Let Me Eat Cake! How We Got It Wrong About Marie Antoinette

Caramel Apple For The Teacher Cake

Marie Antoinette was the very young (14 years old), Austrian born bride toFrance’ King Louis XVI during the French Revolution.  She is most remembered for the infamous (and likely non-factual) comment “let them eat cake!” in reference to a mostly starving population of French peasants.  Had she lost her mind? 

If you are the Queen, and your subjects and their children are starving of basic nutrition, you should not make light of their plight by suggesting that they should just eat cake.  This would tend to make your subjects become disillusioned with their current monarchy. 

Whether or not Marie had lost her mind was of no consequence, as she eventually lost her head.  Ironically, the phrase she uttered, qu’ils mangent de la brioche, actually means let them eat brioche, and was most likely intended to show sympathy for the people, not disdain.

Nonetheless, in order to understand why one remark about cake would make a girl infamous for eternity, you should understand the times.  The significance of cake during Marie Antoinette’s rein was great.  Most of the population was lucky to have daily bread.  To feel they had been mocked by a prom queen in a giant powdered wig eating petit fours was too much to bear.  . 

Losing ones head over it seems harsh today, given the ready availability these days of sweets and treats to anyone who wants them.  There are bakeries in every grocery, and desserts at every restaurant on every corner.  If you are jonesing for some little suet-filled-sponge-cake Crisco logs at 3:00 am, you can always grab a few Zingers at your neighborhood ice house.  I’m not saying that you should, just that you can.  Has a fierce cupcake craving struck you suddenly in the middle of the day?  There is a cupcake store within 3 miles of your current location, guaranteed.

With prepackaged and mass-produced sweets so accessible, it is easy to lose sight of what constitutes a dessert fit for a Queen.  Once reserved for Sunday and special occasions, cakes and other sweets are turned out by supermarket bakeries with reckless abandon.  The icing is usually whipped shortening and sugar, with very little flavor, unimpressive texture, and unholy amounts of artificial coloring.  The kids love how it turns their tongue bright colors, and moms fear the same of their carpet and clothing.

I often bake cakes to celebrate the birthdays of my employees and my peers at work.  They tend to be great, tall cakes, because I love a cake that can capture a room.  One of the questions I am most frequently asked is “how many boxes is that”?  Holy Sponge Cake!  Has baking really become such a lost art?  There are recipes everywhere.  Easy ones.  I’m not saying there is no place for boxed cake mixes—in fact I have quite a few recipes that start with one.  I’m just saying let’s not forget how to bake from scratch. 

The first year I started baking for my co-workers was about 1998.  I had baked maybe my third one that year, and it was for a nurse down the hall.  It was her 35th birthday.  When I presented her with the cake at lunch, she burst into tears.  I thought for a moment that I had done something terribly wrong.  Through her sobbing, she said “nobody has baked a cake for me since I was 10 years old…”  That was when I knew how important something as simple as a cake could be to someone.  I would never suggest to “let them eat cake”, without providing one for that purpose.

Moms—teach your kids to bake a cake!  It is easy, fun, and a great way to bond with your offspring before they are big-mouthed teenagers offending the huddled masses.

I made three grand cakes this week, for the teacher’s at Boerne Middle School North….They are all suitable as the piece de resistance at your next soiree.  Here are the recipes for two of them (recipe for the chocolate cake will follow in a later post dedicated to chocolate).

Caramel Apple For The Teacher Cake

  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour (not regular whole wheat flour)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon mace
  • 1 t salt
  • 2 sticks butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 ½ cups buttermilk
  • 3 tart apples (such as Jonagold, Granny Smith), peeled and chopped
  • 1 cup high quality plain Greek yogurt
  • Caramel frosting (below)

Grease and flour: a bundt pan, 2- 10” round cake pans, or 3- 8” round cake pans.

