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Steamed Mussels & A Buttermilk Frangipane Cake

Steamed Mussels With White Wine & Key Limes

I hope that everyone had a great holiday break and celebrated the New Year as they wished. Quietly or with lots of fireworks and revelers. I don’t know about you but even if I don’t make resolutions I truly enjoy this feeling of starting clean that comes with January. Twelve new months, yours for the taking. Yours to create, get inspired, start, accomplish…There is something exhilarating about the new year.

Personally, it gives me an even greater wish to leap, with all my fears at times, or without any at others. It also fills me with the desire to reset the clocks, just like we do with a new calendar. Internal clocks, personal clocks, work clocks. Setting priorities and goals. Making inspiration and mood boards.


It’s been good to dive back into creating recipes, writing the stories around them and thinking about their photographs. There are lots of fun blog projects in the planning. In the middle if all these "happy new year moments", my family suffered another great loss yesterday. Once again, without my family being close enough to hug and comfort, I turned to the only things I knew to do at the time. Clearing my head, getting inspired and cooking.


Anchoring feeling of loss to the present, to tangible things I could do and explain, I took my camera and headed to the beach. I observed quietly. My fingers got numb gripping my camera straps so hard. But the colors, the quiet empty beach before me…blues, grays, reds… They put my mind at ease. The waves crashing at my feet truly reminded me that life is "it". It’s full if we make it so. It’s not perfect because we make it so. There is life inspired in everything.


On my way home, I stopped at the fish stands at the end of island and got a bag of fresh mussels. My comfort food. It was close to lunch time. Convenient to start cooking. Like most of us, beside being a necessary act of survival, food is also part of our story. My food stories involve every member of my family. They include many friends. They are full of laughters, jokes, pranks, animated discussion, etc… They are full of life.

Fangipane Cake

Deeply aware that every part of me was now bursting with energy and inspiration, I cooked and photographed. I found my rhythm in the things I knew to be my constant. After a much needed break over the holidays it felt good to be back in it. Normalcy coming back little by little.

Key Limes

Steamed mussels are pretty much my go-to super fast dinner or lunch. They really take very little time and are super flavorful when cooked with some white wine, garlic and parsley and finished off with a spritz of lime juice for example. Ok, they are a bit messy but that little imperfection is part of their charm. Just like the beaten up Key limes I got at the store (in the reject box where overdue fruits are sold for pennies to the pound). I am founding imperfection really soothing lately.

Frangipane Cake

The cake was an experiment that did not turn out the way I hoped for but which did not take away any of the wonderful taste or aroma. I had made a small galette des Rois over the weekend and had a half quantity of frangipane left. I layered it with the cake batter and swirled it, hoping it would create a nice design when cut through. I apparently did not swirl hard enough. Imperfect result. Perfect taste. Paired with a cold glass of milk and I suddenly felt my entire body relax.

As cliche as it may sound, food truly has magical powers. Well…cake does…!

I truly wish you the happiest of New Years. Live fully. Play hard. Leap and take chances. Tiny or big. Do what makes you truly happy.

Fangipane Cake

Steamed Mussels:
1 pound fresh mussels
1 cup of white wine
1/3 cup seafood stock (or water)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
lime or lemon juice (I used a Key lime)

Clean the mussels by scrubbing them under cold water and remove the little fuzzy "beard" that hangs on some of them.
Place a large skillet over medium heat and add the white wine, stock and garlic. Bring to a strong simmer, add the mussels all at once. Cover the pan with a lid (or if you are like me, lid-less, another skillet of the same dimension). Let the mussels cook 6 to 8 minutes. Thrown in the parsley, toss with the mussels. Discard any that did not open and serve immediately with some of the an juices and a spritz of lime or lemon.

Buttermilk & Frangipane Cake:

Makes two 8-inch loaves

1/2 cup (125ml) buttermilk
1/2 cup (125ml) sour cream
1/2 cup (100gr) sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup (125ml) olive oil
zest and juice of one lemon
2 cups (280gr) Jeanne’s gluten free all purpose flour mix (or 2 cups regular flour)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 portion frangipane filling (recipe follows)

Preheat the oven to 350F. Position a tray in the middle. Grease two loaf pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. Place the pans on a baking sheet. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, sour cream, sugar and eggs until pale (takes about 2 minutes). Add the oil and lemon juice and zest and mix until well blended. Add the flour mix and baking powder and whisk about 50 strokes until the batter is smooth. Divide half the batter in between the two pans. Top each pan with the frangipane filling over that first layer. Divide the remainder of the cake batter in between the two pans to cover the frangipane.
Bake for about 40-45 minutes (on convection) to a hour (regular) until a knife inserted in the middle comes free of raw batter.


