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Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle Roof Visit (Paris Day Trips)

I promised you this taster of the Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle Roof Visit. It’s a fabulous way to discover this royal town’s history which breathes around the Château and boasts a rooftop view over the River Seine to Paris.

As Paris visitors flock further west to the Palace of Versailles – also in les Yvelines – this visit will uncover the importance of Saint-Germain-en-Laye with the Kings of France before the court moved to Versailles in 1682. Birthplace of Louis XIV and also the composer, Claude Debussy, you will find that Saint-Germain has had a few surprising culinary births too.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle Roof Visit

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle Roof Visit

Following on from this introduction to Saint-Germain-en-Laye as part of my series of easy-to-do day trips from Paris, guided visits on the castle roof run between May and end September, and are easily reserved in advance (see all practical details at the end of this post).  Although visits are only in French, English can be organised in advance if done in a group.

In the meantime, before your visit, let me whet your appetite as a Scottish-French local and guide you on your own DIY tour.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle Roof Visit

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle

There were two castles: the current pentagon-shaped Château Vieux and the Château Neuf . The latter newer castle was built under Henri II, finished by Henri IV and dismantled under Louis XVI and his brother, future Charles X. It’s one of the rare castles dismantled before the French Revolution, with the bricks and stone recycled by the Saint-Germanois.

Today, the Château Vieux now houses the National Archaeological Museum. A model in the museum gives us an idea of both castles’ grandeur, terraces and gardens which, at the time, cascaded all the way down to the Seine (now the town of Le Pecq).

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle Rooftop visit

The layout of both castles in Saint-Germain-en-Laye (apologies for the unavoidable reflections on the glass case)

Today the castle’s inner courtyard is one of the Renaissance’s most beautiful.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle Roof Visit

A visit on the castle’s rooftop is pretty special, showing off a panorama of the Seine Valley – including a skyline view of Paris to La Défense and Sacré Coeur. Look carefully, and you catch sight of the Eiffel Tower, poking out behind the Mont Valérien.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle Roof Visit

Just by visiting the Castle roof in the space of 30 minutes, we gathered nuggets of delicious history as we walked around the chimneys.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle Roof Visit

The fortified castle originated in 1122, when Louis VI le Gros built on the plateau of Laye. Only the dungeon (the square tower on the left of the museum entrance) retains the original shape, with a Campanile tower stuck to it, much like that of the Louvre in Paris.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle Roof Visit

Louis IX (Saint Louis) completed the castle and by 1238 had a chapel built, the only part of the castle to survive the fire during the Hundred Years’ War from 1337 between Philippe VI Valois and the Black Prince. It was Charles V that re-built the castle by 1367, adjoining the Gothic Chapel.

Saint Louis Chapel

Louis IX’s Gothic Chapel was probably good practise for his Saint Chapelle in Paris built ten years later, constructed on much the same lines.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle Roof Visit

It’s here that the story starts to get deliciously interesting at Saint-Germain-en-Laye, as it’s where François I married la Reine Claude in 1514. Since then, the rosace was filled in, as the banquet hall he added on was right behind it.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle Roof Visit

Each time I walk around the Chapel, I can’t help thinking of greengage plums. What? Plums? Did you know that the Greengage plum is known as Reine Claude in French, named after François I’s Queen as she adored them so much? Speaking of which, have you tried my Spicy Plum Jam? La Reine Claude would have surely approved with it spread on her royal baguette over breakfast with François I.

François I at Saint-Germain-en-Laye

This was François I’s favourite residence. He loved the castle so much, he turned Charles V’s fortress into a Renaissance palace.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle Roof Visit

He is said to have spent 1000 days at Saint-Germain-en-Laye which, considering the sumptuous castles in the Loire Valley and Fontainbleau, is quite something!  François I’s symbols are not difficult to spot on the roof: his crowning initial with the Fleur de Lys carved in stone and flaunted on the imposing chimneys high above the town. Spot also his salamander, especially on the enormous banquet hall chimney inside.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle Roof Visit

Saint-Germain-en-Laye castle roof visit

François I’s son, Henri II continued with more of the building work, including the new castle which was completed under Henri IV. During the reigns of both Henri IV and Louis XIII, the Château Vieux was left to royal children and their household staff.

Louis XIV and Saint-Germain-en-Laye

The Sun King, Louis XIV was born in Saint-Germain’s Château Neuf, 5 September 1638. All that’s left of the “new” castle is the red-bricked Pavillon, now part of the Hotel Henri IV that looks over the Seine to Paris. This hotel boasts a couple of other births from the culinary world: soufflé potatoes and the legendary Béarnaise sauce.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle Roof Visit

I was lucky to see the original birth and baptism papers from the local archives during an enlightening conference of Louis XIV in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, thanks to our local historian, François Boulet. The baptism took place in the St Louis Chapel when Louis (le Dauphin) was 4 years old in the presence of his parents, Louis XIII and Anne of Austria.  It was such a long awaited royal birth that 30,000 bells peeled all around France to celebrate!

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle Visit

Following Louis XIV marriage in 1660, he moved into the Château Vieux, breaking with tradition with the new castle.

