French Kindness + Chocolate & Chestnut Cake

A few days ago was Thanksgiving, and as much as I love living in France, it’s difficult not being in the US during the holidays.  There’s a real longing to be where things feel familiar and to spend time with friends & family.  Every year I find myself “rediscovering” something that I love about American holidays, and this year I’m wild about baking – cupcakes, brownies, pies, sugar cookies… you name, I’d like to make it.  We don’t have a lot of the staples of American baking here, although I finally stumbled upon the French version of chocolate-chips, but I’m going to try my best to bake my heart out this holiday season.  Double-layer pumpkin cheesecake here I come…

Through all of this longing, I’ve also been reminded of how grateful I am to be living in France and how thankful I am to the French people who have showed me kindness as a foreigner in their country.  I’m a strong believer in combating the stereotype that the French are rude as I’ve found them to be among the nicest, most polite people I’ve ever met.  Most recently, the evening after Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast of the US, we stopped at our local wine shop (le caviste) and as we worked our way up the line, our wine “guy” turned to me & said… You’re American, right?  From where?  Do you have any family in New York? (no) I’m so sorry for what’s happened, it’s so terrible… etc.  I thought that was so touching, from someone I hardly know.

Of course there are the daily things that I barely notice anymore, like the merchants at the outdoor market who know only know a handful of sentences in English but will try all of them to try to communicate with you… or really anyone who tells me after a conversation in French, full of the usual grammar errors, “You speak so well”.  Not exactly true, but it gives me the courage to keeping trying, no matter how many mistakes I make.  Or lastly, about three weeks ago, the bus driver who saw me in a full sprint, in the pouring rain, and stopped his bus in the middle of a busy street to let me in. Probably five different kinds of illegal, but that small gesture made my day.

And finally, here’s the first of my baking projects, not American this time… but definitely great for the holidays.  Enjoy!


Moelleux aux Marrons


18 ounces chestnut creme (the recipe works just as well as a moist chocolate cake if you choose to omit the chestnut creme)

2 tablespoons butter

3 eggs

1/3 cup sugar

1 tablespoon rum

1 bar baking chocolate (dark)

a pinch of salt


Pre-heat oven to 390° F.

1.  Melt the chocolate and butter together and set aside.

2.  Seperate the eggs, and add the chestnut cream, egg yolks, & rum to the chocolate mixture.

3.  Beat the egg whites, with a pinch of salt, in a bowl until they form stiff peaks.  Fold them into the chocolate & cream.

4.  Spoon into individual ramkins (buttered & floured) or an 8-inch pan and bake for 15-20 minutes. Before serving, top with powdered sugar or candied chestnuts if desired.

recipe credit:  Modes et Travaux 

8 thoughts on “French Kindness + Chocolate & Chestnut Cake”

  1. I have never found anyone in France to be overly rude or otherwise unkind with us. People in Paris are busy and sometimes in a hurry, but that is not the same as rude. I love France and its people.

    Despite its incredible beauty and all of the wonderful places that I have been blessed to visit in France, it is those little, everyday exchanges with the people that I remember most when I get home.


    1. Thank you for your comment Shanna, that’s very helpful to hear that you’ve had positive experiences in France. I’ve had several friends visit who started their travels in Paris and had a few “unpleasant” experiences and then come to find that it has a lot to do with being in a big city… like most big cities in the world.

      And definitely, it’s all about the small gestures when you travel, that’s what makes the experience. bon weekend!


  2. Like you, I hear from lots of people that think the French are “rude”. But generally I find that it’s a case of American’s not understanding the French ways of doing business (saying “bonjour Madame”, “Merci Madame”), never being in a hurry, trying to find shampoo in a pharmacy, trying to order food in a French restaurant like they would at Dennys, or simply being loud like so many Americans are. I have never been treated rudely since I was a kid many years ago and an old man slapped me for saying “tu” instead of “vous” although I have been subtlely reminded about the need to say “bonjour” before I ask for help. Your recipe looks delicious and much more French than American. Happy Holidays.


    1. Wow, that is quite a story Michel! I always have a hard time with tu & vous but I’m getting a lot better at it… like you said, I haven’t been treated rudely either, a few instances in Paris I have to say, but generally I think that is true for most big cities.


  3. No flour? I must try this. I’ve been dying to make a chestnut something for a while. Although I refuse to use the French version of chocolate chips. Blech!

    I don’t really think the French are rude, I think it’s a combination of unabashed curiosity mixed with that sense of “entourage” they have here. Plus, this is a rather large population packed into small spaces. No one lives in the countryside, everyone lives in urban areas, and the sense of personal space is different. It took me a long time to get used to though, and I think it can come across as rudeness to foreigners.


    1. Yep, no flour in the cake Holly… just love that. Going to make it again very soon as I have a few baking-chocolate bars lying around. Glad you have the same impression of the French as well, great observations.


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