Olive Cake Recipe! Savory cakes and Cake aux Olives

For the purposes of this edition, and so as to remain neatly "in theme," we'll call the little guy in the lower left "Frank."

franc, franche (frawn, frawnsh) adjective
  frank, true, free, exempt

...and the verb "franchir" : to cross, step over (out), overcome

:: Audio Clip & Example Sentence::
Hear our son, Max, recite today's quote: Download franchir.wav
Sans franchir sa porte, on peut connaître le monde.

Sans franchir sa porte, on peut connaître le monde.
Without stepping out his door, one can know the world.


(Note: the following story was written two years ago.)

Madame Delhome's floors are so clean you could lick flan off them. As I tiptoe over to our neighbor's sofa, I shudder to think about my own floors until my mother's wisdom comes back to comfort me, "Don't worry about the dust, Honey, people feel better about their own homes when they walk into yours."

While that is some comfort, I don't want Madame Delhome to feel bad about how her flan-lickable floors make me feel (messy), so I won't share any nuggets of wisdom with her this early on in our friendship. Instead, I'll take off my shoes.

I ask the kids to take off their go-dass,* too, before three of us wrestle Braise back out onto the front porch. (Moments earlier, when we left for cocktails at the neighbor's, our dog fancied a swim in the stream and a "dry off" in the powdery earth, the same powdery earth, I realize, that seems to be stuck
to the kids' socks!)

Barefooted, the kids and I finally sit down on madame's rustic-style leather sofa while monsieur and madame settle into the matching wood-trimmed chairs. Jean-Marc is seated next to madame. I make narrow eyes at the kids, reminding them of their manners before each of us accepts a slice of olive cake from a blue earthenware plate.

The cake aux olives* is rich with cubes of gruyère cheese and bits of ripe red tomato beneath its golden crust. The snack is heavenly good but when madame offers to give me the recipe I tell her, "Please, don't trouble yourself." What I really want to say is "By all means! Write it down carefully and don't miss even one ingredient!"

Remembering my dream of having a vegetable garden, I turn to Monsieur Delhome.
"I saw a man down by the stream working in a potager,"* I say, knowing all the while that the garden-in-question belongs to Monsieur Delhome.

"That would be Monsieur Blanc," Monsieur Delhome, points out. "I let him work on that parcel, as he loves to garden!" That "parcel" is right next to a parcel of our own and I think about how easy it would be for Monsieur Blanc, who loves to garden, to expand his project south...then we all could enjoy the fruits of his labor!

"I have always wanted a vegetable garden!" I hint. "Do you know of anyone...who might like to, uh, borrow a bit of our land for tending?" I notice that Monsieur Delhome looks confused and so I repeat my indirect wish. "It would be nice to know someone who enjoys gardening...".

"What exactly do you want, Madame Espinasse?" Monsieur Delhome demanded, putting an abrupt stop to any vagaries. Just then I felt an olive stick in my throat.
"Are you asking me to send Monsieur Blanc over to work your field?"
"No," I protested, embarrassed. Though I wanted exactly that.

The directness that Monsieur Delhome was asking for reminded me of another of my mom's nuggets of sagesse:* ask and you shall receive (but be clear about what you need and don't beat around the bush!). Still, words do not come easy and we leave the Delhomes' with my worrying about the flaky impression that I have made.

A few weeks later Monsieur and Madame Delhome stop by for a visit and present me with a beautifully illustrated book on gardening. Inside, there is a handwritten note including warm words of encouragement. I point to the book's cover where an elaborate arch of roses shades a grassy path leading to a beautiful vegetable garden--one prettier than I have ever imagined.

"What exactly are you implying, Monsieur Delhome?" I say, practicing Monsieur's direct approach along with some newfound initiative. "Do you think that I could make a garden as pretty as this?"
"Pourquoi pas?"* monsieur questioned, looking me directly in the eyes.

As for the Delhomes, they seem to have a little more faith in their new neighbor's abilities than she herself has.

My family and I love to read your feedback. Comments welcome -- click here. You might honor my Dad's request, by listing your city (and Mom would be delighted if you would add a few words about the weather...)

French Vocabulary

go-dass (pronunciation for (la) godasse) = (slang for) shoes; le cake (m) aux olives = olive cake; le potager (m) = kitchen garden; la sagesse (f) = wisdom; pourquoi pas = why not?