From his reign in 1666, Louis XIV spent a staggering quarter of his reign at the castle before eventually moving to his newly embellished Versailles in 1682. In Saint-Germain, it wasn’t merely for hunting but for the Court, where the greater part of his powerful and personal decisions were made. We often just associate Versailles with Louis XIV but we can frequently forget just how important Saint-Germain was for the the Sun King and the court. It’s also where he learned to dance and where Lully performed many of his premières in the giant ballroom.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle Roof Visit

Improvements were made to the castle by Jules Hardouin Mansart and André Le Nôtre designed the French gardens and the vast terrace overlooking the Seine before his other wee gardening job at Versailles.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle Roof Visit

Saint-Germain Pharmacist Treats Royal Headaches with Chocolate

As the longest reigning monarch in France, Louis XIV probably ate extremely well at Saint-Germain-en-Laye. I suspect one of the ingredients to a long and prosperous life was chocolate, introduced to the French court by his mother, Anne of Austria, and his wife, Marie-Therèse who both brought over their chocolate luxuries – in the form of a chocolate drink – from Spain.

Later at  Versailles, it was under Louis XVI that chocolate finally flourished outside of the French court in Paris, thanks to the pharmacist in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, Sulpice Debauve, appointed King’s Physician in 1778 to help cure the Queen Marie-Antoinette’s headaches through chocolate coins or pistoles. More on that later, as this addictive subject merits its own post – but again, Saint-Germain is one of the ingredients!

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle Roof Visit

James VII of Scotland in Exile at Saint-Germain-en-Laye

When Louis XIV and his court permanently moved to Versailles on 20 April 1682, the Sun King ‘lent’ the Château Vieux to his cousin, James VII of Scotland (II of England) while the Stuarts were in exile from Britain during the Glorious Revolution. He stayed here with his family for 13 years until his death in 1701 and is buried in the church across the road from the castle.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle Roof

Many of the Jacobites stayed in Saint-Germain-en-Laye until the French Revolution and finally left in 1793. For a brief summary of the Jacobites, read this great article here. Did you know that Saint-Germain is twinned with Ayr in Scotland?

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle Roof Visit

French Revolution, Wars to Today

During the French Revolution the castle was used as a prison, then a hospital for the treatment of contagious diseases, a cavalry school under Napoleon Bonaparte, barracks then a military prison.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle Visit

Thanks to a visit from Queen Victoria to Saint-Germain-en-Laye in 1855, eager to learn more of its British past with the Stuarts, she urged Napoleon III to save the castle from abandon and so it was restored. In 1862 Napoleon III created the Museum of Celtic & Gallo Roman Antiquities as part of the castle and the following year it was listed as a historical monument. Restoration work was carried out by Eugène Millet, who studied under Viollet-le-Duc (of Notre Dame restoration fame).

The Peace Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye was signed at the castle on 10 September 1919, officially ending WWI with Austria.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle Roof Visit

The Castle was used as Headquarters by the German Army in France during the German Occupation (1940-1944), as was the Château d’Hennemont, which is now the Lycée International. Many German bunkers are reminders throughout Saint-Germain of around 18,000 soldiers occupying the military town. Thankfully, and astonishingly, Saint-Germain wasn’t bombarded by the allies. There are two bunkers right next to the castle in between the hôtel particuliers or mansion houses.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye castle Museum

Today, the castle houses the National Archaeology Museum. It includes the world’s largest collection of prehistoric art, illustrating the life and inventions of men from their origins to the merovingian period. Furniture is replaced by countless exhibition cabinets, showing a fascinating insight into life to the middle ages.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye’s Speciality Cakes

No visit can finish without a taste of the local culinary specialities. Both puffed potatoes or some Sauce Béarnaise, born at the Henri IV hotel’s restaurant, are not the easiest to sample on the street (see the recipe for Sauce Béarnaise here), so I’d recommend popping in to at least two patisseries in particular for their speciality cakes.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle

Teatime in Saint-Germain-en-Laye

Since 1920, the Pâtisserie Hardy has been making Le Gâteau Saint-Germain, of which I’m constantly told that the recipe’s secret has never left their boutique. It’s a sweet tart filled with almond paste with bits of almonds and glazed with a light icing – see my recipe for le Saint-Germain here.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Debussy

Saint-Germain-en-Laye’s chocolate speciality, Le Debussy, was created by the Patisserie Grandin to celebrate the birth of composer, Claude Debussy on the same street on rue au Pain, the oldest street in town (called bread street, as at the time of François I, this was where the bread was baked as there was no oven at the castle.)

Le Debussy is a hazelnut sponge with praline mousse with raisins soaked in rum and coated in dark chocolate. You’ll also find a Saint-Germain cake at Grandin. If you love rum, then it’s guaranteed to satisfy with its boozy glaze!

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle Roof Visit

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle Roof Visit

 

Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle Roof Visit

We loved the compact yet relaxed 30-minute roof tour: simply book on the morning itself directly at the Museum ticket office to ensure your place. Alternatively, book a longer visit by telephone or email in advance, and you’re good to go (precise details below). Note: I may add that I suffer from vertigo but I honestly had no trouble on this Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle Roof Visit.  As groups are small with a guide and another member of museum staff behind us with clear footpaths, it’s very secure. No children under 10 are admitted, however.
So, on a lovely day, jump on the RER A express train line from Paris to Saint-Germain-en-Laye, pop into the ticket office just across the road to book if it’s not done already, then enjoy a walk around. There’s so much to see and do.

