Amelie’s Famous Plum Cake (Kouign Amann)

I have wanted to make this cake for years and years but I didn’t know which cake was Amelie’s. The only thing I was certain of were two ingredients: yeast and plums. I fooled myself by baking a dimply plum cake from time to time. Ignoring there was no yeast in it, figuring the plums were close enough. A cake of lies it was, delicious lies, but lies nonetheless.

Then I thought maybe it’s a kuchen. I know, I know, that’s a German cake. But they have Chinese restaurants in France so maybe they bake German cakes, too. It could happen and as it were, plum is a popular type of kuchen. That just had to be it. I was going to bake it.

One last Google search, I thought.

Lo and behold, on a post for a dimply plum cake where the misguided blogger said it was Amelie’s Famous Plum Cake was a note in the comments. “It’s not that cake, it’s this one.” The “one” being a link to a tiny Wikipedia page about a French cake called kouign amann, pronounced queen ah-mah. Translated to butter cake.

Listen very closely at 0:29. You’ll hear prune queen ahmah. He says it very quickly!

Mystery solved.

This is straight-up, legit French baking here, kids. If it wasn’t for my absolute fondness for Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain, I don’t think I would have bought the fancy butter, much less the new yeast. But I loved that movie. I loved how French it was. I loved how sweet she was. I loved the gnome. I wanted to bake the cake.

Enter David Lebovitz. A pastry chef living in France, having spent many years at Chez Panisse in San Francisco and authoring numerous cookbooks. He has a blog where he shares what he knows freely. I love that. Thank you, David. It’s his recipe and advice that gave me the hope that maybe, just maybe, I could pull this off.

Kouign Amann

(a lovely recipe from David Lebovitz)

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon yeast, not rapid rise
¾ cup warm water
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar, which will be used in 1/4 cup incriments
(Plus an additional bit of sugar for yeast feeding and dough rolling)
1 stick salted butter cut into inch square pieces,chilled
2-3 tablespoons additional salted butter, melted

The step-by-step:

1. Dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Feed it a pinch of sugar. Let develop for 10 minutes. It should bloom like below otherwise you need new yeast.

2. When yeast is ready add flour and salt.

3. Time to knead! Gather up all the flaky dough pieces into a rough ball and place on lightly floured surface. Knead for 3 minutes until dough becomes smooth and elastic.

4. The dough needs a break. Let rest/rise in a medium sized buttered bowl for 1 hour, covered, in a warm spot.

5. Ready to roll! Place risen dough ball on a lightly floured surface and roll into a rectangle about 18 inches long and a foot tall. It should be pretty easy to do, maybe a little sticky. Don’t over roll, if yours winds up kinda oblong or a weird shape don’t keep trying to fix it. Overworking the dough could make it tough. Go with what you get.

6. Here comes the butter and sugar! Line up one half of the butter and a quarter cup of the sugar in the middle of your dough.

7. Fold the right side over the middle and then the left side. This will be easiest if you have a pastry scraper. If not, a chef’s knife could help separate the dough from your surface.

8. More butter and sugar! Take your remaining butter and dimple the top of the folded dough. You’ll see bumps where the original layer of butter is, put this layer’s butter around those for best butter distribution. Top with 1/4 cup of sugar.

9. Now fold up the bottom and fold down the top into a square.

10. A side view of the square. So foldy!

11. Wrap the folded square in plastic wrap and put on a plate. Let rest in the refrigerator for one hour.

12. After an hour, take the dough from the refrigerator, unwrap and place on a lightly sugared surface. Yeah, sugared. The French are evil geniuses. At this stage, the dough will be slightly wet. Sugar the top and sides of the dough. I used my rolling pin (like so) to press it flat before rolling it out.

13. Just like before, once rolled out, dust with sugar. When done, fold in thirds like before and top with more sugar.

14. Then fold in thirds again, into the square shape like before. Wrap in plastic wrap and it’s back in the refrigerator for another (and final) hour. Clearly, Amelie didn’t intend on leaving the house for the rest of the day.

15. This is a good time to cut the plums. One or two will do.

16. An hour has passed and we are ready for the final “roll” which is really more of a press and shape. The dough will still be wet and will have a crust. Put dough onto your rolling surface and flatten into a circle that will fit into a 9 inch pie pan.

17. Top with plums. Make it pretty!

18. Top plums and kouign amann with final 1/4 cup of sugar and 2 tablespoons of melted butter. BECAUSE IT DOES NOT HAVE ENOUGH BUTTER IN IT YET.

