Remembering Martine…the chocolate cake of my French maman

I’ve been meaning to write a post about this and reading “For Ginnie” at inspired me to do it today. Martine was my French Maman. She was my mentor. She taught me how to cook and over 20 years ago, she taught me how to make this chocolate cake in her tiny, red kitchen….out of which the most amazing meals were made for a family of seven and assorted friends. I met her when I was recently graduated from college and wandering the streets of Paris. She took me in, gave me shelter, gave me French lessons and taught me how to cook so I could get a job as an au pair. I had to learn fast! I had a job offer to cook four nights a week for a widower and his two children and I was to start in two weeks. I had no idea what I was doing! Martine had me follow her around her kitchen for two weeks and I would write everything down and help her prepare all the meals. She taught me so many basics and what a typical French meal looked like, how to do the courses and what to serve, how a certain sauce could work for several dishes. I eventually discovered a talent for cooking and a passion for it. The meals for the family went well and when I made mistakes, like the time I forgot the bouillon in the French Onion Soup and they asked, “oh, is this an American specialty?” I just said, “yes!” To this day, I can’t believe I made four course meals for their guests! Where did I get the chutzpah? Hilarious. I bought french cookbooks, continued to get recipes from Martine, my mother, friends and just kept on cooking as though I’d been doing it for years. When I met my husband he became the lucky guinee pig for my attempts at duck a l’orange, blanquette de veau and one of my all time favorite things I made back then, a chocolate & pear tarte. I had a lot of time on my hands back then….enough to do that kind of Julie & Julia cooking. I had a Martha Stewart book and that Christmas I made a wreath out of gold spray painted bay leaves and all my friends received these elaborate baskets full of homemade breads and cookies all wrapped in fabulous cellophane. Who was that girl?! I got the call from Martine’s daughter in the spring of ’97. Martine was gone. We never thought the cancer would take her. It was such a devastating loss for her family as she was the very heart of the family. For me, as I said, she was my French Maman and there isn’t a day that goes by, even now, that I don’t think of her. I keep this photo of her on my mirror in my room….she’s sitting among her flowers at her beloved Ile d’Yeu vacation house. I strive to be like her even still. She had a peaceful calm about her, she was smart, she loved music and art and her neighborhood in Paris. Most of all she loved her family. I have made this cake a hundred times for people far and wide and the reaction is always big. I remember making it for a group of friends years ago and one friend exclaiming as he took his first bite, “CHOC-late LOVE!!” Followed by others’ nodding in agreement, “yes, that’s exactly what it is…chocolate love!!” So we’ve called it that over the years. I’ve called it “gateau chocolat classique” and a french friend said recently, “mais non! It’s a “fondant!” But every single time I make this cake, I think of Martine. I miss her still. You’re still with me, Martine, and I think we should call the cake “La Martine”!

200 gr. Chocolate

200 gr. Butter

200 gr. Sugar

Melt slowly in a double boiler

Off flame, add  4 eggs one at a time, mixing quickly after each

Add 5 tablespoons of flour

Add 5 tablespoons of milk

Mix vigorously until smooth

Pour into a buttered and floured cake pan, a springform pan or simply  a white, ceramic cake/tarte dish which it can be served from.

Bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Cake is done when toothpick inserted in center comes out with chocolate on it but not dripping. This gives that velvety, “fondant” center.

For frosting, melt a few oz. of semisweet chocolate in the double boiler with a small espresso size cup of espresso. (If you don’t want to use coffee, you can substitute water or fleur d’oranger) Off flame, add about 5 slices of cold butter and whip. Pour over cake and let spill over sides. Serve with vanilla ice cream, whip cream or a crème anglaise.

Bon appétit!

La Martine aka Chocolate Love


About Alisa

I'm a woman in "the middle place" living in a town we call "Mayberry". I'm a wife, mother, daughter, sister, cousin, aunt, friend, cancer survivor.....taking care of my family and my people the best I can, living a life of quiet dignity as loudly as I can.
This entry was posted in baking, friendship, loss, memories and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Remembering Martine…the chocolate cake of my French maman

  1. Tyla says:

    Beautiful! I’m so jealous of these amazing experiences you had with Martine, and I can’t wait to try the cake. Thanks so very much for sharing the link with me.

  2. melanie says:

    lovely story alisa.

    i can’t believe i haven’t heard it before — therein lies the beauty of what you are undertaking with your daily blog.

    love it and looking forward to hearing much, much more!

    bless martine and your loving memory of her!

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