What Else to do in Saint-Germain-en-Laye?

I often call Saint-Germain a mini royal Paris, as it’s so beautifully compact for boutiques and there’s plenty to do. I thoroughly recommend wearing good walking shoes as there’s plenty to do:
  • The farmers’ market (Tuesdays, Fridays & Sunday mornings – the latter is the biggest);
  • The quaint boutiques! Even the several cheese shops alone are worth a stop. Check out Foucher’s interior – it’s like stepping back to 1923 when it opened.
  • Walk in the extensive castle grounds (it’s free), including the long terrace built by Le Nôtre overlooking Paris, plus a walk through the beautiful forest (the walks are all well signposted);
  • Have a picnic in the park, or why not do it in style by ordering a gourmet version straight from Monsieur Fine Bouche, who offers €10 off your first order when you use the code, ‘MadAboutMacarons’;
  • Visit the church across from the castle, where James VII Scotland rests;
  • An afternoon visit to the Claude Debussy Museum, recently refurbished at N° 38 rue au Pain (closed Mon/Tues);
  • Maurice Denis Museum – this is currently closed for renovation until 2020;
  • The Fête des Loges in July-August is one of Europe’s biggest fairs. Shuttles run from the RER station.
  • An absolute must? My DIY chocolate & patisserie tour – Patrick Roger, Pascal le Gac (formerly from Maison du Chocolat), Gontran Cherrier, Eric Kayser, to name a few more, plus an ice cream stop at La Fabbrica de Luca, a few doors away from the oldest house in Saint-Germain on rue de la Salle. Have I missed anything?
Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle

Practical Information

SAINT-GERMAIN-EN-LAYE CASTLE ROOF VISIT: Open 2 MAY – 30 SEPTEMBER
2 Types of Visits are possible, organised directly at the Chateau Museum in FRENCH ONLY. For a guided visit in English, advance reservation should be done for a group.
  • Historique du château et visite des toits” (1h weekly visits – 1h30 on weekends Full price each 5€/7€)
    ADVANCE RESERVATIONS ONLY by telephone (01-34 51 65 36) or by email  (Reservation.man@gmx.fr)
  • Promenade sur les toits (Duration: 30 min Wednesdays, Saturdays & Sundays at 2.45pm Full price each €4). Reservations to be made on the day itself, weather permitting, directly at the boutique/ticket office of the Museum.
Musée d’Archéologie nationale – Domaine national de Saint-Germain-en-Laye
Place Charles de Gaulle
78105 Saint-Germain-en-Laye
Billetterie/Ticket Office: Tel 01-39.10.13.22
www.musee-archeologienationale.fr
Jardin des Arts
3 rue Henri IV
78100 Saint-Germain-en-Laye

Getting There from Paris:

Only 20 km west, this makes for an ideal day trip from Paris with a short 30 minute train-ride on the RER A line (red) west (ouest) to the terminus at Saint-Germain-en-Laye.
Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle Roof Visit

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Disclaimer: This post is not sponsored.  As a local, I’m proud to introduce new ideas for your day trips from Paris.

DIY Paris Day Trips Saint Germain

Chocolate Easter Bunny Birthday Cake

It’s perhaps a bit last-minute to post an Easter cake recipe but this one is pretty quick to make. As we also have two birthdays this week, my daughter and I celebrated both together in advance with this Chocolate Easter Bunny Birthday Cake. She then hopped back over the Channel – as a mix of happy and hot cross bunny – to prepare for her first university exams.

Chocolate Easter Bunny Birthday Cake

Julie turns 19. The older she gets, the more she asks for treats she loved when she was little, such as Melting Moments (oat biscuits), fresh strawberries now in season, macarons (surprised?) – and an extra large dark chocolate cake!

Chocolate Easter Bunny Birthday Cake

Easter Bunny Butt Cake – Let’s Say Bottom!

She may be 19 but she’s still my baby so her wee party did look more like a baby shower. Inspired by Easter Bunny Cake images on Pinterest, I loved this ‘Bunny Butt’ version as it’s easy to put together.  To achieve a clean, round mound without even needing to cut off tops – simply bake the cake in a greased glass Pyrex bowl and make 3 smaller cakes in cupcake or muffin moulds for the paws and tail (many sites tell you to use candy floss but I can’t find it here).

All the recipes I found on the internet, however, used a packet mix for both the cake and the topping. Like all my recipes, this is a recipe made from scratch which is still easy but you’ll see why it’s worth making your own.  Why should we bake from scratch? Because we can control the amount (and type) of sugar we use.  Too sweet and you lose the good chocolate flavours.

Chocolate Easter Bunny Birthday Cake Method

How to make a Chocolate Easter Bunny Birthday Cake

Good Quality Dark Chocolate Cake

When it comes to chocolate cake, we’re serious chocoholics. After years of appreciating good chocolat noir – dark, bittersweet French chocolate – it has to be pure and simply our best chocolate cake: moist rather than crumbly with melted intense dark chocolate, good quality unsweetened cocoa powder, plenty of good quality chocolate chips and not too much sugar to let the chocolate’s quality shine through.

