01 July 2009

Lenôtre Desserts and Pastries

Earlier this year Gaston Lenôtre died. He trained many chefs including one of our favorites, Michel Richard, who said of his mentor, “When you’ve been at Lenôtre, it’s like a drug. You’ve been injected with his recipes that you have to carry your whole life.”

In 1932, at age 12, Gaston Lenôtre made his first dessert. To use the old cliché, the rest is history….

The next four years, he apprenticed in his native Normandy. At 16, Lenôtre went to Paris and spent another 4 years honing his trade. He returned to Normandy and in 1957 he moved his family to Paris, opening one shop after another.

Books written by pastry chefs are often tedious affairs. The instructions bog down for even the most advanced cook. While many of Lenôtre’s recipes are for classic desserts, many of them quite advanced, he gives the cook enough information and instruction to pull them off. In fact, he gave the recipes to his daughter and asked her to try cooking them from his recipes. She seemed to get through.

I chose a simple cake recipe for you to try. It is Uncle Tom’s cake. I am pretty sure it is Lenôtre’s Uncle Tom and not Harriet Beecher Stowe’s.

Uncle Tom’s Cake

For two cakes:

3 1/2 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
5 eggs, separated
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 1/2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar

for the decoration

Confectioners’ sugar

Preheat oven to 400 F

Butter the pans and place a paper disk at the bottom of each one. Dust the sides of the pans with flour so the cakes will turn out easily.
Melt the chocolate in a double boiler.
Beat the egg yolks with the sugar until the mixture forms a pale ribbon; then, still beating, add the melted butter. Beat the egg whites until very stiff, adding 1 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar halfway through.
Pour the yolk-sugar mixture over the warm chocolate, stirring vigorously. Then gently fold the flour and cornstarch into the chocolate. Using the spatula, fold the chocolate mixture into the egg whites, working quickly but carefully. The batter must be baked immediately.

Pour the batter into the pans; they should be no more than 3/4 full. Bake at 400 F oven for 1 minute, then lower the heat to 350 F and bake for 50 minutes more, keeping the door ajar with a spoon.
Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool. While still warm, turn out and place the paper doilies on top of them. Sprinkle the cakes with confectioners’ sugar, then remove the doilies and serve.

I like a recipe that makes 2 cakes, that way you can give one to your Uncle Tom and keep one for yourself.


  1. Hello. You don't mention what size the cake pans are supposed to be. thx

  2. Bonnie, So sorry for this long delay. I could not find this book anywhere> Have been searching for months and then as they say, "if it had been a snake, it would have bite me."

    You need two 8 inch by 1 1/2 inch round pans.

    Again, sorry for the delay.... Lucinda


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