Jean-François Piège’s Childhood Cake Recipe

Jean-François Piège is a renowned French chef who’s become a household name in France from being on the jury of the French edition of the Top Chef television show.

I don’t watch much television, and zero reality television, but I’ve long admired Piège and the stellar career he’s built in the gastronomic arena, working under the likes of Christian Constant and Alain Ducasse, earning Michelin stars at the Plaza Athénée and the Crillon, helping to relaunch the Thoumieux brand with a brasserie, a hotel, and a pâtisserie, and venturing out on his own in recent years to open Clover and Le Grand Restaurant, which has two Michelin stars.

He’s definitely an awe-inspiring chef, but I also like to imagine his days as a boy near Valence, and the childhood cake little Jean-François liked to eat then. I happen to have the recipe, you see, because I clipped it from the French ELLE magazine years ago, and have been baking it on a regular basis ever since.

A simple and delicious French cake subtly flavored with orange, with a caramelized crust. The childhood cake that Top Chef star Jean-François Piège grew up eating!

Mini Cookbook of French Tarts

Jean-François Piège describes le gâteau de [son] enfance as a cross between a clafoutis and a pound cake. It is a warmly aromatic cake flavored with orange zest and juice, that’s easy as pie. Not too sweet but nicely buttery, it has a soft, spongy crumb, and in the oven it develops a delicately caramelized crust that makes the rim area the very best part.

PS: This is my childhood cake. What’s yours?

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Jean-François Piège's Childhood Cake Recipe

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes

Serves 8.

Jean-François Piège's Childhood Cake Recipe


    For the pan:
  • 2 teaspoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • For the batter:
  • 120 grams (1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon) unsalted butter, softened
  • 120 grams (1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons) granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 organic orange (about 200g/7oz), carefully washed
  • 120 grams (1 cup) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt


  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F).
  2. First, prepare the pan. Butter the bottom and sides of a 22-to-25-cm (9-to-10-inch) round cake pan with the 2 teaspoons butter. Sprinkle with the 2 tablespoons sugar, then shake and tilt and swoosh the pan around to coat. It is fun.
  3. Next up, make the batter. Cream together the butter and sugar. Crack in the eggs one by one and mix until thoroughly combined.
  4. Grate the zest from the entire orange over the bowl. Juice the orange and add 125 ml (1/2 cup) of the juice to the batter. Mix until smooth.
  5. In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Fold the flour mixture into the batter and mix until just combined.
  6. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the size pan you used, until the cake is golden brown and starts to pull away from the sides of the pan.
  7. Let cool on a rack for 10 minutes (no more, or the caramel on the crust will harden and stick to the pan), then flip onto a serving plate.
  8. Let cool completely before serving.
The caramelized rim is the very best part.

The caramelized rim is the very best part.

This post was first published in January 2007 and fully updated in March 2016.

  • i love your “gateau piège” , it looks so appetizing.

  • I’ve made a few of those “pancakes” myself. I had a cake fall apart once as I removed it from the pan so I just squished it all into a dish and drizzled it with frosting. It had to be eaten with a spoon but it tasted good.

  • est

    Yummy! it reminds me of a portugese orange cake I like to make but I’ll definitely try this one for a change. I hope I won’t fall into the trap

  • I appreciate the fact that you tried to outsmart the recipe! CHEERS!

  • Hi Clotilde,
    this cake looks yummy. A real ‘piège’ indeed – i suppose once you start eating it you can’t stop.

    – fanny

  • Clotilde, je pense que je vais faire ce gâteau dès ce weekend puisque tu en as déjoué tous les pièges (je pense que j’aurais aussi utilisé du rapadura), sa petite croûte et son parfum d’orange me font trop envie!

  • Un piège de gourmandise surtout.

  • I just made this, Clotilde! Couldn’t resist, it sounded so nice and easy. It’s now sitting on a pretty plate, cooling and waiting for suppertime. It was very simple to make and smells like a dream. (And I say that as someone who doesn’t enjoy baking nearly as much as I do cooking.)

  • I’m off to buy an orange even though they are out of season and I’ll have to buy something imported.

  • Ouf, I thought that your “gâteau Piège” was a kind of space cake, the one that make you see pink elephants flying in the air… Anyway, I like this recipe and I’ll surely try it!!!

  • “Cake from my childhood,”
    or as my neice calls
    her baby sister (Kate,)
    “Baby Cake!”

  • I really appreciate that you’re not afraid to mention your failures. I think it gives others the courage to try something, knowing that mistakes happen, but it’s not the end of the world. And then you go back and try again, ’til you get it right. Another valuable lesson–in cooking and in life.