Chocolate Easter Bunny Birthday Cake

Reduced Sugar Chocolate Cake

For a white rabbit topping, either use my easy dark chocolate glaze recipe and sprinkle coconut on top, or cream cheese frosting (from this purple carrot cake) – or make this topping using good quality white chocolate, making it a triple chocolate cake.

White chocolate is naturally sweetened so it doesn’t need any extra sugar. If you see recipes adding sugar to white chocolate and butter – DON’T. With some recipes, you could end up throwing in a whopping amount (as much as 250g/9oz!) of totally unnecessary sugar.  Just add a touch of vanilla powder, if you like, for more natural sweetness. The result? The white chocolate buttercream topping on this balances the overall cake’s sweetness.

White chocolate easter bunny cake topping

How to Make Chocolate Easter Bunny Cake Paws

Chocolate Easter Bunny Birthday Cake

Roll out ready-made pink marzipan and cut out these paw shapes using a sharp knife. If you have a piping bag tip, then pressing through paw circles is even easier. Cut the two muffin-sized cakes to form triangular feet, coat with white chocolate buttercream then stick on the marzipan.

Chocolate Easter Bunny Birthday Cake

Chocolate Easter Bunny Birthday Cake

Chocolate easter bunny birthday cake

Chocolate Easter Bunny Birthday Cake

5 from 1 vote
Chocolate Easter Bunny Birthday Cake
Chocolate Easter Bunny Birthday Cake
Prep Time
30 mins
Cook Time
45 mins
Total Time
1 hr 15 mins
 

A triple chocolate bunny cake that's great for Easter, birthdays or baby showers. Dark, bittersweet chocolate cake is topped with reduced sugar white chocolate buttercream and decorated with pink marzipan for the paws and ears. 

Course: Dessert, teatime
Cuisine: British, French
Keyword: Dark chocolate cake recipe, Easter Bunny Cake recipe, Reduced sugar white chocolate buttercream
Servings: 12
Calories: 526 kcal
Author: Jill Colonna
Ingredients
  • 75 g (3oz) dark cooking chocolate at least 60% cocoa (broken into pieces)
  • 225 g (8oz) unsalted butter softened
  • 125 g (4.5oz) brown cane sugar (I use organic cocoa flower sugar)
  • 150 g (5.5oz) plain (all-purpose) flour
  • 75 g (3oz) ground almonds (almond flour) (for a nut-free cake, replace nuts with more plain flour)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt (fleur de sel)
  • 4 medium organic eggs
  • 75 g (3oz) unsweetened cocoa powder (I use Van Houten)
  • 150 ml (5.5 floz) milk semi-skimmed (or full fat)
  • 110 g (4oz) good quality chocolate chips
White Chocolate Buttercream
  • 150 g (5.5oz) good quality white chocolate drops or broken into pieces
  • 135 g (5oz) unsalted butter softened
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla powder or extract (optional)
Decoration
  • 100 g (3.5oz) pink marzipan (for paws & ears)
  • 250 g (9oz) green marzipan (optional)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 180°C/160°C fan/360°F/Gas 4. Grease a large ovenproof glass (Pyrex) bowl and 3 muffin moulds with extra butter.

  2. Melt the cooking chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (bain-marie), ensuring the water doesn't touch the bottom of the bowl. As soon as it starts to melt, take off the heat, stir until completely melted and leave aside to slightly cool.

  3. Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Gradually add the flour, ground almonds, baking powder, salt, melted chocolate, eggs, cocoa powder. When well mixed, add the milk and chocolate chips and combine until smooth.

  4. Pour the mixture into 3 muffin moulds and the large Pyrex bowl.  Bake the smaller cakes for 15 minutes and the large cake for 40-45 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean from the middle of the cake. Set aside to cool then upturn on a cake rack.

White Chocolate Buttercream
  1. Melt the white chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (bain-marie), ensuring the water doesn't touch the bottom of the bowl. As soon as it starts to melt, take off the heat, stir until completely melted and leave aside to cool for 10-15 minutes.

  2. Cream the butter in a stand mixer or using a wooden spoon in a large bowl.  When the chocolate is cooled right down but still liquid, beat in to the butter (both should be the same temperature). Using a spatula, spread on top of the large cake. Chill until ready to serve.  Remove from fridge 30 minutes before serving, to appreciate the chocolate flavours.

Decoration
  1. Using a rolling pin, roll out the pink marzipan to a thin sheet and cut out paw shapes using a sharp knife: 2 ovals and 6 small circles (use a piping tip).

  2. Cut the top off to even one muffin cake for the tail. Cut off the sides of each of the 2 muffins to make a triangular shape for the paws. Spread on the buttercream, plopping one for the tail and place the 2 as paws, sticking on the pink paw-prints.  Optional: roll out the green marzipan into a large circular sheet as a grass-looking base and decorate with edible flowers, Easter eggs and macarons.

Recipe Notes

Jill Colonna

MadAboutMacarons.com

Fancy making this Chocolate Easter Bunny Birthday Cake? Let me know by commenting below or show me your pictures on Facebook or Instagram. Otherwise, pin bunny for later below!

Alternatively, love a lemon cake? Try this gluten-free Almond & Lemon Easter Cake.

