Make Ahead

Magical French Potato Cake

November 19, 2013
3 Ratings
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

In a Paris bistro, my husband and I ate the most amazing potato cake EVER. I asked questions, the waiter said "creme fraiche", and showed me a refrigerator with pie plates full of potatoes, weighted down by pans with cans in them. I experimented, and created the closest thing I could to that magical potato cake. The trick here is the homemade creme fraiche and pressing time with the heavy cans. It makes all the difference to this dish.
I make my own creme fraiche (easy) so I can infuse it with garlic. —Leith Devine

What You'll Need
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons buttermilk
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed but clove intact
  • 6 potatoes (I use yukon gold)
  • 1 1/2 cups creme fraiche, garlic infused (see above)
  • 6 ounces gruyere cheese
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme (or 1 1/2 tsp dried)
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 cup heavy cream or 1/2 and 1/2, optional
  1. To make Garlic Creme Fraiche, put two cups of heavy cream into a pan on on the stove and add the crushed garlic clove. Cook over very low heat until cream is just warmed. Remove garlic clove. Cool cream and put into a clean jar. Add buttermilk and stir until combined. Leave on your counter for 12-24 hours until creme is thick, then cover and refrigerate for 7-10 days.
  2. Peel potatoes and slice thinly, approximately 1/8 inch. A mandolin is very helpful. In a buttered pie plate or casserole dish, arrange slices until the bottom of the plate is covered. Spread 1-2 TB of creme fraiche over potatoes. Finely grate 1-2 oz gruyere (or emmenthaler) cheese and 1/2 TB thyme and sprinkle over the creme fraiche. Season with sea salt and white pepper (no pesky black spots when you use white pepper!)
  3. Repeat process once more until you finish the last layer of potatoes. Cover the potatoes with plastic wrap. On top of the plastic, place a pan or a heavy dish and add cans to weigh the potatoes down. Refrigerate for 6-12 hours.
  4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Remove cans and weights. Cover the potatoes with 3/4 to 1 cup of creme fraiche. You could add 1/2 to 1 cup heavy cream or 1/2 and 1/2 to the creme fraiche to reduce the richness of the dish. Sprinkle with the remainder of the thyme and grated gruyere cheese.
  5. Put in the oven for 20-30 minutes - be careful not to let the dish burn. The creme fraiche will make a delicious brown crust around the edges.
  6. After 30 minutes, reduce heat to 350 degrees and cover pie pan with foil. Cook another 30 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Carefully remove foil and let the potato pie cool until it can be cut into wedges.
  7. I have cooked this and refrigerated it, heated it until warm, then cut it into wedges. It's even more "cakelike". It's an ideal do-ahead recipe, great for the holidays. Use the pan size you want and adjust the ingredient amounts accordingly.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • GwenS
  • zoemetro uk
    zoemetro uk
  • LeBec Fin
    LeBec Fin
  • Leith Devine
    Leith Devine
  • Jeannine Doyle
    Jeannine Doyle