  • dragonfly

    Since I am more cook than baker, I am always looking for an easy dessert and this one looks wonderful. Thank you!

    I too am always tweeking recipes when cooking, but my past failures have taught me that I can’t do that when baking, it’s too much of a science.

    I have friend who is a fabulous baker and she says she substitutes all the time with no problem, but I suspect that’s because she’s been practicing for years and knows what works and what doesn’t.

  • what a page, impressed looking arround and remember the time in france … best success, i must link it :-)

  • Clotilde, we just ate this cake (with a little Cava, after a supper of fish soup and seafood pasta, plus Dolcelatte and a good goats cheese before the sweet course) and it was DELICIOUS. In fact, everyone went back for seconds (except for Antoine’s father, who decided to save his for teatime tomorrow). Thanks for a recipe that is sure to become a favourite stand-by. (Antoine’s maman is making it tomorrow for a family party.)

  • Amanda

    The key to softening butter: grate it onto a plate or into a shallow bowl and it’ll be ready to use by the time you round up the rest of your baking ingredients. I am the queen of forgetting to take it outta the fridge in time, and this saves the day.

  • I just put mine in a mixing bowl over a pan of just-boiled water that’s been taken off the heat. This works fast, though, so don’t take your eye off it for several minutes, and try to turn the block of butter over after about 30 seconds.

  • Thanks for this recipe. I’ve just cooked it, now we wait for dinner time, slurp!

  • melissa

    Oh, it was so yum. My three-year old and I baked it as his “being such a good boy” treat. It was a hit. We’ll be making it frequently!

  • Rachel

    I’m actually a bit disappointed to learn that ‘Piege’ is the chef’s surname… at first glance I thought this was the next big thing in French sweets with sadistic-sounding names (like Poilane’s Punitions). ;D But it looks lovely, whatever you choose to call it, and I look forward to trying it myself.

  • This looks absolutely divine!

  • j’ai eu la meme idée il y a 2 semaines et j’ ai adapté la recette avec des quetsches et de l’orange sanguine .
    Il a vite disparu de la table.

  • Is le Piége gateau
    For your beau?
    Then you can bake,
    An orange pancake.
    But if it’s for you,
    To the recipe be true.
    With the correct gateau Piége…
    Il avait d’ailleurs de quoi soutenir un siège.

  • Looks great!

  • LIZ

    Hello Clotilde, I just wanted to let you know that I tried a recipe posted on your blog for strawberry pannacotta, and it turned out beautifully. thank you so much, now I’ll try more of your recipes.

  • Lisa

    I made this saturday night for the family – everyone loved it. I have never used so much baking powder before! The cake was tender and the orange flavor just right. It is very rich – small pieces were plenty. Lucky that it only takes one orange – 75% of the California orange crop was killed by freeze and oranges are becoming pricey.

  • Looks lovely. I will try this one.

  • Ben

    This recipe looks like it would be wonderful. One question on the instructions: How much of the zest of the orange should you grate into the bowl? The entire orange? Just a portion?

    Many thanks,


  • Lisa C.

    I made this cake and just ate my first piece. Wonderful, even though it fell a bit in the center. And I followed the directions exactly. I will have to try again.

  • Neena

    I had a huge bag of oranges, so I decided to make this cake. I doubled the recipe and baked it in 2 smallish rectangular pans. It was delicious, although it stuck to the pan and the middle had to be scraped out of the pan and patched back onto the cake. In the future, when doubling the recipe, I would recommend cutting back on the baking powder (2 tablespoons left a slightly baking powdery aftertaste) and greasing the pan very well. Otherwise, a huge success! Thank you for the great recipes and blog!

  • Beautiful!

  • mo

    oooh, this sounds yummy. As it is Seville oranges time now, I wonder if it works with these, too?

    And, um, Clotilde, did you change the typeface of your website?

  • Salli

    What is baking powder in french?

  • So glad the recipe appeals to so many of you and turned out well for those who tried it!

    Ben – You can grate the entire orange.

    Mo – Yes, it would definitely work with any sort of orange, or any sort of citrus for that matter.

    Salli – Baking powder is called levure chimique or levure alsacienne in French.