Chocolate Easter Bunny Birthday Cake

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Chocolate Ginger Fondant Cake

Who likes the combination of chocolate and ginger? After making a huge batch of chocolate ginger macarons, I had to share this Chocolate Ginger Fondant Cake – a family favourite with a wee kick to it. It’s such a quick and versatile French classic that lends itself to all sorts of delicious flavour alliances.

Chocolate Ginger Fondant Cake

What’s more, it tastes even better next day! So, even although it’s quick to make, prepare this fondant a day before serving and you’re already prepared for tomorrow’s dessert.

French Fondant Classic

There’s nothing really mind-boggling new really. Based on a classic French flourless chocolate cake, a speciality of the Aquitaine region, the ratio is normally the equivalent amount (200g) of good quality dark (bittersweet) chocolate, butter and sugar with 4-5 eggs.

Over the years, however, I’ve lowered the sugar to appreciate the chocolate better – and, ever since I discovered Trish Deseine’s idea of adding just a tablespoon of flour “as an afterthought” (from her wonderful book, Nobody Does it Better), I’ve used this version and cut down the sugar. If you prefer to keep this cake gluten free, then omit the flour (or replace with almond flour).

This is my family’s favourite version with lowered sugar and added candied ginger.

chocolate ginger macaron

Candied Ginger

Have I told you before about the fantastic candied (glacé) ginger we can get in France? The best hails from the market town of Apt in the Luberon (Provence), where it’s the world Capital of Candied Fruits. Apt Union is the address if you’re heading in that direction. Buy by the kilo, as it’s great value for money (incidentally, I see they only deliver in France). If you can’t find it, no worries – use stem ginger in syrup. It tends to be a lot hotter, so thinly slice it and add only as much as you dare! (update: I see you can buy candied ginger from Trader Joe’s, Amazon and Walmart in the USA)

Add candied ginger to chocolate macarons (as I do in the recipe in Mad About Macarons) and it’s the best surprise ever to bite into the middle of a fudgy, fondant macaron.

Back to the fondant cake!

Add That Extra Touch to Chocolate

As with many plain chocolate fondant cakes (including those chocolate coffee individual fondants), I adore melting a teaspoon of coffee granules into the chocolate.  It brings out the earthiness of the chocolate and renders it extra smooth. If you prefer without the coffee, a couple of good pinches of salt (fleur de sel) is just as good, as I use in this recipe.

For spice lovers who want to go the full monty, then add a good pinch of cayenne pepper – you’ll see: bittersweet dark chocolate with cayenne is incredible!

chocolate ginger fondant cake

Adding candied ginger to the bottom of the cake tin – the result is it hides into the chocolate – totally melt-in-the-mouth

Chocolate Ginger Fondant Cake
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
20 mins
Cooling time
20 mins
Total Time
40 mins
 

A deliciously fondant dark, bittersweet fudgy chocolate cake with candied ginger for that extra kick - a French classic which can easily be turned into a gluten-free dessert by replacing the spoonful of flour with almond flour. Best made in advance and served next day at room temperature.

Course: Dessert, teatime
Cuisine: French
Keyword: bittersweet fudgy chocolate cake, chocolate fondant, French chocolate fondant recipe, quick chocolate cake
Servings: 8 people
Calories: 454 kcal
Author: Jill Colonna
Ingredients
  • 200 g (7oz) dark (bittersweet) chocolate No less than 60% cacao
  • 200 g (7oz) unsalted butter cut roughly into cubes
  • 150 g (5.5oz) sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt (fleur de sel) (or tsp coffee granules if making a plain chocolate cake)*
  • 5 organic eggs (medium)
  • 1 tbsp plain (all-purpose) flour if gluten free, replace with almond flour
  • 50 g (2oz) candied ginger (or one stem ginger in syrup, sliced)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 180°C/160°C fan/360°F/Gas 4.
    Grease a round cake tin (25cm/10 inch) and line with cooking parchment.

  2. Over a pot of simmering water, place the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl (bain-marie) and melt the chocolate gently for about 10 minutes.

  3. As soon as the chocolate and butter have melted, take off the heat. Add the sugar and mix together with a spoon, gradually add the eggs and then add the flour, mixing until just combined.

  4. Place the candied ginger at the bottom of the cake tin then pour over the chocolate mixture and bake for 20 minutes.

  5. Remove from the oven (don't worry if it looks uneven, it will flatten out while cooling) and leave to cool for about 20 minutes then turn out of the tin on to a serving plate.

Recipe Notes

Nutritional Information per serving:

454 Calories; 6g protein; 35g Carbohydrates; 32g fat.

Serve with the Chai Tea Crème Anglaise or with a dollop of Drambuie ice cream for a special occasion - or simply on its own.

* add a couple of pinches of cayenne pepper for that extra subtle dynamite.

Jill Colonna

MadAboutMacarons.com

chocolate ginger fondant cake

Serving Suggestions for Chocolate Ginger Fondant Cake

Either serve on its own slightly warmed or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream, Drambuie ice cream or Parisian restaurant style with a classic vanilla Crème Anglaise.

Even better, this Chai Tea Creme Anglaise is the perfect match with just enough warming spice to complement the chocolate ginger fondant cake.

chocolate ginger fondant cake

Have you made any of the recipes from le blog, my books, or fancy making this Chocolate Ginger Fondant Cake?  Please leave a comment below or take a picture and hashtag it #MadAboutMacarons and share it on Instagram or Facebook . Even better, spread the word; tell your friends or family about the website.

