Savoury French Cake Salé recipe you can MacGyver out of Anything

Here’s the low down about salty cake, a popular French appetizer you can make out of almost anything including leftovers. I’ve also included the base recipe and some ideas to inspire your next creation. 

Cake salé: The Basics about savoury French cake!

savoury cake served as an aperitif during apéro hour

How to pronounce cake salé

Cake Salé, is pronounced /Cake Sah-Lay/ and not “cake sale.” The acute accent over the “É” changes the way the letter “e” is pronounced exactly like in my last name “André”.

The literal translation for cake salé is “salty cake,” but idiomatically, it’s the equivalent of saying “savoury cake” in English. 

What is a French savoury cake, “Cake Salé”?

top view of savoury French cake salé with bottle of olive oi, sundried tomatoes and crème fraiche

Cake salé is not a dessert cake.

It’s a savoury French loaf cake recipe made with a variety of herbs, spices and savoury filling ingredients.

Once you know how to make the base recipe for the batter, you can MacGyver it into hundreds of different recipes. It’s easily converted to a vegan savoury cake or savoury muffins.

The Batter for salty cake

The batter for savoury French cake or cake salé is similar to making a sweet cake but with salty and savoury ingredients (not sweet), such as olives, ham, bacon bits, grated cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, etc. 

The cake batter is then poured into a long rectangular loaf pan, and baked in the oven. 

It’s sometimes referred to as a “Savoury Loaf Cake” or “Savoury Quick bread” in the English-speaking world. 

This simple and versatile French dish is a mainstay in France for picnics and as an appetizer but it’s also great as a main dish accompanied by a salad and a glass of wine. 

In France it often makes an appearance with pre-dinner drinks during French apero get-togethers because it’s easy to make at home, delicious, and can be eaten warm or at room temperature. 

It’s often sold premade in the freezer or refrigerator section of French grocery stores. Below is a photo of cake salé at a French supermarket in the freezer section marketed as Cake aperitif (chèvre tomate) tomato and goat cheese.

cake salé at French supermarket freezer section marketed as Cake aperitif

Why is it called cake salé in French?

If you speak a little French, you know that the French word for cake is “Gateaux ” So shouldn’t it be called “gateaux salé” in French?

Yes and no. 

The word “Cake” is a borrowed word in the French language (middle English from the Norse word “Kaka).

In French, the term “CAKE” has more to do with its loaf pan shape than the ingredients.

Anything called a “cake” in French cooking means it’s probably rectangular-shaped because it was cooked in a rectangular bread pan or loaf pan (Moule à cake or Moule à pain).

This isn’t unusual in the world of cooking. There are quite a few dishes named after the cooking vessel in which they are cooked or shape of the food. 

For example:

  • Tagine” is both a Morrocan stew and the name of the North African earthenware pot in which it’s cooked.
  • Terrine” or “pâté en terrine” is a type of French charcuterie moulded in a dish called a terrine.
  • A “casserole” generally refers to anything cooked in a casserole dish, the French word for a deep pan. 
  • loaf cake” is a cake made in a rectangular pan. 

What’s the difference between gateau salé and cake salé?

A “Gateaux salé,” which literally means “salty cake,” is also a savoury cake but it can be any shape: round, square, triangle or a rectangle like a cake salé. And there are plenty of recipes out there to prove it.

Just remember gateaux salé can be any shape and cake salé is a type of gateau salé that is always rectangular in shape.  

If this sounds confusing, imagine how confusing the term “crab cake” is to a French person. It’s not a cake, nor is it rectangular in shape. In French Crab cake is called a “Galette de Crabe”.

Remember how I said in the cooking world, many dishes can be named after their shape? 

Well, a Galette is an example of a dish taking on the name of its shape. In French cooking “galette” is a term attached to many foods that have a round flat shape, whether it be a hamburger patty, king cake, tortilla or savoury crepes

Savoury Muffins: Muffin salé and Mug cake salé

muffin salé: savoury cake salé muffins

If you were to take the same cake salé recipe and pour the batter into a cupcake pan, or muffin tray, the result would be savoury muffins called “muffin salé ” but I’ve heard the term “mini cake salé” also used in French.

