Recipe: When bread meets cake, you get a savarin

A savarin is raised with yeast but has the texture of a sponge cake.
A savarin is raised with yeast but has the texture of a sponge cake. PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Anyone familiar with the man considered the greatest gourmet the world has ever known will recognise the name Savarin in this pastry.

The classic French sponge “cake” leavened with yeast was created by Parisian pâtissier Auguste Julien in 1845 in honour of French politician, lawyer and writer on gastronomy Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin.

In fact, it was first christened the Brillat-Savarin but later shortened to savarin.

By the way, the French pronounce it  /sa-VAH-rah/ and the Italians, /sa-VAH-reen/.

The savarin is baked in a ring mould, and often soaked with a flavoured syrup. This, arguably, transforms it from a bread to a cake. Serving it with cream and fresh fruit makes it into a pastry that really shines.

The ring mould has a large centre hole and the bottom is rounded instead of flat like the ring pan used for baking cakes. When turned out after baking, the savarin looks like a doughnut or the filled inner tube of a tyre as both the bottom and top are rounded. A treat for the Michelin Man, surely?

Cannot find a savarin mould or do not want to use one? A Bundt tin is a good substitute.

If the thought of using yeast and making bread is daunting, there’s no need to worry. The dough is very wet but you do not knead it or even need heavy-duty equipment. A wooden spoon is more than adequate to mix it.

The savarin recipe featured here is a citrus-flavoured one. It is decorated with candied citrus slices, which is good enough on it own and an alternative to a big dollop of cream and fresh fruit. But feel free to leave off the topping and use another flavour of syrup. However you like it, a savarin makes a nice change from the usual cake.

citrus savarin


For the bread:
180g all-purpose flour
35g sugar
½ tsp fine salt
1 tsp instant yeast
60ml tepid water
3 medium eggs, lightly beaten
110g butter, softened

For the syrup and candied citrus
200ml water
110g white sugar
2 tbsp fresh orange or lemon juice
½ each orange, lemon and lime, cut into 2mm-thick slices

For the topping
2 Tbs apricot jam
1 Tbs grated citrus zest

1. To make the bread, combine the flour, sugar, salt and yeast in a large bowl. Add the water and eggs, and stir together until combined. Beat in the softened butter, a tablespoon at a time, until it forms a smooth, very wet dough. It will look like a thick cake batter. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours.

2. Grease a 25cm savarin mould or Bundt pan. Scrape the dough into the pan and press with a rubber spatula to even it out. It should come halfway up the pan. Cover pan with plastic wrap and set aside to rise until the dough is just above the rim, about 1½ hours.

3. While the savarin is rising, preheat the oven to 190°C. Bake for 35-40 minutes until it is golden and firm to the touch. Remove savarin from pan and leave to cool. No need to wash the pan as you will reuse it.

4. Meanwhile, make the syrup: Place the water, sugar and lemon juice into a small saucepan and stir over low heat until the sugar is dissolved. Turn up the heat to high and bring the mixture to a rolling boil, then reduce heat to medium. Add the citrus slices and cook until they turn soft and translucent and syrup has reduced by about a third and thickened slightly, 5-10 minutes.

5. Remove citrus slices from the syrup and transfer to a plate to use later.

6. Pour about one-third cup of syrup into the savarin mould or Bundt pan. Return the savarin to the pan. Spoon the rest of the syrup over the top until the savarin has absorbed all the syrup. Leave for 20-30 minutes, then turn the savarin out onto a serving plate.

7. For the topping, warm the jam until runny and brush it over the sides and top of the savarin. Arrange the candied citrus slices over the top and brush more jam on top. Sprinkle the zest over the savarin.

citrus savarin