  • Vicki

    Hello Clotilde…My daughter sent me to your blog site and I came upon your recipe for Le Gâteau Piège. I made it right away. It was delicious! And it turned out looking just like the picture. I give it an A+…..Vicki

  • I tried this last night since I had a dinner party for 5 and was only getting home at 5:30; I needed a quick dessert. I followed the directions exactly, and the cake was very tasty, but the baking time was definitely too short. My oven is very accurate (I use a thermometer) and I baked it about 23 minutes…The middle wasn’t quite cooked and the whole top was plain yellow, not browned, when I took it out of the pan. The outside edge looked just like your picture though! Next time I will follow my instinct and let it get golden brown instead of just golden. There will be a next time–this is so easy and tasty, despite the doughy middle!

  • Kate – Thanks for reporting back! What size pan did you use? The 20-minute baking time, which worked for me — and I also use an oven thermometer — was for a 25-cm (10-inch) pan and thus a thinner cake. I’ve updated the recipe to indicate a longer baking time for the smaller pan / thicker cake.

  • julie

    j’ai essaye la recette hier soir … et suis desesperee de voir que tout le monde a reussi sauf moi … je crois l’avoir suivie a la lettre cependant, mais le resultat etait trop sec, la pate tres dense avant cuisson et avec un fort gout de farine ou de levure … loin d’etre le succes espere. Je vais reessayer en mettant plus de beurre et en arrosant de jus d’orange a mi-cuisson. Ce gateau me fait trop envie …

  • Julie – Désolée d’apprendre que ça n’a pas marché pour toi. Si ta pâte était très dense avant cuisson, c’est peut-être que tu t’es trompée en mesurant la farine: les quantités indiquées donnent normalement une pâte assez liquide. As-tu mesuré la farine avec une balance?

  • Clotilde, while I am overcoming my fear of gratin, I made this cake today. It turned out to be absolutely perfect–luscious interior, with the delicate crunch of the crust. I did have to bake it for about 30 minutes, since I used a 9 inch pan. Thank you for the recipe! I know that I shall be making it again and again.

  • Oh my goodness. I know what I’m making for dessert this Friday. I thinking about trying it with a mild custard sauce, or maybe a vanilla gelato…

  • husky

    tasty. I like it!

  • julie

    j’ai mesure la farine dans un verre mesureur, mais tu dois avoir raison, l’erreur vient certainement de la farine car ma pate etait loin d’etre liquide, elle ne coulait pas dans le moule et j’ai du l’etaler a la spatule … mauvais signe, non ? je vais retenter l’experience ce soir ! cela dit je l’ai regoute apres l’avoir laisse une nuit au refrigerateur et il n’est pas si mal … mais peut mieux faire, certainement. Merci encore !

  • Tari

    Bonjour Clotilde,

    Found your blog when I was searching for macaroon recipes.

    This cake looks like Torta di Limone ( Lemon cake). I will ddefinitely bake Torta d’ Arancia ( Orange cake or Piège Cake) this weekend.

  • Ah, I wonder if that was it–I used a 9-inch (the larger of the sizes in the recipe). I have to say, it’s a really simple and addictive cake and I can’t wait to try again and try to get the cooking time right so the whole thing is the same tender, yummy crumb as the outsides of mine! I am a cake person and don’t like frosting, so things like this are my favorite. Maybe I’ll use a lemon next time…..

  • Victoria

    I made this cake on Saturday. I followed the directions explicitly – even weighed the ingredients rather than measuring with cups. It was a gorgeous, delicious dream. It was wonderful on its own and also with cream softly whipped with Mathilde Orange Liqueur X.O. Definitely a keeper.

  • Victoria

    I just noticed some other comments here so need to add to my comment above. When I made the cake, I used a 9-inch pan and baked it for exactly 20 minutes as called for in the recipe, and it turned out fine. It was a beautiful color, and the crunch on the exterior was divine. You must pay careful attention to the instruction to remove the cake from the pan after only 10 minutes of cooling. I found the directions to be clear and work well. I keep a thermometer in my oven so I know the exact temperature, which really helps in baking – although I cook more than I bake.

  • Anna

    I’ve been reading your blog for about a year now and I just wanted to say I thought the writing in this post was excellent. The phrase “mean orange pancake” has been knocking around in my head for the past few days. Also, a friend made this cake to bring over for dinner, and it was excellent. So thank you!

  • Jo

    Hi Clotilde.

    Thank you so much for this wonderful recipe, which I followed with delicious results. I had a small problem when flipping the cake – part of the bottom stuck to the pan. Perhaps I should have flipped it a bit earlier (I literally stuck to the 10 minutes tip!) or maybe be more generous when buttering the pan. Other than that though, very yummy!

  • Ken

    WOW. I’ve been reading you forever, and I think this is the first recipe I’ve tried. This is fantastic! It’s very light and airy, and my whole family is devouring it right now. And it took NO time to make.

