5 men and a coconut cake

So last night I spent a pleasurable evening in the company of five men in Andreas’s new apartment. Crossing town on the metro carrying a bottle of champagne, a gift bag of books, my camera and the assemblage of a home-made coconut cake, I arrived at 7:45 pm, breathless and dishevelled.  We were celebrating three things: the end of the year, Andreas’s new canary yellow couch, and our respective upcoming birthdays (we share the same birth date.)


Champagne and foie gras to start followed by a sit-down dinner that Andreas had meticulously prepared.


What a pleasure to talk travel, literature, politics and current affairs with a group of like-minded dinner companions. Two of the men were off to Venice over Christmas, two others to Rajasthan, India in January. As for literature, we pondered over who the French equivalent to Shakespeare might be. Molière? Personally, I think there is no equivalent.  

And then came the coconut cake which, earlier in the day, I had slaved over in my kitchen. Unintentionally, the assemblage turned into a mild comedy act. Here are the two cakes with lemon curd sandwiched between them.


Brandishing a large spatula while five pairs of eyes looked on, I proceeded to frost the cake with the cream cheese icing. I felt like Martha Stewart.


Oh, dear. Something happened to the frosting. It wasn’t firm enough. This doesn’t happen in Martha Stewart’s world!


Men to the rescue.  Clean-up crew!


Despite the appearance it was quite good, although I must say that large iced cakes are not part of the French cake répertoire. After all these years in France, my taste buds have changed and I found the cake to be overly-sweet and cloying. Unless I can find a light version, I don’t think I’ll make it again. 

Taxi home and the Champs-Elysées, all lit up for the holidays, was jam-packed at 1 o’clock in the morning. Crowds everywhere. Happy Holidays. Bonnes Fêtes.

Yule log / bûche de Noël

buche one.jpg

Yule logs, called bûches de Noël here, are big in France over the Christmas holidays.  They’re light and creamy and concorde beautifully with a glass or two of sparkling champagne.  Baked in every pâtisserie around the country, they come in different sizes and flavours.  My favourite flavour is chestnut.  I was watching New York Times cook and food writer, Melissa Clark, make her yule log and thought it would be fun to compare her log with the log of a French chef.

What Melissa didn’t do, but the French chef did, once the cake was rolled up and also before it was rolled, was to brush it generously with a syrup made of sugared water and Cointreau.  This moistens the cake and gives it added flavour.  If children are eating the log, substitute the Cointreau with a mélange of sugared water, orange zest, vanilla pod and cinnamon stick.  The French chef then rolled up his cake a lot tighter than Melissa did hers (I thought her roll-up was a bit loose).  But what’s interesting is the icing.  The French chef used a pastry piping bag and piped a fine line of icing onto the cake.  This is neater than using a spatula.  He made the whole operation look, well, effortless. 

Dominique de Villepin

Remember Dominique de Villepin, France’s Foreign Affairs Minister, who was vigorously opposed to the 2003 invasion of Iraq?  Here he is in February 2003 making an urgent appeal to the members of the UN Security Council.


“There is an alternative to war,” he is saying, “The effective and peaceful disarmament of Iraq. The option of war might seem a priori to be the swiftest. But let us not forget that having won the war, one has to build peace. Let us not delude ourselves; this will be long and difficult because it will be necessary to preserve Iraq’s unity and restore stability in a lasting way in a country and region harshly affected by the intrusion of force.”

In hindsight, 12 years later, it appears that de Villepin was the only sane voice in a sea of warmongering madness.


Today’s The Guardian has published an opinion piece written by de Villepin.  It concerns ISIS and Syria today, Islamist terrorism, etc.  Here’s the link –