French Cake Salé: the Savory Cake Recipe

Easy to prepare, the savory cake is usually served as an appetizer during a French apéro. They are easy to cook in advance and freeze, and can even serve as breakfast. Get top tips on how to serve a cake salé (savory cake), the drinks that compliment, and much more.
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This might be a bit confusing, but the French word for “cake” is actually gateau. The dish in France that is called cake salé is not actually sweet at all. It is a savory cake, with salé being the French word for “salty”.

You might be asking yourself, can you have a cake that is salty? Yes, and actually it is delicious. It is an appetizer and normally served during a French apéro, although they make a quick and easy breakfast as well.

They tend to be quite popular with young and hip Parisians getting together at someone’s apartment on a weekend evening after a long week at work, since they are easy to make in advance and serve.

The savory cake looks like a traditional cake cut into slices and guests are expected to pick it up with their hands and eat it like finger food. This type of meal is called the apéro dinatoire, where little plates or bowls are held by the guests and eaten while standing and chatting.

It became famous with anglophones when Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex had a stand-up lunch at their wedding. (No word on if they had savory cakes at their wedding, but it has been known to show up at the vin d’honneur at French weddings.)

The cakes are also great for breakfast, if you are looking to get away from boring ol’ cereal. They can be prepared in advance and frozen in slices, so you can easily grab a piece before going to work or for an after-school snack.

☞ READ MORE: ABC of French Cuisine (the Food Dictionary)

Typical Ingredients

Just like the sweet version of a cake, a savory cake comes in many varieties. One of the most common type is bacon lardons, gruyère cheese, and olives, but you can do vegetarian flavors too like spinach and parmesan as well. Other interesting variations are:

  • Smoked Salmon, avocado, and tomato confit
  • Roquefort and cauliflower
  • Dried tomatoes
  • Fig and goat cheese
  • Spinach and feta

You can combine all sorts of interesting ingredients and test it out. The base ingredients of flour, eggs, cheese, and milk remain the same, so you can easily test out the other ingredients in the same proportions as the recipe below.

For the cheese, the ones that work well most of the time are hard cheeses such as gruyère, parmesan, or emmental. Goat cheese also works really well for that extra note of flavor.

If you are having a party, you can prepare 2-3 different types for your guests. You can also prepare it in a muffin size tray like French egg muffins (oeufs au four), which are a very popular breakfast alternative.

Frequently Asked Questions

What to serve with it?

cutlery

As I mentioned earlier, savory cakes are meant to be an appetizer, so the recipe I’ve outlined below is for 8 people to eat in small quantities. Alternatively, each portion can also be eaten for breakfast, with a juice; tea or coffee.

Nonetheless, it can also be served as a main dish to a family of 4, perhaps combining with a salad, crudites, or a soup. For dinner, another interesting option is to combine it with other apéro combinations such as a charcuterie platter of smoked hams, cheese board, and baguette.

What drinks to serve with it?

wine bottle

In terms of drinks, a light sparkling white wine or champagne goes quite well. You can also try one of the other apéritifs common in France. You could also try a rosé or a light red.

Can you freeze a Savory Cake?

Yes, savory cakes do quite well in the freezer. Let it cool, and a quick tip is to cut the slices before you freeze it so that you can then just reheat the portion you want, for example, if you are having them for breakfast.

freezer

To prevent the cake salé from drying out in the freezer, wrap each slice in film paper before putting it in a ziplock bag. This is the same principle used for bread or brioches. If you do intend to freeze the savory cake for breakfasts, you could also bake it in cupcake trays for easy access and portion sizes.

If you intend to just keep it overnight (i.e. preparing it the day before a party, you don’t need to put it in the fridge. You can just leave it on the countertop at room temperature. If you do intend to put it in the fridge, wrap it in tin foil, and pop it in the oven to reheat at 180C (350F).

Savory cake

Savory Cake Recipe

Yield: 8
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour

A savory "cake" recipe that is usually served with an apéritif during an apéro (happy hour). It can also be prepared in advance and frozen, in order to be served at breakfast.

Ingredients

Base Ingredients

  • 1 cup of flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 3/4 cup of grated cheese
  • 1/2 cup of milk 
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil
  • 1 sachet (1/2 tablespoon) of baking powder
  • pinch of salt and pepper

Substitutable Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup of bacons lardons or chopped ham
  • 1/4 cup of pitless sliced olives

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C (350F).
  2. Mix the milk and eggs using a mixer.
  3. Add flour, salt, pepper, and baking powder and mix it all together into a smooth and creamy texture.
  4. If you are using bacon lardons, cook them for 7-10 minutes in a fry pan.
  5. Stir in the chopped ham, olives, cheese, and olive oil to the mixture.
  6. Grease the deep dish baking tray with some olive oil or butter, so that the cake does not stick.
  7. Transfer the mixture to a deep dish baking tray and put in the oven for 45 minutes at 180C (350F) until the top is lightly browned.
  8. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.

Notes

If you would like to try other ingredients in the savory cake, you can substitute other ingredients like:

  • Smoked Salmon, avocado, and tomato confit
  • Roquefort and cauliflower
  • Dried tomatoes
  • Fig and goat cheese
  • Spinach and feta

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 271Total Fat: 18gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 12gCholesterol: 117mgSodium: 626mgCarbohydrates: 15gFiber: 1gSugar: 0gProtein: 12g

Note: We are not certified nutritionists and these estimates are approximate. Each individual’s dietary needs and restrictions are unique to the individual. You are ultimately responsible for all decisions pertaining to your health. This website is written and produced for informational purposes only.

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If you enjoyed that, check out our other classic French appetizers that are easy to prepare here. Bon appétit and à bientôt !

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French savory cake pin for pinterest

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French Cake Salé: the Savory Cake Recipe

This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. anne allen

    This looks good for a wine tasting. What size baking pan is this?

    1. Nassie

      Yes definitely! I’m not sure of the exact size, I think around 10 inches long loaf pan? I’ve baked it in square cake pans as well, works just as well.

  2. Darlene

    Are the olives green or black olives?

    1. Nassie

      Hi Darlene, whichever you prefer! I like black, but green is good as well 🙂

  3. Kathryn

    How long is this likely to keep if kept at room temperature?/ how far in advance can it be baked?

    1. Nassie

      Hi Kathryn, it keeps quite well, same as a regular cake 🙂 I’ve definitely kept it for a few days on the countertop. I’d say a week is fine (although in our house, it doesn’t usually last a week with everyone snacking.)

  4. JT

    Thanks for sharing the recipe. The ingredients list “baking soda” but the instruction says “baking powder.” Which one is correct?

    1. Nassie

      Oops, sorry for the confusion! I was translating from the french “levure chimique”, which was written on the packet. It is baking powder.

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