Madame Delhome's Cake aux Olives:
  (update: I seem to remember that the recipe that Madame jotted down for me was without tomatoes... as in the story... and with ham)

--150 g. olives noires et vertes denoyautées
(about 5 oz of black and green olives, pitted)
--250 g. jambon (8 or 9 oz of ham)
--4 oeufs (4 eggs)
--150 g. comte (approximately 5 oz) of comte (or gruyere)
--150 g. farine (roughly 5 oz) of flour
--4 c.s.* huile d'olive (4 soup spoons of olive oil)
--15 cl. lait (something like 5 oz of milk)
--1 sachet levure chimique. sel. poivre. (1 packet of baking powder. Salt and pepper to taste.)

I have not made this cake so please don't throw eggs at me if the above calculations don't pan out! With that cautionary note in mind, I'll try to translate the recipe's instructions...

--Scald (or "ebouillantez"--and what a verb!) the olives and cut them in two. Cut the ham and cheese in cubes. Preheat the oven to 350F.
--In a mixing bowl ("une jatte"), place flour, baking powder, salt and pepper. Make a "well" ("un puit") with the dry ingredients, in which to add the following: beaten eggs and milk. Mix well.
--Add oil, olives, ham and cheese. Mix again.
--Pour mixture into an oiled pan (rectangular). Cook one hour and fifteen minutes (approximately).
--Bon Appétit!


Terms & Expressions:
  jouer franc jeu = to play fair
  le franc-parler = plain-spoken
  avoir les coudées franches = to have elbow-room
  la boutique franche = duty-free shop

In Gifts and more...

Exercises in French Phonics  Exercises in French Phonics, bestseller by Francis W. Nachtman, on French pronunciation and how to pronouce French words correctly!

Mille Bornes (Card Game).
First published in 1962, Mille Bornes (pronounced "meel born," French for "milestones") is an auto racing card game whose object, for each team of two players, is to be the first to complete a series of 1,000-mile trips.


Paris Metro Subway Tea or Kitchen Dish Towel

La Bonne Cuisine de Madame E. Saint-Ange: The Original Companion for French Home Cooking.

Kitchen Gardens of France - be inspired!
Your House, Your Garden: A Foolproof Approach to Garden Design
French Before You Know It Deluxe. Enhance your speaking ability with Pronunciation Practice.
"Four Queens: The Provencal Sisters Who Ruled Europe"
Fallot Dijon Herbed Mustards - Set of 4 French Mustards

Braise & Smokey's Excellent Adventure. While the kids, the husband, the mother-, the brother-, the sister-in-law and I visit Morocco (a trip two years in the making!) the rest of our furry family will be "séjouring" in Vaison la Romaine... Chez Ellen and Mark. Not sure whether the Sullivans will have time to update their blog... but you might check in just in case!

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


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Bill en Libye

Oooh La la! Another recipe to try! I have been making lóncle Jacques yogurt cake for the past year now and each one comes out different, though all have drawn rave reviews.
(Cést moi qui jamais suis une recette exactement.) I can hardly wait to try the Cake aux olives. And I love your mom's wisdom about dust and spotless houses. Ma femme won't even let me hire a maid (they are very inexpensive here in Libye) because she wouldn't want anyone to see her messy house!
Autre fois, mille mercis for this awesome blog and all the great anecdotes and eyecatching pix.
Cool (18 degrees) and cloudy in Tripoli.

Ryan Breithaupt

Allo la gang !

Liked this story to day, it was nice to laugh a bit with you, haha - an olive stuck in your throat ! I am often the same, I strive to be so nice and polite, but tip-toe around what I really want. Jules was right- we just need to ask and we shall we receive. Those pictures of Braise and Smokey are really cute too- it's nice to think of them having so much fun that they literally pass out from all the amusement. Allo à Jackie, Max et Jean-Marc aussi, profitez-bien de vos vacances. J'espère que vous aurez du beau temps et beaucoup de plaisir.
À la prochaine,

Ryan Cat de Montréal

Karen - Maryland, USA

Moi aussi. J'amerais avoir cette recette, Kristin. I know it's been a few years since this visit occurred but I wonder if you ever received the recipe.