1/2 stick (55 gr) butter, softened
1/4 cup (25gr) sugar
1/2 cup (50 gr) ground almonds (blanched, slivered, whole, your call)
1 egg
2 tablespoons (30gr) heavy cream

Place the butter, sugar, ground almonds, and the eggs in a large bowl and whisk until smooth (can also be done in a food processor). Add the cream but stir in it instead of whisking not to emulsify it or it will rise while baking.

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Maria Larsen January 5, 2012 um 4:14 pm

I am so sorry for your loss, the photos you took are absolutely breathtaking. I've never had mussels, and am not sure if I would like them, but I like oysters so I'm assuming I would? Who knows. I completely agree with you, food, cooking and baking, is a part of my life so intertwined with everything I do.

Return to Sunday Supper℠ January 5, 2012 um 4:17 pm

A lovely post to start the new year! Your attitude toward life is always inspiring, as are your beautiful photos!

Unknown January 5, 2012 um 4:42 pm

What an enlightened way to begin the new year. I'm so sorry to hear of your loss. Not many words can comfort the void left by a loved one departed – but hopefully the thoughts of others can reassure you that we are all here for you.
Beautiful photos, as usual. Inspired. I will be making this delicious cake this weekend, I hope.
All the best, Helene. ~Megan

Sophisticated Stationery January 5, 2012 um 4:44 pm

I'm sorry for your loss but your attitude should certainly make this year a good one! The recipe sounds delicious!

Jillian@TheHumbleGourmet January 5, 2012 um 4:56 pm

I've always shyed away from mussels, clams and oysters, but I'm starting to see their appeal. Especially when fresh and prepared right.

I'm so sorry for your loss. These things do seem to happen in bunches, don't they? I wish you and your family all the best in moving forward.

Diamond January 5, 2012 um 5:31 pm

I am also sorry for your losses.

Your cake intrigues me, and I have a question. How much cardamom and cinnamon do you use? I would also like to confirm that the "portion of frangipane filling" is the whole recipe you shared and that it is all divided between the two loaves. Although, I am thinking of baking it in a bigger loaf or as a cake.

Helene January 5, 2012 um 5:40 pm

Diamond: no cardamom or cinnamon. Yes, the portion I list in the ingredient is the whole recipe that follows the cake one.

Maryanne January 5, 2012 um 8:54 pm

Thank you so much for the wonderful recipes. I wish I knew of a good fish market near me, because I could eat it every day.

I had mussels at a restaurant last night in a similar sauce, but with cream added. Though delicious, 3 closed ones were served on the plate. Obviously, that chef should take lessons from you!

Unknown January 5, 2012 um 9:50 pm

Life is what you make it and it's short so you have to make the most of it. Thanks for the great words and great pictures!

Mila January 5, 2012 um 10:33 pm

What beautiful pictures you have here! So full of life and emotion! Steamed mussles are one of my hubby's favorites too 🙂

terri January 5, 2012 um 11:05 pm

I am so sorry about your uncle, especially coming so soon after the loss of your grandfather. I'm glad your photography and cooking are helping you to get through this difficult time–thank you for sharing with us.

Mary January 5, 2012 um 11:58 pm

When I lived in Germany (over 30 years ago), I got word that my grandfather had passed away. It was the first human loss that I had to endure. Being so far away from my family made it seem even more lonely.
My heart feels for you, Helene. As you stated, you went to those things you know (the beach) and those you can control (preparing foods) for your relief and consolation.
Your photos are peaceful and restful. Thank you.
Mary in Oregon

Gio January 6, 2012 um 12:23 am

I'm sorry for your loss. Wow, you translated for feelings perfectly and eloquently through the words and pictures. And I think your cake looks beautiful. 😀

STAY AT HOME CHEF January 6, 2012 um 1:08 am

What a beautiful, heartfelt post. Thank you for sharing such a private period in time with your readers. Your words and photos inspire. Wishing you a wonderful 2012.