  • Rachel

    This is similar to an orange cake I make, and I find that the most heavenly combination is to add a generous quantity of poppy seeds to the mixture so that it’s thickly speckled.

  • kim

    Hello, Clotilde. I hope you’ll be able to help me! How long did you cream your butter and sugar for? I did it just till the mixture became smooth, and then added room temp. eggs, but the mixture curdled, and lumped. The crumbs of the cake were very large and defined.

    I’m sure that all my ingredients were room temperature… think you might be able to save me? Your’s looks wonderful.

  • Kim – I’m sorry this didn’t turn out well for you; I’m not exactly sure what could have happened. Can you tell me what sort of mixer/utensil you used to cream the butter and then add the eggs?

  • Gwen

    Bonjour Clotilde,

    J’ai fait ce gâteau comme dessert après un dîner avant-hier soir, et pour une fois j’ai suivi la recette à la lettre (enfin presque: j’ai juste utilisé du sucre rapadura pour le caramel, pas pour le gâteau lui-même). Super bon, mais dense et riche après un repas ! Aussi, dans un moule de 25cm, ça produit un gâteau assez raplapla, la prochaine fois j’en ferai plus (c’est mon plus petit moule).

    J’avais une question toutefois: à quoi diable sert la levure là-dedans ? Il faudrait que je retente sans, car vraiment le gâteau n’a pas levé (enfin si, au milieu et tant qu’il était au four, mais dès que je l’ai sorti il est redevenu plat). Si je voulais le refaire en plus aéré, que faudrait-il changer ? Battre les blancs en neige ? J’ai plein d’idées de variations sur ce gâteau (faire un croisement avec un financier, ajouter des épices pour l’orientaliser un peu…)

    Merci !

  • Addi

    Thank you again for this wonderful cake recipe! Every year we receive a beautiful box of citrus from Texas and for the past three years I have taken the box from the delivery man and giggled my way to the kitchen, taken out a stick of butter to soften and made this wonderful treat.

    Like many of the above posters, I have problems with the cake sticking to the pan. I cut out a round of parchment paper and stick it to the bottom of the pan, grease and sugar on top of the paper. The paper has never come off with the cake, the cake has never stuck to the pan and the caramelized sugar is still present around the edges of the cake.

  • Hello Clotilde! I have made this cake a number of times now, and it is always delicious. This week, I made it for the first time with grapefruit. Which also works really well :-) Thanks for a lovely recipe.

  • krina

    Oh, My, God.
    It was heaven at first bite……….
    WOW. I LOVE orange flavoured cakes and this turned out to be SUPER delicious.
    Fluffy and the orange flavour was so rich and not too sweet… everything was just right !!!
    hehe but i cheated. I added a whopping tbsp of grandmarnier+vanilla because I didn’t squeeze a full 1/2cup of orange juice.. and it worked out really well..
    here are some pictures.. if you’re interested..

    • I’m so pleased — thanks for the pictures!

  • Kartik

    Hi Clotilde,
    This cake was absolutely delicious. The orange flavor from the zest (I zested two since I love oranges) and the juice cannot be matched. This might be considered blasphemy, but is it possible to add chocolate chips to this?

    • It’s *always* possible to add chocolate chips. :) I myself prefer chopped chocolate to chocolate chips (which have weird things in them to prevent melting) but other than that, you have my blessing.

  • this looks so good thanks for sharing xx

  • Ana

    Yum! This was so light and delicious, I loved it! I will definitely make this again and again.

    • I’m happy to hear it, Ana, thanks!

  • Sabrina

    Just made this cake for friends and everyone loved it!!! Thanks for sharing.

    • Happy to hear it, Sabrina, thanks for reporting back!

  • Sarah Mills

    Can it be cut in quite small pieces to be served at a tea, without falling apart?

    • Yes, the cake does hold its shape pretty well. Make sure you cut it when completely cooled.

      • Sarah Mills

        Merci beaucoup!

  • Maureen Caldwell

    That looks delicious! I’m looking forward to trying it. I have two childhood cakes: in spring and summer, we had a two-layer white sponge cake with whipped cream and fresh strawberries. In fall and winter, we had vanilla pound cake with lots of chocolate ganache drizzled on top. Both are divine and make me hungry just thinking about them.

    • I love the idea of seasonal childhood cakes, it makes perfect sense! And I get hungry just reading your comment, too. ^^

  • Madonna Ganier-Yancey

    My childhood cake was Cajun gateau au sirop. It’s still one of my favorite cakes. I always stock up on Steen’s cane syrup when I’m in Louisiana so I can make the cake whenever I have a craving for it.
    I want to try Jean-Francois’s childhood cake. I tried out a new cake recipe over the weekend. It was a lemon-glazed pound cake served with strawberries that had been marinated in rosewater. I think the strawberries would also be delicious with the childhood cake.

