Home >Opinion >A cake with no sugar

The words “savoury" and “cake", when deployed in the same sentence, have always struck terror deep into my heart. I’ve never made one and never particularly wanted to taste one. It just seems so wrong. “Cake", surely, has to be all about sugary treats? I certainly used to think so.

But the other night at a book group at my friend Kate’s house, I happened to be seated on the side of the coffee table where the only thing within reach was a savoury cake. I panicked, obviously, and tried, in vain, to reach the wasabi peas. But to no avail—I was stuck with cake with cheese in it (if this were a tweet there would be a sad-face emoticon at the end of that sentence).

Taking the first bite was hard (but necessary—I was famished) because it looked just like a buttery pound cake and my brain was telling me to expect sugar. But my brain was quickly overruled by my taste buds deciding they liked this dramatic turn of events. As it turned out, savoury cakes can be a very good thing indeed, especially with a delicious glass of red wine alongside.

I ended up eating about half a loaf. I also ended up pursuing Kate relentlessly for the recipe in the days that followed.

The savoury cake, it turns out, comes from France (Kate’s husband is French) where it is called a “cake salé" and often served with aperitifs. The French take their aperitifs very seriously, so I should have known better than to doubt their choice of nibbles.

This version, packed with cheese and walnuts, is also just about the easiest thing I’ve ever baked—trust the French to come up with something so delicious that can be thrown together in the time it takes for the oven to warm up.

If you’ve eaten too many sweet things over Diwali, then this is a wonderful salty antidote. And if you’re still not through with entertaining, this is perfect if you’re out of time and energy but still want to provide a warm, homey welcome to your guests.

Blue Cheese and Walnut Aperitif Cake

Serves 6-8 as a nibble with wine


200g plain flour (maida)

1 tbsp baking powder

100ml sunflower oil

125ml milk

3 eggs

100g grated Gouda cheese (Flanders dairy makes a good one)

150g blue cheese, crumbled

50g chopped walnuts

Salt and pepper to taste


Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Line a loaf tin with parchment paper. Sift together the flour and baking powder into a large bowl. Add the oil, milk and eggs and mix well. Stir in the Gouda, blue cheese and walnuts along with a few good grinds of salt and pepper.

Tip the mixture into the prepared loaf tin. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until the top is well browned and a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Best served warm, but not at all bad cold. The loaf can also be made in advance, frozen, then warmed again just before serving.

Pamela Timms is a New Delhi-based journalist, food writer and author of Korma, Kheer And Kismet. She blogs at

Also Read | Pamela’s previous Lounge columns

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