THANK YOU so much for sharing the recipes!

chocolate ginger fondant cake

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Teatime in Paris by Jill Colonna

Photo courtesy of Waverley Books

Personal Gifts

Don’t forget that both recipe books, Mad About Macarons and Teatime in Paris (my personal favourite, as it’s macaron recipes plus pastries too), are great gifts. If you grab your copy now, I can send you a personalised label to stick inside either book.

Just let me know by getting in touch privately via this contact form with your address details, what you’d like me to say in particular, and I’ll send it out to you with the warmest of wishes!

Lightest Dark Chocolate Mousse

Trust the French to transform just a few simple yet good quality ingredients into a most elegant dessert. This dark chocolate mousse is also an extremely light chocolate mousse. Unlike many recipes I’ve tried, this one essentially consists of dark chocolate with whipped egg whites. So, it’s a light yet dark French chocolate mousse – without any cream!

It’s not unlike this egg white-based light-as-a-feather white chocolate mousse with orange blossom but this dark chocolate one is decadent for serious chocolate lovers.

Dark chocolate mousse recipe

Just before Julie left recently for her new studies in London, I’d asked what she’d love as her favourite meal together as a special send-off.  It was classic lasagna (it was also a toss-up for this Corsican Cheese and Spinach Lasagne), loads of unpasteurised cheese, followed by this dark chocolate mousse for dessert.

Her list didn’t stop there, though; she added, “and a batch of chocolate, chestnut and cinnamon macarons, please.” with her most beautiful eyes sparkling over a cheesy grin that melted my heart. How can a Mum refuse that?

So, as you can see, her wish was granted – including an extra bonus of unusually warm weather so that dinner was outdoors – and before I could say, “Let’s keep some macarons for teatime tomorrow ….” the whole lot disappeared.  I wasn’t complaining; I’d kept the other box aside, hidden at the back of the fridge! Although, they’ve got used to that trick by now so ended up putting the rest in the freezer.

Incidentally, the recipe for the dark chocolate macarons with chestnut and cinnamon is in my book, Teatime in Paris.

dark chocolate mousse

Classic French Chocolate Mousse Recipe

As you can see from the recipe card below, the recipe is so easy: it’s basically melting (good quality) dark chocolate and unsweetened chocolate powder together over a pan of simmering water, then adding one egg yolk and whipped up egg whites with sugar. Although slightly tweeked with more dark chocolate, less powder and the addition of salt, this is my favourite recipe inspired by Raymond Blanc.

Speaking of Blanc, this recipe uses many egg whites. Only ONE egg yolk is used, so I’d suggest making any of the recipes from the egg yolk recipe database in advance. That way you can put aside plenty of egg whites (I normally store them in a clean jam jar in the fridge for up to 5 days) to make this mousse – and indeed, homemade macarons!

No Cream!

A classic French chocolate mousse like this doesn’t need any cream. The egg whites make this light and fluffy and we can appreciate the good quality of the chocolate.

dark chocolate mousse recipe method

Dark Chocolate Mousse

5 from 2 votes
dark chocolate mousse
Dark Chocolate Mousse
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
10 mins
Chilling Time
1 hr 30 mins
Total Time
30 mins
 

A French classic without any cream: a light and intensely bittersweet dark chocolate mousse for serious chocolate lovers - topped with the most fondant macarons.

Course: Dessert
Cuisine: French
Servings: 4 people
Calories: 133 kcal
Author: Jill Colonna
Ingredients
  • 170 g (6oz) dark (bittersweet) cooking chocolate best at 70% (but no less than 64%)
  • 15 g (0.5oz) unsweetened cocoa powder (I use Van Houten)
  • 290 g (10.5oz) organic egg whites (from approx. 10 eggs)
  • 30 g (1oz) sugar
  • 1 organic egg yolk
  • pinch salt fleur de sel
Instructions
  1. Melt the chocolate and cocoa powder together in a bowl over a pan of simmering water (Bain-marie), taking care not to overcook the chocolate (don't have the water at a rolling boil, just simmering gently). As soon as the chocolate is easy to stir, switch off the heat and stir until smooth, keeping the bowl over the pan to keep warm.

  2. In a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites (using a stand mixer or electric beaters) with the sugar until soft peaks form.

  3. Quickly stir in the egg yolk and half of the fluffy egg whites then fold in the rest of the whites using a spatula, adding the pinch of fleur de sel salt.

  4. Spoon into serving glasses and place in the fridge to chill for about 1.5 hours until ready to serve.

Recipe Notes

Serve with good quality chocolate macarons (see the recipes in both my books) and/or garnish with edible flowers. If you really want the cream, add a dollop of freshly whipped Chantilly cream.

Jill Colonna

MadAboutMacarons.com

dark chocolate mousse

Have you made any of the recipes from le blog, my books, or fancy making this dark chocolate mousse recipe?  Please leave a comment below or take a picture and hashtag it #MadAboutMacarons on Instagram / Facebook, or just tell your friends to join me on le blog! Thanks so much – I love to see you enjoying the recipes!

Wood Cottage like chocolate

As the dark chocolate mousse was chilling nicely in the fridge, we popped along to Wood Cottage in Le Vésinet (just west of Paris, in les Yvelines), for a FREE (!) jazz concert.  How lucky everyone was that day with such glorious weather.