19. Bake this baby in a 425º oven for 45 minutes on a parchment lined cookie sheet.

This is important: the first 30 minutes of the bake are messy. Sugar and butter leak out, and at about the :30 minute mark, the leaked sugar starts to burn. I didn’t want to smoke-out my kouign amann so I swapped cookie sheets and parchment about :30 minutes into the bake. Be careful, taking the cake out of the oven at this point is dangerous. The pan has very hot, very liquid butter and sugar mix that could burn you. Once out, I took the pie pan and moved it to the new parchment lined cookie sheet and returned to the oven. Problem solved! But be careful!

Update!

Commenter Robin and had luck baking the cake in a casserole dish like this one. She used parchment to line the bottom and reporteded back that it eliminates the leaking problem and the parchment makes it release easily from the pan. I’m tempted my make my next one in a parchment lined Le Cruset French oven! I’ll update again if I do!

20. Remove from oven and gaze at it. Let cool for 15 minutes, loosen edges and remove from pan with a wide spatula. Let cool another 30 minutes. Slice and serve. Good work, baker.

It tastes bread-like with a caramel crust that reminds me of creme brulee. It’s simple. Reminiscent  of the best coffee cake you ever could imagine.  It tastes very very French. I can see how this would make a beautiful French girl very popular.

Vive Amelie. Enjoy the cake.

56 Comments

  1. Posted October 25, 2010 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    I’m trying to figure out how I can make the monitor open so I can eat this… It’s not going well. #foldy

  2. altrooheather
    Posted October 25, 2010 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    Where are our jet packs? Where are our downloadable cakes? Where are our moon condos? Get on that, science.

  3. Posted October 25, 2010 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

    I love Amelie (we were just watching that last night!). And this looks absolutely AMAZING.

    I assume you read “The Pioneer Woman”? Have I asked you that before? :)

  4. altrooheather
    Posted October 25, 2010 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

    Hi Matt! I do read The Pioneer Woman from time to time. She’s rather meaty but somethings are easy to adapt! Isn’t Amelie the best? Love love that movie.

  5. Ashley Mauceri
    Posted October 26, 2010 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    This looks beautiful!

  6. altrooheather
    Posted October 26, 2010 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

    Thank you! I kind of think it’s my baking opus — never to be outdone!

  7. Posted October 28, 2010 at 2:22 am | Permalink

    I have been wanting to do this for ages! Yours looks beautiful! Thanks for the step by step guide! XOXO

  8. altrooheather
    Posted October 28, 2010 at 8:30 am | Permalink

    Thank you! Have fun making it!

  9. Posted October 28, 2010 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    My thighs aren’t ready for this one! But then again, when did that ever stop me? It looks delicious, and I have every reason to believe it is. One question: What sized pan did you use?

  10. altrooheather
    Posted October 28, 2010 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    Hi Lori,

    I used a 9 inch pie pan. I think a cake pan would work too and would maybe even help with the butter/sugar leak problem.

    In David Lebovitz’s post he said someone tried to use a springform pan/false bottom pan and that cause much leaking so I wouldn’t do that.

    He also said one is not allowed to think about diets when making a kouign amann. I bet he also meant thighs, and other body parts.

    The plus — it’s very rich and satisfying. A small piece goes a long way!

  11. Posted October 28, 2010 at 9:57 pm | Permalink

    I love you for finding this!! I am making it this weekend :) Thanks so much.

  12. CarmenG
    Posted October 28, 2010 at 9:58 pm | Permalink

    I absolutely love Amelie and thanks so much for finding the recipe! I would also like to add that ALL recipes shoule be as helpful as this one. I cannot wait to bake this!!!

  13. altrooheather
    Posted October 28, 2010 at 10:52 pm | Permalink

    Yay! I was so happy to find it and share it — who hasn’t wanted to make this cake? No girl I know! Have fun baking it! Listen to French music while you do it — makes the dough rise better. : )

  14. Robin
    Posted October 29, 2010 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

    I have been searching since the day I saw Amelie in the theater for this recipe!! I am so excited! Like you I made dimple cakes but was not pleased with them. I just had it in my mind that is should be different. Oh, I can’t wait until my days off from work so that I can make this. Thank you for posting. I hope I like it!

  15. altrooheather
    Posted October 29, 2010 at 9:45 pm | Permalink

    It was a total mystery cake for us English speakers! I hope you like — it is for sure more bready than cakey but the caramel crust is amazing! Enjoy!