29 Reviews

GwenS June 27, 2017
Many thanks for your quick response and well wishes! Will let you know how it all turned out. Promise.
GwenS June 27, 2017
Looking forward to the end results, as I will make it for a dinner party, to celebrate Canada Day! Any suggestions on reheating would be appreciated.
Temp, length and cover or not!
Leith D. June 27, 2017
I think I reheated it in the oven covered with foil on at 325-350 degrees until it was hot again. Good luck with your dinner party, and Happy Canada Day!
zoemetro U. May 12, 2017
Dear Ms. Devine, I made this for my son's 13th bithday last night and it was Divine. I followed your recipe exactly and the result had him hummming while he chewed. THANK YOU. As well, it was an adventure to make creme fraiche for the first time. Your recipes are always spot on.
Leith D. May 12, 2017
Wow, that's high praise indeed! I'm so glad your son enjoyed it...I definitely use cooking as another way to show my family how much I care too. The creme fraiche is so easy once you do it...try a little in soft scrambled eggs, it's the best.
LeBec F. February 23, 2016
i'm so glad you entered this; it is so worthy of pride!
Leith D. February 23, 2016
Thanks! I really love it.
LeBec F. December 4, 2015
leith, what i esp. like about this dish is that you worked so hard to develop it!
sometimes people enter recipes that are just a few hairs away from the original, but you took minimal pointers and developed a delicious dish that approximates one that was memorable for you. Congrats!
Leith D. December 22, 2015
Thank you so much! I appreciate the compliment :)
marymary November 17, 2015
This looks soooo good. I'll be making this for Christmas Dinner and some crème fraiche tonight. I didn't realize it was so easy. Thank you!
Leith D. November 17, 2015
It's so much easier and cheaper to make creme fraiche than people think! Now that I make it fairly often, I've found it's great in scrambled eggs and adds extra creaminess and tang to soups, especially vegetable ones like butternut squash or peas. I hope you enjoy the potato dish.
Leith D. December 29, 2013
I'm so glad it was a hit Jeannine!
Jeannine D. December 27, 2013
My Magic French Potato cake was great!!!! I made a lot (feeding 10). I took to a friend's house on Christmas Eve and really expected some leftovers. Nope! All Gone. Thank you Leith for a great recipe!
Leith D. December 23, 2013
Also don't worry about using too much creme can adjust the pan size, but too much creme fraiche is never a bad thing!
Leith D. December 23, 2013
Jeannine it lasts about a week in the refrigerator. You leave it out on the counter for 12-24 hours. Sometimes it takes longer in the winter to thicken up. I put extra in the refrigerator.
Jeannine D. December 23, 2013
Thx, Mancan, I'm going with it. What could hurt?
MenCanCook December 23, 2013
Let us know how it wor4ks, Jeannine... I can't imagine it'll be anything but superb!
Jeannine D. December 23, 2013
Does it matter if you let sit in the fridge for 24 hrs before cooking?
MenCanCook December 23, 2013
The recipe calls for refrigerating it for up to 12 hours... In my experience, more than 12 hours [24] isn't going to hurt it at all...better than less than 6! But, I'd ask Leith to see if there's a limit. Cheers, and Merry Christmas
Leith D. December 8, 2013
Thanks so much for the comment! I'm glad you enjoyed family always does.
MenCanCook December 8, 2013
Glad I got to test this one!
Leith Devine has hit it out of the park with this one! Easy to make. Great taste, especially with homemade crème fraîche. Wonderful consistency and presentation. Smooth and creamy vegetable dish! Her recipe says it serves 4, but the 2 of us ate the whole thing! Would give this 5 stars, if asked.
Similar to its French cousin, Pommes Anna, but more like 'cake'...
Leith D. December 5, 2013
Good's really great.
Muse December 5, 2013
This looks SO good...will have to buy some buttermilk to start my creme fraiche. Glad you can make it in advance. Thank you for sharing your recipe!
Leith D. November 24, 2013
Good luck Regine! I hope you like the results. There are a great few recipes I've adapted that use creme fraiche in case you have leftovers or make more. I'll post those too.
Regine November 23, 2013
My creme fraiche is now in refrigerator after 18 hrs outside. It only started getting thick after 12 hrs when i woke up and saw it had not thickened much, probably due to my cold house. Then i moved it to a warmer place and it thickened up. Wow, it looks even thicker after a few hrs in fridge. Can't wait to make the potato cake tomorrow or monday.
ChefJune October 23, 2015
In the winter sometimes creme fraiche takes a day and a half or so to set up. Depends upon how cold it is in your kitchen / and how drafty.
Leith D. October 23, 2015
Chef June, that's a great point. If it's setting up slowly, move it to a warmer area in your kitchen/house. That will help give you delicious creme fraiche in no time.
Regine November 19, 2013
Yummy. I must try this recipe too. I love the idea of making my own creme fraiche. Who knows, I may do this for thanksgiving because it not only sounds delicious but can also be prepared in advance.
Leith D. November 19, 2013
Thanks! It's really good....with turkey, beef, chicken etc. I had to buy buttermilk to make the first batch of creme fraiche, so I make another batch when I use up the one in the frig. Enjoy.