In a bowl, stir together the first seven ingredients.  In a large mixing bowl, beat together butter and sugar until fluffy.  Add vanilla, and beat in eggs.  Add the buttermilk alternately with the flour mixture, about 1/3 of each at a time.  Stir in the yogurt and the apples. Pour into prepared pans. Bake for 45-50 minutes.  Allow to cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to cool completely.

Moist and Apple-y

Caramel Frosting

For the cream mixture:

  • 3 cups sugar
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 1 ½ cups cream
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda

Bring to a boil in a heavy bottomed dutch oven or candy kettle, over medium high heat.  Meanwhile, prepare the caramel, below.

For the caramel:

In a saucepan over medium heat, cook ¾ cup sugar, stirring constantly, until it is clear and golden. 

Pour caramel into cream mixture, and stir until smooth.  Cook to 240* (soft ball stage).  Remove from heat, and pour mixture into a mixing bowl.  Beat for 10-12 minutes, or until the mixture is of spreading consistency.  Quickly ice your cake. 

Press crushed peanuts into the sides or top of cake, as desired.

**If you wish to garnish with tiny caramel crab apples, dip the bottoms of the apples into the caramel just before you start beating it.  Dip them into crush peanuts and set aside on a silicone mat or greased foil until cool.  When the caramel on the cake has set up firmly, arrange the crab apples how you wish.

Caramel Apple Bundt

Grande Red Velvet

Makes a three layer 10” round cake

  • 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoon cocoa powder
  • 3 cups oil
  • 2 cup buttermilk
  • 4 large eggs
  • 4 tablespoons red food coloring
  • 2 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350*

Grease and flour, and line with parchment, three 10 inch cake pans.

Combine all dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Beat in remaining ingredients, and pour batter into prepared pans.  Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until done.

Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans and cooling on wire racks.

Frost between layers, top and sides with Cream Cheese Frosting, below.  If desired, garnish with white chocolate curls, red sugar sprinkles, or extra red velvet crumbs.

Grande Red Velvet

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 1 pound cream cheese, temperature
  • 1 stick butter, room temperature
  • 3 pounds powdered sugar
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • juice of one lemon
  • 1/4-1/2    cup milk

Beat butter and cream cheese together until light and creamy.  Adding a little bit at a time, beat in the cream cheese.  After one pound has been added in, beat in vanilla, salt and lemon juice, and milk as needed.  Continue to add powdered sugar and milk as needed until the sugar is all used, and the icing is of the desired consistency. 

Caramel Dipped Crab Apple Garnish

Categories: BAKING, Food, Gourmet, Holiday, Texas


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28 Comments on “Let Me Eat Cake! How We Got It Wrong About Marie Antoinette”

  1. incaunipocrit
    2011/12/15 at 1:59 pm #

    Reblogged this on Vasile Roata.

  2. 2011/12/15 at 7:13 pm #

    Great commentary – yes, people should learn how to bake and avoide the horrible cardboard tasting items that are passed off in grocery stores!

  3. 2011/12/15 at 7:15 pm #

    Great post, and everyone should learn to bake! No more cardboard tasting items from the grocery store bakeries!

  4. 2011/12/16 at 10:41 am #

    I wrote about exactly this in 2009—in Let Me Eat Cake: A Celebration of Flour, Sugar, Butter, Eggs, Vanilla, Baking Powder, and a Pinch of Salt!

    • 2011/12/16 at 11:45 am #

      That’s funny…But I guess not surprising…I was inspired by a cake I recently did for a teenage girl (see the post about “Bridezilla, The Teenage Girl, And Cupcakes”…….She wanted a small fondant cake that said “Let Them Eat Cake” on it…It is apparently a big “thing” right now….Who knew?

  5. 2011/12/19 at 8:55 am #

    Impressive cakes. I used to be a prolific cake maker and then burned myself out. I need to get back into it.

  6. 2011/12/21 at 1:50 pm #

    Wow! That caramel apple cake looks amazing. Any teacher should be glad to have some of that!

    • 2011/12/21 at 3:05 pm #

      I hope they enjoyed it! Maybe it earned Max some brownie points for the semester!