  16. emily
    Posted November 2, 2010 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    I love you. Thanks for posting the clip and, of course, the recipe. So making this!

  17. altrooheather
    Posted November 2, 2010 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    Hee! I love you too, Emily! I hope you adore it when you make it!

  18. altrooheather
    Posted November 2, 2010 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    Thanks for appreciating the step-by-step! This post was a labor of love! Have fun baking it!

  19. Posted November 2, 2010 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    Omigosh! I have always wondered about a plum cake with yeast (Amelie is my favorite film)! This post makes my heart happy.

  20. altrooheather
    Posted November 2, 2010 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    Hooray for happy hearts!

  21. Write Gal
    Posted November 2, 2010 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

    My life is complete – thank you!

  22. Eva
    Posted November 2, 2010 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    YUM!!

    I think the confusion stems in part from the fact that kouignn amann isn’t actually a cake so much as a cake-formed pastry — the dough is very similar to a croissant dough, but obviously with tons of sugar that combines with the butter to make the caramel in the oven.

    Because the English subtitles on the film aren’t always the most accurate (there’s even a weird, nonsensical mistake in them in the scene on the public telephones at the carnival/park!), the translation here is “plum cake”, making us all think it was some kind of yeasted plum cake when it’s a yeasted viennoiserie dough with plums on top! I do wonder if it would be even tastier with plums folded in as well as on top?

    btw, it might be possible to do it in a springform pan lined with a layer or two of parchment or aluminum foil. That would stop the leakage out the bottom and would probably be high-sided enough to stop it spilling over the top. I’ll have to experiment…

  23. altrooheather
    Posted November 2, 2010 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

    Glad I could assist! : )

  24. altrooheather
    Posted November 2, 2010 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

    Good idea with the parchment and spring form pan. Butter literally shoots out of this thing as it bakes. Higher sides would be a good good thing.

    I was thinking it was like croissant dough or puff pastry as I was making it — who rolls out a cake?

    The caramelization is sublime. So French and delicious.

    Let me know how it goes for you when you make it!

    Cheers!

  25. Posted November 3, 2010 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    This is amazing! I love Amelie and I’m superpsyched to try this recipe.

  26. altrooheather
    Posted November 3, 2010 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    Excellent! Good luck with it!!

  27. Robin
    Posted November 3, 2010 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

    Well, I made my very first Kouign Amann today!!!! Your instructions and pictures were foolproof! The final product was simply devine. I used a round casserole like dish to bake it in. It is much deeper than a pie pan. I didn’t have to worry a bit about it spilling over but I had a task at getting it out. It didn’t exactly make it out in one piece but it was close so it’s not too ugly. I might try the springform approach (maybe lined with an oven bag) in the future. Thanks for taking the time to post step by step instructions with pictures. This was really simple and super delicious.

  28. altrooheather
    Posted November 3, 2010 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

    That’s great idea — the casserole dish! I think I will give that a try — maybe parchment in there instead of the spring form pan? Maybe that’s the perfect solution!

    I’m glad it turned out and you liked it! It’s such a lovely dessert or snack. Very French!

  29. Lisa in Texas
    Posted November 4, 2010 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    I’m soooooo happy you figured this out! I’ve been wanting to make her “famous plum cake” for forever– it’s my all time favorite movie : ) Thanks!

  30. altrooheather
    Posted November 4, 2010 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    Hooray! It’s my favorite movie too. I hope you like it!

  31. Robin
    Posted November 5, 2010 at 8:35 am | Permalink

    I had to make 2 more cakes before I left my parent’s house so I had the opportunity to try different pans. I didn’t try the oven bags as a liner because it’s written on the box not to exceed 400 degrees during baking. So I tried a springform lined with parchment and the rounded casserole lined with foil. The casserole dish is the way to go, no leaks or bubbling over. Don’t use foil because the syrupy sugar sticks really bad to it. The parchment pulled away very easily. I’ve certainly had fun making them and they are so simple to make that I will definitely be making more! Tomorrow, I sitting down with a slice and watching Amelie!

  32. altrooheather
    Posted November 5, 2010 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    Excellent experimenting! Was the rounded casserole like a Le Cruset kind of thing? Or glass? If you have a link to what worked for you, that would be awesome! I’ll update the post to include this! Thank you!!