Abhilasha January 6, 2012 um 7:16 am


Truly sorry for your loss!! No words can make that feeling of void go away right now.. but just wanted to tell you that you and your work are inspirational. Not just to me but to many people, you make a huge difference to people's lives and have definitely made to mine. I am passionate about food too and have learnt so much by reading your blog. Thank you for sharing your work and life.

Wishing you and your family a happy & healthy new year!!

Andi of My Beautiful Adventures January 6, 2012 um 1:55 pm

Your work dazzles me! So so so sorry for your loss.

Kay January 6, 2012 um 2:27 pm

Looks amazing! I started work at Paul's a few days ago. It's excruciatingly tiring but I am having fun on the whole and am learning a lot – including frangipane and galette des rois! Sold so many (mostly to the French) today!

I'm sorry to hear about your uncle. I'm glad you have your parents coming and are finding your strength in what you know and love.

I hope I can do half as well as you do.

Kay xxx

Eggton January 6, 2012 um 3:25 pm

Take care of yourself–very sorry for your loss. I hope the new year brings you some joys very soon!

Valérie (France) January 6, 2012 um 6:01 pm

La composition est très originale
Je te souhaite une belle soirée

Rocky Mountain Woman January 6, 2012 um 10:55 pm

so sorry for your loss, sweetie…

sometimes it just keeps coming at us and there is nothing left to do but cope and cooking is coping for me also….

Anonymous January 7, 2012 um 2:15 am

I am so sorry for your loss and am glad that photography and cooking brought you some peace. I received your book in the mail today and am so excited to get started making beautiful images. It is everything that I expected and more. I find your work truly inspiring. Keep up the amazing work!

Sofie Dittmann @thegermanfoodie January 7, 2012 um 3:37 am

i adore anything w/ buttermilk in it, and this cake reminds me of the german "sandkuchen" tradition, but much more moist…

Sarah January 7, 2012 um 4:50 am

So sorry that you have experienced another loss, but I'm glad you found a way to comfort yourself. Thank you for the beautiful photos and an inspiring New Years post!

Lauren January 7, 2012 um 4:28 pm

Dearest Helene,
It's taken me awhile to get here and tell you how sorry I am for another sad loss for your family. A dear friend of mine lost her mother this week…so much sadness around us at the bright start of the year. I, too, do what I can, tend to my family, cook and eat. And take pictures. As always, holding you and your loved ones in the light.

Madhu January 8, 2012 um 5:41 pm

Helene, am sorry to hear of your losses…{{{hugs}}}. Glad to hear you are able to find comfort in immersing yourself in your passion. Thank you for your kind New Year wishes and here's wishing you the same xx.

Ilke January 8, 2012 um 9:43 pm

I am so sorry for another big loss in your family. Once it starts, I think it comes in a surge and knocks you down. Hope the skies will clear and you can catch your breath, and hug your family in person soon.

Ricette&Vignette January 8, 2012 um 10:24 pm

Great things often comes from great sorrow. Wishing you all the best for 2012.

Unknown January 9, 2012 um 12:39 am

Deeply sorry for your loss. Your creativity certainly seems a comfort to you at this time, as evidenced by the photos and recipes. Beautiful. I love mussels, too, and would eat them every day if we lived by the ocean. Your cake looks beautiful, to me. It is hard to believe it didn't turn out as you had planned. Celebrating life's imperfections is a perfect way to live, to comfort oneself during times of loss. Best of luck to your and your family during this difficult time.

Daisy@Nevertoosweet January 9, 2012 um 12:35 pm

Lovely cake 🙂 and wonderful post to start the year ~ can't wait to read your amazing posts this year Take care!

Jessica January 9, 2012 um 1:50 pm

I'm so sorry for your loss. My heart goes out to you.

The cake looks delicious–just a quick question, in your post on gluten free puff pastry you mentioned you didn't like the tapioca flavor when you used tapioca flour for some of the first trials, but Jeanne's gluten free flour mix includes quite a large portion of tapioca flour. Was it just in the puff pastry that you didn't care for the flavor?

ChichaJo January 9, 2012 um 1:50 pm

So sorry hear about your loss Helene. Indeed, food does have healing qualities…glad that you are finding solace in the very things, perfect or imperfect, that give life…

Helene January 9, 2012 um 3:34 pm

Jessica: yes, the first time I had tapioca flour I really did not like it. When Jeanned showed me her mix, I was a bit worried I would not like the final flavor of it but when I tried it in baked foods, I could not discern any taste similar to the tapioca flour I had tried before. Jeanne explained that it could come from 1/ the first time I tried, it was from a packet that had probably been on the shelf too long and had gotten rancid (I had not checked the dates n it, that would make sense) and 2/ combined with other flours, the taste I did not like got very reduced to the point of not being discernible.
Hope that makes sense.