Now classed a historical monument, the 1864 Wood Cottage buildings look remarkably like chocolate, don’t they? I’ll be writing more about Le Vésinet and many other of our lovely local towns just outside Paris soon, so don’t forget to sign up below so you don’t miss any new posts.

dark chocolate macarons

While we’re on the subject of chocolate, stay tuned for the most incredible chocolate shop personality just 5 minutes’ walk from Le Moulin Rouge in Montmartre, à l’Etoile d’Or with Denise Acabo.

French dark chocolate mousse no cream

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Black Sesame Ice Cream

After tasting the most popular Japanese ice creams on our family trip to Japan this summer, our favourite choice was Black Sesame Ice Cream.

One or two spoonfuls of this light yet creamy dark nectar has the same kind of addictive reaction that you’d get from eating a spoonful of slightly salted peanut butter. Yet it’s not peanuts, of course – but who would have thought that black sesame seeds made into ice cream could be this good?

Black Sesame Ice Cream

Melting for Black Sesame ice cream

Japanese Ice Cream

You’ll love the Japanese word for ice cream. It looks complicated at first glance but just say this out loud:
AISUKURÏMU.

I’m not the biggest ice cream fan but when it’s hot, I adore homemade ice cream during a heatwave like it was this summer in Japan – and now, mid September, it’s back to ice cream weather in Paris this week with 29°C/84°F temperatures!

Such a dark grey colour of ice cream perhaps doesn’t look that aesthetic, does it? Neither does my black sesame version look particularly like ice cream as it melted pretty quickly in this heat while I eventually found my camera (I knew something was missing!). Although, personally, this is how I prefer it – do you? In this heat, I’m not going to take more photos.  I ate it all and have no regrets.

Matcha ice cream

Matcha Do About Green Tea Ice Cream

What I didn’t realise when I took this photo, is that the black sesame ice cream hidden underneath would be our favourite. With all the hype on the Matcha flavours, I almost felt embarrassed to prefer the Black Sesame! For more about our ice cream experiences and the sweeter side of Japan, read about it in my sweet treat post, Teatime in Japan.

Black Sesame Ice Cream: Powder or Paste?

Straight after tasting the black sesame ice cream, we headed to the nearest store to find black sesame.  Antoine and the girls were so inspired and determined we had to make this at home!

So I got to it straight away on return to develop a recipe. Here I used a 70g (2.5oz) packet of pre-prepared powdered black sesame seeds (Surigoma Black by Hokuya) which we found in the Matsuya store in Tokyo’s Asakusu district, next to the Senso-ji temple and near the popular gelateria. It worked well, and was even lovelier when toasting the black sesame in a pan first (see recipe below).

Happily, on return to Paris I discovered the most divine, intense black sesame paste (which is pre-roasted) at Nishikidôri, which makes this recipe even easier, but if you can’t find it, the powder is just as good. I also experimented using a little honey, but it overpowered the black sesame.  The family have now unanimously tasted and approved the recipe below: not too rich and lighter with milk rather than just made with cream. To top it all, black sesame seeds are so healthy too!

Black sesame ice cream

Black Sesame Ice Cream

Black Sesame Ice Cream
Prep Time
13 mins
Cook Time
10 mins
Chilling/Freezing Time
3 hrs
Total Time
23 mins
 

A light but creamy popular Japanese ice cream that would particularly appeal to fans of peanut butter, due to its addictive, roasted, nutty intensity of flavours.

Course: Dessert, Snack, teatime
Cuisine: French, Japanese
Servings: 8 people
Calories: 224 kcal
Author: Jill Colonna
Ingredients
  • 75 g (3oz) Japanese black sesame paste (or whole black sesame seeds) available from Japanese speciality stores
  • 500 ml (18 fl oz) whole milk full-fat
  • 5 egg yolks organic
  • 110 g (4oz) sugar
  • 100 ml (3.5 fl oz) cream whipping cream
  • pinch salt Fleur de sel
Instructions
  1. Open Sesame (sorry, couldn't resist). 

  2. If using whole seeds, dry roast them in a non-stick frying pan for 4-5 minutes then grind in a coffee grinder (optional step but recommend doing this to bring out extra flavour). If possible, use pre-packaged black sesame paste found in Japanese speciality stores. 

  3. Gently heat the milk in a heavy-based saucepan (do not boil).  Meanwhile, in a large bowl with a lid, whisk the egg yolks and sugar until creamy. Add the black sesame powder and salt, whisking until smooth.

  4. Pour about half of the hot milk on to the black sesame mixture, whisking until combined then transfer back to the saucepan.  Whisk constantly to keep the mixture smooth and heat over a medium heat just until thickened then remove from the heat to avoid curdling the eggs.  At this point, the mixture should smoothly coat a spoon to show that it's ready.

  5. Add the cold cream, set aside to cool, then cover and chill in the fridge for a couple of hours or overnight.

  6. Churn in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions, then freeze for at least an hour before serving.

Recipe Notes

I recommend using pre-prepared Japanese black sesame paste, as it's already roasted. However, if you can't find it from speciality Japanese stores, it's also great using whole seeds: used a 70g packet of black sesame, but if you prefer your ice cream darker and more intense, use 85g (3oz). N.B. At my local Japanese store in Paris, I learned that black tahini paste is much lighter than the Japanese black sesame paste, which has more intensity.