  7. 2012/05/02 at 7:03 pm #

    excellent post! made me smile and I even felt choked up about the teacher getting choked up! Great story! It’s true, food really does stir emotions and memories in us, that’s why I love baking my mom’s recipes, makes me feel closer now that she’s gone. I’m baking cakes now too and love it.

    • 2012/05/02 at 7:06 pm #

      Awe….don’t you just feel like your mom is there with you when you smell her recipes cooking? That’s how it is with me and my Granny’s recipes….

  8. 2012/06/18 at 1:50 pm #

    You are the devil for my diet.

  9. 2012/06/18 at 1:56 pm #

    Excellent once again. Where else can I get great food with a side of History! Now I must avoid those three square miles of cupcake infested neighborhoods.

    • 2012/06/18 at 3:17 pm #

      Good LUCK! They dot the landscape like landmines around these parts…

  10. Gene Molloy
    2012/06/18 at 2:12 pm #

    As much as it may surprise some folks, I’m gonna give this Caramel Apple Cake a go. It’s good to be King.

  11. 2012/06/18 at 3:20 pm #

    Love your good cake gladitude! Makes me want to go bake a cake:) One time I did try to make a coconut cake and started with a boxed mix but the icing was “seven minute” boiled icing or something. Anyway, when the cake was done, my little girl (now grown) said innocently and truly, “That cake looks like a coconut swamp.” It did but it tasted good, if I remember correctly. *Bravo to you for still making and baking homemade cake*. You are *so right* that most cakes at stores and such are not that great. This Caramel Cake for Teacher looks magnificent. If only you could mail a slice over here to Tennessee! Thanks for such yummy and inspirational work here:)

  12. 2012/06/18 at 3:51 pm #

    OH MY GOODNESS! That caramel apple cake looks absolutely phenomenal!

  13. 2012/06/18 at 3:52 pm #

    Reblogged this on Coffeequilter's Corner and commented:
    I had to reblog this because I NEEEEEED to make the caramel apple cake!

  14. petit4chocolatier
    2012/06/18 at 5:07 pm #

    What a lovely post about cakes and giving! Love the teacher cake and cannot wait for your chocolate cake. Thank you!

  15. 2012/06/18 at 7:46 pm #

    Reblogged this on The Care & Feeding of Zebras and commented:
    There are not many things one should loose their head over, but these may come close to one reason.

  16. 2012/06/19 at 1:30 am #

    Just love the teacher apple cake , wish someone had made that for me! I appreciate your comments re make from scratch. I’ve been disappointed by some blogs I’ve found that ask for a packet of this or that when I’ve been brought up to start with real food. I loved cooking with my Mum, cooked with my kids and now with my grandchildren. We will love making the apple cake! 🙂

  17. 2012/06/19 at 7:36 pm #

    love making cake from scratch, and teaching my boys to bake from scratch also. Boxes are good when time is Extremely poor, but a cake really takes no time at all 🙂

  18. 2012/06/20 at 5:27 am #

    I made a cake from scratch too. Funnily enough I didn’t take a picture of mine! It tasted better than it looked though.

    You are quite right about the supermarket cakes – I swear sawdust goes into some of them but they are badly addictive.

  19. 2012/06/20 at 2:07 pm #

    I feel truly spoiled by all your delicious recipes… and all in one post! I agree we should really start teaching our children the joys of baking again… It is such a blessing for oneself and for the people we spoil with it! Keep up the good work!

    • 2012/06/20 at 5:10 pm #

      Ah, thanks! It is the best gift, to be able to cook for someone…

  20. 2012/12/03 at 8:16 am #

    I agree everyone should teach their kids to bake. It’s easy but some adults are so scared of cooking!

  21. 2012/12/05 at 11:45 pm #

    Caramel frosting… my favorite! My mother used to bake wonderful cakes with caramel frosting for my birthdays. Fond memories, reinforced as my birthday approaches this weekend. Thanks for the reminder! Marie never had it so good!

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