte Tropézienne

Makes 12 servings

For the cake:

2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/3 cup (80 milliliters) warm whole milk (see yeast package for exact temperature)
2 cups (272 grams) all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 teaspoons dark rum or kirsch (optional)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
7 tablespoons (3 1/2 ounces; 99 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature

For the filling:

1 1/2 cups (360 milliliters) whole milk
4 large egg yolks
1/3 cup (67 grams) sugar
1/4 cup (32 grams) cornstarch
Pinch of fine sea salt
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract, or 1 tablespoon orange-flower water plus 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons; 3 ounces; 85 grams) unsalted butter, cut into bits, at room temperature
1/4 cup (60 milliliters) very cold heavy cream
1 large egg, for glazing
Pearl sugar or crushed sugar cubes, for finishing

 

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

Photo by Alan Richardson

We're giving away a copy of Baking Chez Moi every day this week! To win today's copy, tell us in the comments: If you were a cake, what kind of cake would you be? We'll choose winners this Friday, October 24th. (U.S. entrants only, please!)

Update: Andrew DickinsonsummersavoryCari Garcia, and Jazmin Lui are our winners! We hope you enjoy your copies of Baking Chez Moi

 

 

 

 

 

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210 Comments

Carol July 14, 2016
I'd like to be an almond cake with lots of powdered sugar and candied almonds.
 
Susan S. February 10, 2015
I would be a raspberry torte!
 
Pam December 1, 2014
I would definitely be the glamorous "La Torte TRopezienne". I love it's story and French flair and of course it is so delectable. And it's Briget Bardot's favorite.<br />Pam
 
Amy October 31, 2014
Red Velvet
 
Judie October 26, 2014
I would be a delicious coffee cake to be enjoyed on a relaxing morning with a hot cup of coffee, good conversation, good friends and lotsa love. <3
 
Sue K. October 25, 2014
A Boston Cream Pie...cool, creamy vanilla custard between layers of buttery cake with just the right amount of chocolate glaze as a counterpoint. Texture, flavors, contrast...the perfect bite.
 
Sunne W. October 25, 2014
I would be a moist devil's food cake with a sour cream chocolate gooey frosting.
 
Mukta V. October 25, 2014
I would be a Tiramisu Cake because my whole family loves it.
 
Mike S. October 24, 2014
I can't lie. I'd be the moistest, stickiest Sticky Toffee Date Cake, and I'd be covered in a bourbon glaze.
 
Samantha M. October 24, 2014
coconut cake with lemon filling!
 
Sauertea October 24, 2014
or Laurie Colwin's gingerbread
 
Sauertea October 24, 2014
devils food with chocolate frosting, banana cake with brown butter frosting or boston cream pie. I had a hard time choosing, so I narrowed it down to three.
 
crazyasitsounds October 24, 2014
Carrot, obviously!
 
gmdevenney October 24, 2014
Tres leches
 
hobbit2nd October 23, 2014
Brown butter pumpkin layer cake
 
Dawn |. October 23, 2014
What kind of cake would I be? I think that would depend on my mood. I could be a chocolate cake with salted dark chocolate frosting one day, a lemon cake with lemon curd filling and lemon buttercream the next. And if I win Dorie's new book, maybe I'll just be an entire bakery, so I never have to choose just one cake! ;)
 
sabrina October 23, 2014
I LOVE Dorie, her stand at the Essex Market (where I have stopped by to say hi at times, and for some jammers), and all of her cookbooks..so excited to get this new one! As far as cake goes, I would probably be a chocolate stout bundt, with a drizzled ganache frosting....moist, rich, and impossibly rich. Almost sinfully so!
 
BeachGirl October 23, 2014
I would be the Italian Mascarpone Torte at Pastiche in Providence, RI. There is not a more decadent, delicious cake!
 
Sandy October 23, 2014
I would be a carrot cake, but not with your typical cream cheese icing. My mom used to make one with lemon glaze. It was made for me on my birthday growing up. I don't have the ability to make it, it's very time consuming and labor intensive, I can't stand on my feet long enough any longer. I long for one so much sometimes and they cost a fortune to buy even small ones.
 
illicafe October 23, 2014
My honey loves peaches and if I could be a cake, I would be his favorite, my blueberry peach, pie-cake. The vanilla cake shell perfectly contains and compliments the beautiful and juicy fruit. Add a little whipped creme fraiche to offset the sweetness of the fruit and you have the perfect summer dessert...and my honey's heart!