And if you poured the savoury french cake batter into a mug and threw it in the microwave then you would have a savoury mug cake called a “mug cake salé”.

What Are The Ingredients In A French Cake Salé?

baking ingredients on a table: eggs, flour, milk and oil

One of the best things about salty French cake is that you only need to know how to make the basic cake salé recipe batter using simple ingredients you probably already have in your kitchen pantry.

Once you’ve made the basic cake salé batter, you can jazz it up by mixing whatever you want into the cake mix. I mean absolutely anything.

From sundried tomatoes, feta and olives to chorizo, dates, and goat cheese. The combination of recipes using meat, vegetables, cheese, and herbs are endless.

Base Cake Salé ingredients

  • 1) Flour
  • 2) Baking powder
  • 3) Salt & black pepper
  • 4) Eggs
  • 5) Milk
  • 6) Oil:  (some recipes call for butter.)
  • 7) Cheese. Optional but cheese is often one of the ingredients in a savoury French cake recipe. 

Vegetarian and Vegan cake salé

If you’re a vegetarian, you can easily make a vegetarian cake salé by simply not adding any meat to the batter. 

And if you’re vegan, it’s easy to convert the basic cake salé recipe into a vegan cake salé by replacing the dairy products with vegan options.

Vegan milk replacement options for cake salé:

  • soy milk
  • nut milk such as almond milk
  • coconut milk
  • rice milk

Possible egg replacements for vegan cake salé include:

As for the eggs, some French vegan cake salé recipes use an egg replacement others don’t.

  •  Chickpea flour
  • Aquafaba (liquid from a can of white beans or chickpeas whisked for about 1 minute until it’s a little foamy.)
  • Store-bought egg replacers

FILLING IDEAS

Once you have your base cake salé batter which will look a lot like pancake batter, it’s time to start adding whatever fillings you like.

You don’t even need a recipe. You can MacGyver a unique recipe out of whatever you have in your fridge and pantry but recipes are nice to have for inspiration. 

Cake salé is excellent for using up leftovers

Because you can put whatever you want into your savoury french cake recipe, it’s a great way to use up any leftovers loitering in your refrigerator.

Need to finish half that onion and bell pepper or leftover ham? Chop it up and throw it in your cake salé batter. 

Obviously, this list is far from exhaustive, but here is a picklist of ingredients which you can combine in a number of ways to come up with very unique cake salé recipes.

  • Cheese: Feta cheese, Goat cheese, Parmesan cheese, Mozerella, Comté, Gruyere, Blue cheese, Cheddar cheese etc. 
  • Herbs: Thyme, basil, oregano, rosemary, dill, chives, herbs de Provence, etc.
  • Spices: Curry, peppers, Sriracha, jalapeno, Mexican spices etc. 
  • Seeds: Pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, pistachio, pine nuts, etc. 
  • Vegetables: Zucchini, sundried tomatoes, bell peppers, peas, spinach, spring onion, garlic etc. 
  • Meat: Ham, chicken, sausage, Salmon, Shrimp etc. 

What Are Some Common French Savoury Cake Recipes?

There are literally hundreds of different French savoury cake recipes you can make but here are some popular recipes. 

French Cake salé recipe ideas ( with meat or fish)

Vegetarian Cake Salé Filling Ideas

If you’re looking for vegetarian options, here are a few ideas. 

  • Gruyere, white wine and thyme
  • Mushroom, parsley and Comté cheese
  • Sun-dried tomatoes and pesto
  • Feta and spinach
  • Bell Pepper and ricotta
  • Olive and feta
  • Pumpkin, goat cheese and olives
  • Goat cheese, tomatoes and basil
  • Tomato,  mozzarella, fresh basil and olives

Vegan Cake Salé Filling Ideas

  • Tomato and zucchini
  • Just olives (green and black)
  • Olives and garlic
  • Tomato, basil and olives
  • Ratatouille (eggplants, dried tomatoes, onions, bell peppers & zucchini)

On to the basic recipe now.