It's the dog hair from my Golden, rolling across the floor, true to the form of desert "tumbleweeds", that I worry the most about when I have guests pop in. I've often thought of offering my guests some cozy "mop-head" slippers upon entry. My mom told me that guests always like a little something to do to help the hostess. So.... there you have it!! (Can you imagine?)

I hope you are having a wonderful vacation!

I could use some sunshine. It's finally not raining here but the grey skies are depressing.

Grey & crisp w/wet leaves everywhere in Towson, Maryland

Diane Scott

Thanks Ellen and Mark for the great update on Braise and Smokey -- the picture is precious! I also enjoyed your other recent addition to your blog. How wonderful to have a home in France. A dream come true!!

Diane in Tallahassee where it is FSU homecoming -- Go Seminoles!!!

Jules Greer

Look at that!!! Two guys beat me to first base already this morning. Kristi and I have spent many 'coffee breaks' talking about how wonderful it is that the guys comment. In the beginning of turning on the comments box here, most of the messages were from women - except of course for our Darling Fred (who I think has a giant crush on Kristi.) He is allowed to, as I think he is about 80 yrs. We have always been curious about "Bill en Libye" and each comment he makes we find out a little bit more about him. Ryan, I love your posts!!!

Well Kristi hasn't called me once from Morroc - I can't wait to see the photo's and hear her stories. I have always wanted to go Morocco, Thank God I have a daughter who is living all of my dreams + more.


JULES - Puerto Vallarta Mexico - 75 degrees

K Nelson

There is a great recipe for Olive Bread in Susan Hermann Lomis' "French Farmhouse Cookbook."(Workman Pub.)

Merrie Dail, Annapolis, MD

Shoes were always tossed in a basket by the front door and everyone had a job on Thursday - 'field day' (cleaning day). But sand still crept into the rug, dog hair jumped right back on the sofa and all the other accoutrements of life soon reassmbled themselves throughout the house. My husband's response: 'We do stuff.' Sagesse. There were a few years after the departure of children when life was tidier. Soon, however, their animals spread hair around, then they gave us a puppy; now there are grandchildren and a rescued kitten. Hopeless! Lint remover anyone?! As far as I can discer, it's all the stuff of life. Better to enjoy each moment. Overcast and fifties this morning, similar to Karen about an hour north of here.


I'm far more comfortable in a home that isn't spotless. Too tidy and you just can't relax. Like Merrie Dall's home,
"we do stuff". Around here it is tidy but you will see an occasional escaped dog fur tumbleweed and the windows may have streaks. But, you will be very welcome to sit down and relax.

Mike Hardcastle

You may be interest in Quentin Crisp's views on dust.

After the third year, the dust doesn't get any worse. (on why he doesn't clean his apt.)
If you like this one just look up 'Quentin Crisp quotes' on Google there are many more and they are all amusing.

Myra Wood, New Orleans, LA

Opening French Word-A-Day is one of the most pleasurable moments of my day! The sense of relaxation it brings, for just those few moments, is amazing. Thank you for sharing!
Weather here in New Orleans: windy, warm and very humid (upper 70's).


This is one of the funniest scenes I imagined in my mind as I was reading your blog. I am still smiling. Thank God you got the recipe because I really now want to try this cake. And I too would do as you did, encourage someone to do my garden...I think humor is very cultural indeed. Wishing all a great weekend. Thanks Jules for the sagesse (about dusting).
We live in Pasadena, CA, a beautiful place indeed but on the flanks of Los Angeles, ...that could mean anything. improving again. Cool, dry, sunny and it plans to be in the 60-90 range.


Carole Last

Thanks so much for your wonderful stories. I was so touched with the puppy's ordeal - it brought me to tears. I am from Belmont, California which is about 25 miles south of San Francisco. In September I made a trip to Cavalaire to surprise my brother on his 80th birthday. What a wonderful trip it was - my first to that part of France. I wish I could say that my french was fluent but although I'm not bad at reading or even writing, I'm terrible at speaking french so I love all the word and phrase translations on your web site. Each day brings a new surprise and I thank you again.