    • I love gâteau sirop ! Here’s my recipe for it. Is it in any way similar to the one you grew up with?

      And I’m making a note of the strawberries marinated in rosewater. It must have been delicious!

      • Madonna Ganier-Yancey

        The recipes are very similar. My grandmother and aunts made theirs in a tube pan. I use a bundt pan because that’s what I have on hand. I’d never thought about muffins, but that would be perfect for our RV trips. I can’t believe you’ve been to Breaux Bridge and the Café de Amis! Did you go to the Saturday morning dance? My dad’s family is from that area. My grandfather and great-grandfather were sugar cane farmers, hence my love for cane syrup, cane vinegar, etc. I love driving through sugar country after the harvest when the farmers are burning off the fields. It’s like inhaling butterscotch.

        • We didn’t go to the dance at Café des Amis, just a weeknight dinner because that’s when we were passing through. Breaux Bridge was one of the highlights of our cross-country trip, and all thanks to the Sterns and their Road Food book who tipped us off on Café des Amis !

  • NotJoking

    Ours was a white layer cake, the whitest cake ever, with mounds of sea foam filling and icing and smothered in coconut. Sounds simple but I simply cannot duplicate it. The icing is easy but the cake had a very small crumb and was not in the least spongy or like an angel food cake.

    • Could it have been like a gâteau de Savoie ? That sounds very much like the texture you describe. I have a recipe for it in The French Market Cookbook if you have it?

      • NotJoking

        I checked out the recipe and looked at some pictures on the web. It doesn’t look or sound like the cake of my memory. I’m asking a relative who may have access to the old family recipes. Thanks for stirring up my memories and if I come up with it, I’ll share.

  • Laura Irizarry

    I made the childhood cake it’s fantastic. I did add some Cointreau to the batter. I’ll be making whipped cream with a little bit of Cointreau to go with it after diner. I making venison stroganoff in the slow cooker for dinner.

    • Cointreau is a fabulous idea! Thanks for sharing.

      • Ron Newcome

        I did the same only used Grand Marnier. My grand-kids love this cake so I’ve make it every other week or so. I’ve never had the entire top come out perfect but have had occasions when it was 95-99% in tact. Silicon pans didn’t work for me AT ALL nor did other types of “non-stick”. Trick seemed to be a good old rolled steel that I lightly hand washed after each cake to build up a bit of a “patina” on the bottom of the pan. Been good ever since.

        • Thank you so much for reporting back, Ron, it’s great to hear you’ve had good success with this!

  • Ironically, my childhood cake was a chocolate zucchini cake that my mom used to make. We grew zucchini in our garden and we had a LOT of zucchini every summer. I haven’t made it in years but I may have to once there is zucchini!

    • Ha ha! Well, maybe that explains why you’re hanging around here. A taste of childhood! ^^

      • I’m fairly sure that was one of the draws years ago when I began following your blog!

  • Hebbars Kitchen

    I want to eat that whole thing right now, these look so good!


  • ARPG07

    I loved the story behind the cake, including your faillure and success. It was inspiring and helping. I just can’t understand why on earth you would erase that! Still trying the cake tough… Please don’t lose your originality, that’s what brought me here in the first place (and I’m sure, a lot of other peopeople as well) . Congrats for the great recipes

    • ARPG07

      Ah, sorry. I’m Portuguese and my childhood cake was one that layered Maria cookies (dipped in strong coffee) with buttercream.

    • Thank you for your note! I updated the post in republishing because I have made the cake multiple times since that initial failure (which was entirely my fault) and wanted to better represent the recipe.

      • ARPG07

        Ah, now I understand it. Thanks for justifying it, the truth of the matter was you didn’t have to. Very professional.
        Sorry for my passionate response, it’s just a proof I love your work (and the cake! :] )

        • Thank you! I welcome all feedback, and there’s always something to learn from passionate comments. ^^

  • rjnichia

    I’ve made this cake three times now. Its lovely — a perfect cake, in my opinion. I have yet to have it come out of the pan in one piece, however, despite following the instructions to let it cool for ten minutes. I’m trying to figure out what variables I could manipulate in order to change this. Do you have any suggestions? We live at about 5,000 feet elevation, and I’m wondering if altitude modifications would help.

    • Hm. I don’t have enough experience with high-altitude baking to advise on that specific factor. What’s your pan like?

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