BASE Cake Salé Recipe

Ham and cheese cake Sale slice: Savoury loafe cake aka Savoury french cake salé

Savoury French Cake Salé (Base Recipe)

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

This is the base recipe for French cake salé often eaten with an apéritif in France.
Add any ingredients you want to the batter like chopped ham, grated cheese, and onions.

You can convert it to a vegan cake salé by replacing the milk, eggs and cheese with vegan options. You can also make savoury muffins with this recipe.

Ingredients

For Cake Salé Batter

  • Flour- 1.5 cups (200 grams)
  • Baking powder: 2 tsp (one 10 oz packet levure chimique)
  • Eggs- 3
  • Oil (olive oil, sunflower, peanut oil, butter etc.): 1/4 cup (60 ml) (6cl)
  • Milk: 1/2 cup (120 ml) (12cl)
  • Dash of salt and pepper

CHEESE (Choose any type you like)

  • 3.5 to 5 oz (100 g to 150 g) any cheese
  • Gruyère
  • Parmesan
  • Cheddar
  • Goat
  • Feta
  • Mozzarella
  • Blue
  • etc.

FILLINGS (Choose any ingredients you like)

  • ANY CHOPPED MEAT: Ham, bacon bits, sausages, salmon etc.
  • Onions, Garlic
  • HERBS: Thyme, basil, oregano, rosemary, dill, chives etc.
  • CHOPPED VEGETABLES:: Bell peppers, Zucchini, Olives, Sundried tomatoes, Peas, etc.
  • SPICES: Curry, pepper, Sriracha, jalapeno etc.

Instructions

  • STEP 1: Preheated oven to 350°F (180 °C)

BATTER

  • STEP 2: In a large bowl, mix dry ingredients: flour and baking powder
  • STEP 3: Add oil and eggs and mix until absorbed by the dry ingredients.
  • STEP 4: Add milk to the batter and mix until the dough is smooth like pancake batter.
  • STEP 5: Add a pinch of salt & pepper to the mixture.

CONGRATULATIONS! Your base cake salé batter is ready for your fillings.

FILLINGS & INGREDIENTS YOU CAN ADD

Time to add cheese, herbs, spices and other ingredients of your choosing.

  • STEP 6: (optional) add any cheese to your cake salé batter and mix.
  • STEP 7: Add any chopped ingredients you want now and gently fold into the dough mixture: (ham, olives, garbanzo beans, zucchini etc. (see recipe idea section).
  • STEP 8: Pour cake salé batter into a cake pan (or muffin pan).
  • STEP 9: Bake for 40 to 45 minutes on the bottom oven rack of the oven to prevent the top of the cake from drying out.

Notes

  • You'll know your savoury French cake salé is ready when you insert a toothpick and it comes out clean.
  • Serve warm, or at room temperature.
  • I've included a video of the whole process below for a ham and cheese recipe.

NOTE* nutritional information listed below is for the base recipe without cheese and fillings.

Nutrition Information
Yield 8 Serving Size 1
Amount Per Serving Calories 154Total Fat 8.5gSaturated Fat 1.6gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 2gCholesterol 63mgSodium 179mgCarbohydrates 20gFiber 0.7gSugar 1gSugar Alcohols .9gProtein 10g

Disclaimer: Nutrition information provided for recipes on are estimate and for guidance only. I am not a dietician or nutritionist. It is the responsibility of the reader to review all listed recipe ingredients to ensure that none of the ingredients may cause a potential adverse reaction

Photo of Annie André: www.AnnieAndre.com

Annie André

About the author 

I’m A Bilingual North American With Thai And French Canadian Roots Who's Been Living In The South Of France For Over 10 Years. I Love Writing Weird, Wonderful, Interesting, Forgotten, And Fascinating Articles For Intellectually Curious People Amazed By France, French Culture, And World Travel.

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