People tend to go into raptures when they see a gâteau à la broche. It is one of the dishes of Midi-Pyrénées that the locals are most proud of, cooked over an open fire. The ingredients – flour, eggs, butter, rum and vanilla – are simple, but each makes its own secret little contribution to making the cake smell nicer or giving it a softer texture.
Then, everything comes down to the unusual way in which it is cooked. This involves one or two hours of hard work, depending on the size of the cake, which is sold in sections between 10 and 65 cm high, weighing between 150 g and 5 kg. Slowly and skilfully, the mixture is poured into a special mould, which is then turned on a spit. A good gâteau à la broche requires between 10 and 20 layers of cake mix.
The cake gradually takes shape, with its surface bristling with round and tender protrusions created by the motion of the spit and the play of the flames. It doesn’t take much – an unruly fire or a clumsy movement, for example – to ruin this cake, which Napoleon’s army is said to have brought back from the Balkans.
In both Hautes Pyrénées and Aveyron it has become adopted as a wedding cake, and by extension a symbol of celebrations.