  33. Robin
    Posted November 5, 2010 at 11:24 pm | Permalink

    The casserole dish I used was a glass one. I was at my parent’s home when I made these and I didn’t think to take a picture of the dish. But I did happen to find one on eBay (search “heavy glass fruit design” and it comes right up).

  34. altrooheather
    Posted November 6, 2010 at 8:13 am | Permalink

    Ahhhh! I’ll update! Thank you, Robin!

  35. Posted November 7, 2010 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    Here’s a recipe that doesn’t seem to leak as much. You could probably just apply plums to the top and have the same thing! http://joepastry.com/index.php?cat=227

  36. altrooheather
    Posted November 7, 2010 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for sharing your post! Yours looks lovely!

  37. Posted November 14, 2010 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

    I just wanted you to know that sometimes I come and go to this page to ogle the buttery, plummy goodness. That is all.

  38. altrooheather
    Posted November 15, 2010 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    Sometimes I do that to your pies. Weird or cute that we stalk each others baked goods?

  39. Posted November 16, 2010 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    It’s dessert fate or something.

  40. altrooheather
    Posted November 16, 2010 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    United by sugar.

  41. Posted March 3, 2011 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    I decided to try veganizing your recipe after purchasing some plums, and while I’m sure vegan margarine (I used earth balance)is far cry from anything authentically french, it carmelised just fine and tastes like a dream to me! Thank you for posting the recipe.

  42. lucy
    Posted May 17, 2011 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

    How many butter did you mean with one stick? I look at the picture and I can read 227 gr. But my butter stick is 115 gr. How many butter do I need? Thanks!

  43. altrooheather
    Posted June 25, 2011 at 11:30 pm | Permalink

    I’m so happy that worked out! I need to get more into the vegan baking — I’m not all that familiar with the properties of Earth Balance in high heat or in something like this. Thank you so much for reporting back!

  44. altrooheather
    Posted June 25, 2011 at 11:31 pm | Permalink

    Hi Lucy! I made it with the whole 227 grams but butter leaked all over, so I bet you could do with less and wouldn’t notice past having less to clean up!

  45. Posted August 21, 2011 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    hi.thanks for posting plum cake recipe.it is so amazing i really love it.god bless

  46. heather b.
    Posted September 12, 2011 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

    You’re welcome! It was so fun to make. I hope you enjoy it!

  47. laura
    Posted February 4, 2012 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    I love cooking so I’m always searching for new and fun recipes. I love Amelie so I have to try this bread. I did it: it was yummy. My husband said is his favourite recipe. You have a cool blog. Keep goin! Love, Laura

  48. Anna
    Posted April 1, 2012 at 10:34 am | Permalink

    omg, omg, omg, omg!!!! Who is awesome? YOU ARE awesome. Thank you so much for your explicit details and pictures for a novice like me who would normally wouldn’t make such a treasure. :)

  49. heather b.
    Posted April 24, 2012 at 7:07 am | Permalink

    Hey Laura! I’m glad you gave this a whirl! I’m glad you and your husband liked it! :)

  50. heather b.
    Posted April 24, 2012 at 7:08 am | Permalink

    Hey Anna! You’re hilarious! Thank you for the kind words and I hope you liked the cake! It’s worth the rigamarole! :)

  51. Posted May 6, 2012 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

    Wow, this looks beautiful and delicious. (And I love that movie!)

  52. heather b.
    Posted May 18, 2012 at 7:41 pm | Permalink

    It’s delicious and such a great movie. It’s fun to make at least once.

  53. Posted June 15, 2012 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

    Have you ever used peaches instead of plums? (is that sacrilegious..?)

  54. heather b.
    Posted June 15, 2012 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

    I haven’t! But I bet that would be OK … the plums are nice because of their tartness, so if the peaches are really sweet maybe reign in the sugar a little bit? Just a guess! Good luck and report back!

  55. Kate
    Posted September 9, 2012 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for finding this cake and putting up the recipe! I always wanted to make it too, and it’s sitting pretty in my fridge before the final steps. I wanted to ask that you change the language on steps 13 and 14 where you say “add some more sugar” – I interpreted that as putting 1/4 c. of sugar each time since you also wrote “just like before.” Since I didn’t split the 1/4 c. up I had to go back and unfold it and remove as much sugar as I could to put back in the 1/4 c. measurer for the topping. Poo poo.

  56. heather b.
    Posted November 18, 2012 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

    Hi Kate — let me check that out and try to make it more clear. Thanks for noticing that!

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