February 27, 2015


Not long ago I was looking for a French cake recipe that I could adapt to a gluten free version, something fairly plain but interesting that would go nicely with a morning coffee or afternoon tea, but by no means be a showstopper.  Somehow or other I stumbled across Gateau Nantais.

gateau nantais

It certainly doesn’t look like a showstopper, does it?

There were plenty of recipes on the internet and most claim that what it lacks in good looks is more than compensated for in flavour.  It is essentially an almond cake flavoured with rum.

gateau nantais3

The only rum I had in the house was a dark spiced rum so that’s what I used.  However, the interesting part is how the gateau Nantais came about.  The merchant ships from the Caribbean used to arrive in Nantes with rum as one of their many cargoes.  There are lots of things you can do with rum but the people of Nantes discovered it was very nice in a cake.  I cannot disagree with them!

Among the recipes I consulted there was one by fellow blogger Phil at As Strong as Soup which you can see here, and one in French which you can see here.  The one I chose to adapt was from the blog written by Mary-Anne Boermans, one of my favourite contestants from the Great British Bake Off a few years ago.  She was the baker always coming up with fascinating recipes with a touch of history about them and in fact she has written a book of old British recipes – which Nick gave to me as a Christmas present but has yet to be tried out.  Her blog is well worth dipping in to and you can see the recipe for Gateau Nantais here.

gateau nantais5

I was relieved to see my cake looked very similar to those in the pictures of Gateau Nantais in Google images – always a good way of finding recipes and finding out how the finished dish should look.  It was very pleasant and well received but if I was to make it again, and I probably will, I think I would probably put in more rum.


For the cake

200g caster sugar

150g butter, softened

60g gluten free plain flour

200g ground almonds

3 eggs

1tsp vanilla extract

20ml rum

For the topping and icing

20ml rum to brush over the cake

100g icing sugar

20ml rum to make the icing


Preheat the oven to 180°C / 160° fan.  Grease and base line a 23cm spring form tin.

Whisk the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy using an electric whisk – this may take up to ten minutes.

Add the flour and ground almonds and mix well.  Whisk in the eggs one at a time.

Add 20ml rum and the vanilla extract.

Transfer to the tin and bake for 30-40 minutes, until golden and firm.  Remove from the oven and brush 20ml rum over the cake to soak in.  After 30 minutes remove from the tin and transfer to a wire rack.

Make a runny icing using the icing sugar and remaining rum.  Add more icing sugar if necessary to get the right consistency.  When the cake is completely cold spread the icing over the top.

Serves 8-10.


  1. If this is the cake we tasted it was delicious and very moreish. Just right with a cup of lemon tea!

  2. such a simple but rustic cake... I adore ground almond cakes so this is a double tick for me!

  3. I haven't made one of these in a while but thanks for the reminder. Yours looks just perfect to me. I've come across quite a few cakes in France that have a touch of rum in them but this is definitely the most serious for rum lovers like me. (I never drink the stuff, just add it to lots of food). I certainly can't think of another French cake with rum icing. It also gives me an excuse to talk like a pirate and annoy everyone.

  4. I think these sort of cakes are my favourite - and anything with almonds in is a winner for me. Great story - food with history is always good.

  5. Hmm, another way of using up the eggs....
    Pauline, look at this!!

  6. This looks gorgeous. One of my former colleagues made a wonderful rum cake, and my favourite recipe for date and walnut cake requires the dates to be steeped in rum before adding them to the mixture. I too don't go for it as a drink and I hated rum and raisin chocolate described by the piratical figures in Cadbury's adverts as "full of delicious rum flavour". Artificial rum flavour, that would have been. Bleaagh. Pauline