Henry Cross

My partner and I were in Paris recently and managed to attend at your talk in the American Library. It was so crowded that I only caught a glimpse of you but enjoyed your talk very much.
Henry Cross

Janice Leiser

Reading you blog today my mouth was watering at the mention of the olive cake and I was wishing you had been franche and asked for the recipe. So was delighted to get to the bottom and find the recipe there.

I'm going to make it for my French Class next week. I'm an enthusiastic gardner, so encourage you to start that vegetable/flower garden now.

Many thanks for lots of fun reading, Janice Healdsburg, CA

Sharon O'Neal

Love the description of Mme's floors, the "skinny eye" look at your children, and beating around the bush about the gardener...The French are very direct. I believe I'll be at home in Paris because I'm moving there next year! A life-long dream. Another friend of mine (she's 80; I'm 67) is also wanting to move to Paris. We will be among many retired Foreign Service (U.S. Diplomatic Corps) expats! Sharette, Apex, NC where it is in the mid 60's and sun expected over the next few days.

Pat Cargill

The olive cake sounds yummy, will give it a try when we return home from Charleston, SC, which is overcast today and cool. Rode bikes this morning and walked on the beach and was delighted to ck in with FWaD to see another lovely pic of Braise and Smokey. Then over to Chez Sullivan for their sweet photo of the Furries and the nice blog about their visit and adventures. Sooo nice to hear they are having great long walks chez Sullivan! How marvelous for la Famille Espinasse to have you nearby.

More "happy trails" to those wandering in Morocco! Jules, let's go...pouquois pas?

And how is your potager; ou est les pics of your last two years' efforts at creating le jardin de Kristi?? In my experience these gardens evolve slowly and grow more beautiful with time and experience. It took me a good 5 years to learn I could just up and move plants I do it all the time. Freedom in the garden! (Le jardin, c'est vraiment mon "Briar Patch"--anyone remember that reference??)

Jacqui McCargar

I have to try the Olive cake recipe also, sounds yummy! It's nice to hear comments from so many local people in Northern California. I am in Santa Rosa, weather here is currently 62 and sunny, the days have been in the upper 70's this week..nights in the high 30's. Truly Fall weather! Wish I was still in Provence!!


Dear Mom and Friends: I am quickly checking in, while I wait for the verveine tea to brew (for my sister-in-law, Cécile, and I), here at the hotel in Oualidia, Morocco (Mom, you can Google map it!). Since yesterday, we have been recuperating from a gastronomic misadventure.... oh là là.

Many thanks to Ellen and Mark for their blog post. I was so relieved to know Smokey and Braise are okay -- indeed thriving! (so sorry about your floors! After Smokey's accident, we took several steps backward(s?) in the potty training area...)

Thanks again, to everyone, for your chaleureuse (eux?) warm comments. I will take time to savor your words when I return. Just wanted to check in and to assure Jules that all is good.

Lots of love,
P.S.: When the signs in the bathroom read "forbidden to drink the water" does that mean we should brush our teeth with mineral water, too? Is that a dumb blond question? (I'm too afraid to ask the desk clerk.)
PPS, Mom: thank you for responding to D'Neal's comment. You took to the words right out of my mouth.

Linda Grimes

Use bottled water for your teeth and also to wash or rinse any food and be cautious about ice cubes as well
I recently discovered your word a day and it is the bright spot in my day. I am traveling to Paris next week for a quick visit, birthday celebration, girls vacation and my French is pitiful. Love the anecdotes and family update. The weather in upstate NY is crisp, the leaves are gorgeous and flying. About 50 today but no rain. Good weather for trick or treating tomorrow night.
Linda (Selkirk, NY)

Jean Treacy, Kittery Point, Maine

Greetings from the coast of Maine where gardening is always a (short) challenge. My plan is to garden very intensively my front yard next spring and I will start quite small. There's no reason not to keep your garden focused on one or two veggies that are easy to grow and control. Why not try tomatoes, chard, lettuce and maybe pole beans (they look lovely trained up on wooden tripods). Keep it small so you can learn without losing control. Here on the coast of Maine we mulch heavily with seaweed but in France I should think you could easily get your hands on some straw (not hay with all the seeds) and the straw will keep your garden well hydrated and the weeds at bay. Go for it!