Serve the ice cream on its own or with lemon or yuzu macarons (if using my recipes from either book, replace fresh lemon juice with yuzu juice, available in specialist Asian stores).

Jill Colonna

MadAboutMacarons.com

 

Yuzu’ll Love this with Yuzu Macarons

Sorry for the Scottish joke (can never resist – at least it’s not seedy!). Needless to say, the ice cream is delicious served with lemon macarons – better still, make yuzu macarons!  Just follow either of the lemon macaron recipes in either Mad About Macarons or Teatime in Paris, and replace the fresh lemon juice with yuzu juice, available from Japanese specialist stores.

Have you made any of the recipes from le blog, my books, or just fancy making this Black Sesame Ice Cream?  Please leave a comment below or take a picture and hashtag it #MadAboutMacarons on Instagram or Facebook.  – and if you like my books, then I’ll be daring and ask if you would be kind enough to leave a review on Amazon. You’ve no idea how that would help boost Teatime in Paris (my favourite of the two), as it has been in the first book’s shadow (which is being reprinted again!) and your comment could help make it visible. Thanks so much – I love to see you enjoying the recipes!

Black sesame ice cream

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Pure Vegetable Soup

Why have I hesitated to share this Pure Vegetable Soup? It’s pure and simple fresh vegetable genius; chunky, healthy and low in calories.

Moreover, this isn’t a recipe I’ve developed myself.  Apart from a few different vegetables, there’s no need to change anything from Raymond Blanc’s original recipe in my favourite cookbook, “Mange“. When I first received a signed copy of it as an Engagement present in 1996, I was terrified: the French gourmet recipes for guests all looked complicated.  Surely it was too difficult for me to try. However, years later, I realised with a little, insy-winsy bit of confidence, they were much easier than they looked.

Pure Vegetable Soup

Chunky Pure Vegetable Soup

These days, I normally blend soups to a smooth velouté or chowder consistency (see pumpkin & leek, mushroom cappuccino, smoked garlic and arugula (rocket)curried cauliflower with scallops, or sweetcorn and red pepper soups, for example), so that serving this chunky almost seems daring.
Is this life in the fast lane, darlings?

I served this to my French (Corsican) parents-in-law last week, as they’re total soup addicts like myself. Madeleine gave it a confirmed nod of approval, but she seemed surprised: they had soup with chunks in it growing up in Corsica. You know what? Me too!  I remember the chunky Scotch Broth (Janice has a good recipe at Farmersgirl Kitchen) with lamb and good old Lentil Soup (Christina has another good recipe with barley at Christina’s Cucina) with a large ham shank, when I was growing up in Scotland.

Somehow, going back to the “bits in it” is somehow satisfying and, while not a thick, hearty soup, the freshness of the herbs makes this a welcome starter at only 55 calories a bowl.  That’s before we add ripped off hunks of crispy French baguettes and lightly salted Normandy butter.

Pure Vegetable Soup

Fresh Vegetable Soup without the Stock

The secret to this recipe is the freshest of vegetables and respecting the short cooking time.  I know it’s tempting to use up these veggies at the bottom of the fridge that may be starting to wilt but please don’t! Honestly, if you use extra fresh, there’s no need for any vegetable or chicken stock – just the butter gives that added French touch and brings out the taste of the herbs, just thrown in at the end of cooking.  Chervil is best if you can find it, otherwise flat-leafed parsley is good.

5 from 3 votes
pure vegetable soup
Pure Vegetable Soup
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
15 mins
Total Time
30 mins
 

A quick, chunky and healthy soup recipe that's perfect for any time of year, using the freshest seasonal vegetables and herbs

Course: Soup
Cuisine: British, French
Servings: 6
Calories: 55 kcal
Author: Jill Colonna
Ingredients
  • 20 g / 0.75oz Butter unsalted
  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 2 medium carrots finely sliced
  • 2 medium leeks outer leaves discarded, finely sliced
  • 1 small turnip (French navet) finely chopped into cubes
  • 2 ripe tomatoes chopped
  • 1 litre / 1.75 pints water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • freshly ground pepper according to taste
  • bunch fresh parsley or chervil roughly chopped (stalks removed)
Instructions
  1. In a large pan, gently melt the butter over a medium heat (don't allow it to brown). Sweat the peeled onion, carrots, and leeks gently for about 5 minutes.

  2. Add the water, the turnip, salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, skimming off any impurities (foam) then reduce the heat, cover and simmer for up to 15 minutes until the vegetables are softened.  Add the tomatoes and chopped fresh herbs, cooking for another minute. 

Recipe Notes

Inspired by Raymond Blanc's Fresh Vegetable Soup with Chervil recipe in his book, Mange. If you prefer your soups smooth, then liquidise with a hand blender or food processor.

As I personally don't like celery, I have replaced one stalk of it with an extra leek - and adapt the vegetables according to season.  You could also use vegetable or chicken stock in place of the water but I find it's not necessary when using the fresh herbs.

Jill Colonna

MadAboutMacarons.com

 

Pure Vegetable Soup

Pure Vegetable Soup with chunks and the freshest of vegetables