A Former Flower Child January 12, 2012 um 5:13 am

I am so sorry about the losses of your precoius grandfather and uncle,Helene.I know how deeply that pain feels.I pray that Jesus wraps His arms around you and your family and gives you comfort and strength.Your photographs are beautiful,and your recipes and enthusiasm are inspiring.Merci beaucoup !

Jessica January 12, 2012 um 6:56 pm

Thanks Helene! That's what I hoped you'd say. I can't wait to make this cake!

Bára January 16, 2012 um 4:33 pm

I just made mussels a few days ago It's a food i can't resist! :]

Lauren February 11, 2012 um 6:44 pm

Fresh mussels at the grocery today, and I had to come here first! We rarely make them (although I love them), and I knew you could point me in the right direction. Hoping you are well. xo

tania@mykitchenstories March 24, 2012 um 12:20 pm

Wow sounds like an unusual and delicious cake .

bonnie March 25, 2012 um 10:48 pm

Hi – First, I would like to say that even though it was a while back – I'm sorry for your difficult loss.

Your cake is lovely. I tried making it today – using Jeanne's GF mix instead of my own. For some reason – it turned out quite the disaster! It never rose – and never got any kind of crumb (even though the knife came out clean – it was gummy inside. Strange.

I do a lot of GF baking and I've never had this happen before. The only thing I can think of is that I had just opened a frssh can of baking powder, and it was bad (I guess it can happen – even though the expiration date was Dec 2012. I'm assuming the cake in the picture is GF, and not with regular flour?

P.S. – also, you don't mention in the instructions when to add the zest. I just added it with the wet ingredients – it probably doesn't matter. Thanks!

Helene March 26, 2012 um 1:36 pm

Bonnie: the cake in the picture is a gluten free cake using Jeanne's mix.
It could come from the oven and/or having to prolong the cooking time. If a toothpick came out with batter still raw, the best thing would have been to add about 15 minutes of cooking time and check again. I am doubting it is from the baking powder as I have made this cake without and it still rose.
I make it at least once a week so I am pretty sure it's not the recipe.

Bonnie March 27, 2012 um 12:06 am

Thanks for your response, Helene. I'm glad to hear you have baked it successfully.

I can't imagine my oven is that far off – I bake frequently, but after 40 minutes, there was no rise. So weird. I will try again.

Thanks again!

Helene March 27, 2012 um 12:44 am

Bonnie: what size eggs did you use for the cake?

Katja May 25, 2012 um 12:32 pm

Love everything about this cake! I used a pungent olive oil because that's the only thing I have in the pantry and it worked great! I love that it is the perfect example of what French cakes are to me, like my French mother used to make when I was an au pair: not too sweet, not too salty. The perfect cake for a 4 o'clock pick me up. Reminds me a lot of the "gateau au yaourt" she used to make on Sundays.
Would I be correct in assuming you based yours on this?

nicole January 6, 2013 um 7:23 pm

Bonnie and Helene…

I had exactly the same problem with this cake and I'm so disappointed! No rise, dense, "gummy" texture and it seems really oily. I am a pretty experienced baker and every part of my brain was screaming that there were not enough dry ingredients. I was wondering if it's because I used regular flour instead of gluten-free? Or maybe because I baked in one large loaf pan instead of two? It was really done around the bottom and sides, so I could not have cooked it much longer. So weird. But obviously it's something else I did wrong if everyone is having such success! The flavor is excellent, though. And the frangipane layer is divine. I will try again and conquer it!

Helene January 7, 2013 um 1:23 pm

Nicole: the middle layer makes the bottom and top one very moist but it should not be gummy. Baking it in one large pan instead of two definitely increased that factor which would explain for how moist it was.

pRiyA July 17, 2013 um 5:43 pm

I made this cake last evening. I am still savouring the warm delicious and comforting flavours.Thank you for a lovely recipe.

Julie August 10, 2014 um 9:24 pm

Nice recipe to try at home… really enjoyed a lot.. Thank you

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