Looking out my window here early Saturday morning, I see a very gray sky, trees a remarkable palette of reds, oranges and yellows and a steel-gray sea. Although sun would be nice, a dull almost-November day has its own beauty.

Jules Greer

Hi Linda and Jean,

It's great to wake up on Saturday morning and find two new comments here - I am loving all of these weather reports and I will be visiting your cities on 'Google Earth' today. I always dream that one day Kristi and I will take a road trip and visit all of her friends along the way. New York and Maine would be my pick for the autumn leaves. Jean, I have always found gardening to be one of the greatest love affairs of my life. I once had a garden that would bring tears of joy to my eyes each morning as I visited it at sunrise. One of these days I will share story of my garden at the foot of the Superstition Mountains - 30 miles north of Scottsdale.


JULES - Puerto Vallarta, Mexico (75 degrees)

Devra Long

Kristin; please be careful and just use mineral water for everything! We learned that when we went to St. Petersburg a few years ago! We were careful and had no problems. Jules, when you take your road trip you will be warmly welcomed here in Madison Alabama where it's a beautiful, crisp, Fall morning and the colors are exquisite!

Jules Greer

Hi Devra,

I'm off to check out Madison, Alabama on my Google Earth. Happy you like my road-trip idea.



Bill Shiel

Cloudy and a cool 42 degrees F in Winnetka, IL, USA at 11;28 AM, on Saturday, October 31. It has finally stopped raining for a few hours! Enjoy the weekend!

Jennifer in OR

I loved the story of M Delhome and his franc way. I need to learn some of that.

Enjoy Maroc! I hosted French students this summer, and one was born in Maroc, and then moved to Ste. Etienne as a little girl.



Oregon has beautiful Fall colors as well. Just driving around the Salem-Keizer area is a feast for the eyes.

Check out these pictures I took of my mother-in-law's maple tree in her backyard...

D'Neal in Keizer, Oregon (57° and raining off 'n on)

P.S. -- Merci mille fois for your kind words about my recent stresses. Very much appreciated.

Jules Greer

Hi D'Neal,

Thanks for the photo's - I didn't realize that we could post photo's here in the comment box - what a dummy I am - now I remember people have been posting links all along. I love your maple tree photo's. I'm off to Google Earth to check out Keizer. It's going to be another beautiful day here in Mexico - the humid rainy season is over - now we will have the most beautiful weather for the next eight months.


JULES - Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Marianne Giordano

Hi Kristin:

Loved the flying dog:

Price of Icky fly sticky..........$5.00
Having a maid clean the salon...en songe
Price for BIL to mend walls....dinner and
wine at
your house
Having a flying and happy dog
with daughter egging him on.....

Keep those stories coming!!!!!

Marianne Giordano, Patterson, New York


Bonjour Kristin! I'm two years late but I would like to know more about this recipe. Any chance you know what kind of a pan to use for the olive cake? Is it like a loaf pan for bread or a cake pan that is round? Do you remember the size andshape of the piece you were served? I would like to try the recipe.

Josephine Girardin

I'm just now seeing this olives!
Can you say how much baking powder is in a packet? I'm guessing a teaspoon or tablespoon?
Merci bien.

Josephine Girardin

Oh my goodness....I just found the answer to my question in the recipe for the yogurt cake!....a packet is about 2 teaspoons!
You answered my question without even knowing you did so!
Merci encore une fois!


Kristin, I can confirm that the olive cake recipe is correct - I made it for a meal with our French neighbours, and it turned out perfectly. For those wondering, a loaf pan is fine, baked for 1 hour 10 minutes at 180 Deg C.

Thanks for sharing this recipe with us. Now it's your turn to try it!

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Hi there
Reading today that your parents like to know where your readers are from and what the weather is like so thought I'd tell you about my neck of the woods as they say. I live in Halifax, Nova Scotia on the east coast of Canada in a Province of 800,000 people.Today at the end of Fall I look out on a glorious blue sky and coloured leaves of oranges, yellows and reds in what is my favourite season.Living on the Atlantic we often get brutal changes in weather but this is a gentle season and to be enjoyed before our harsh winter sets in.Temperatures then can go to -30 C but one always has the promise of Spring if it ever comes.The ocean is in my soul and travelling through mountains always makes me long for the sea. When you speak of JMs love of the sea I know it well.

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