Savarin is a French cake named after Brillat-Savarin, the famous 18th century gastronome and writer. The cake is almost a bread and is leavened with yeast. In fact, it does have some similarities to brioche, though it is a bit less rich and much less time consuming to make. The yeast caked is not very sweet and primarily has a buttery flavor to it. After it has been baked, while it is still hot from the oven, a sugar syrup is poured over the cake to sweeten it and make it incredibly moist.
The sugar syrup usually includes some type of alcohol, often rum. Today, to celebrate the fact that it is New Year’s Eve, I opted to add some champagne to my sugar syrup. It doesn’t contribute any bubbles (now that would be in interesting cake!), but it adds a great flavor and makes the cake seem very festive and great for any special occasion.
I bookmarked a recipe for savarin a long time ago, and discovered that The Well-Seasoned Chef had had good results from the same one, so I started with that as my base. The finished cake is very unique and very unlike a butter cake. It has a light and tender crumb to it, but in the same way that that a bread would be light and airy, not in the same way that a yellow cake would be. Thanks to the syrup, the cake is very moist – almost juicy. The effect with each bite is almost the same thing that you get with really good french toast: it just melts in your mouth without the need for much chewing.
The cake’s flavor is buttery, not very sweet, and has a nice finish from the champagne. It is complemented well with whipped cream and fresh berries – and perhaps another glass of champagne!
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tbsp active dry yeast
3 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup milk, warm (100-110F)
6 tbsp butter, very soft
3 large eggs
Grease a 9 or 10-inch bundt pan, or 9 or 10-inch ring mold (pref. the ring pan).
In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine 1 1/2 cups flour, yeast, sugar and salt and stir well.
Add in butter and warm milk and mix on low speed until well combined. Add in eggs, one at a time, waiting until each has been fully incorporated to add the next. Beat on high speed for 3 minutes. Beat in remaining flour on low speed or by hand.
Let dough rest for 10 minutes.
Spoon batter into prepared pan, cover with a lightly greased piece of saran wrap and let rise until doubled in size, about 60-75 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350F.
Bake savarin for about 30 minutes, until it is golden brown.
Use a skewer or something similar to poke holes all over the cake while it is still hot. Working slowly, pour half of the champagne syrup over the cake, making sure it soaks into the holes. Let soak for 20 minutes.
Use a knife or a spatula to loosen cake from pan, then perforate it again with the skewer. Pour remaining syrup slowly over the cake, giving it time to soak in thoroughly. When cake is completely cool, invert cake pan onto a serving plate. Fill the center of the cake with whipped cream and/or berries, to serve.
Champagne Soaking Syrup
3/4 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 cup champagne or prosecco
1/2 tsp vanilla extract, optional
Make this syrup while the savarin is in the oven.
In a small saucepan over medium heat, dissolve sugar in the water. Remove from heat and cool for about 5 minutes. Stir in champagne, and vanilla, if using. Set aside until ready to use.