This is a beloved classic cake from the Basque country in the South of France and Northern Spain. Although a Gâteau is a cake it’s kind of pretending to be a tart because you roll out the buttery soft shortbread-like dough, fill with pastry cream and/or jam, cover in more dough then bake. So it’s an amazing soft slightly crumbly pastry cake with a choice of delicious fillings. Hiking friends looked surprised and impressed upon biting into it then came back for more. There have been various recipe requests so one of my new year’s resolutions for 2020 was to finally post this! Your fillings can be pastry cream or jam, or both together! Of course just jam and fruit is a perfect fast option and chopped nuts can be included for crunch. This recipe is for two smallish-medium cakes so you can make each a different flavour! One of my favourites is the mandarin Gâteau Basque with pastry cream, homemade mandarin compôte, chopped candied stem ginger and orange peel…
Made with gluten-free flour the pastry is lighter and melt-in-your-mouth crumbly.
I also love the sour cherry jam, fresh redcurrant and walnut. That tasty little crunch! The dough was half glutenfree flour, half plain and it baked longer for a firmer pastry-like dough. There’s no pastry cream so it’s traditional to shape a Basque cross on top instead of the diagonal criss-cross pattern.
Another favourite is the tart blackcurrant Gâteau Basque with pastry cream, blackcurrant jam and fresh blackcurrants.
And there was a yummy one with pastry cream and black cherry jam straight from the Basque country – got slightly carried away up there and came back to Barcelona with 5 or 6 jars of jam!!! By the way, purists say traditional Gâteaux Basques must be made with black cherry jam from the Basque Country! But don’t worry about that.
You can see the Gâteau Basque is very versatile and dough layers can be thinner and more pastry-like or thicker, softer and cake-like. You can be creative and use any high-fruit content jam or compôte you like. It’s also delicious with just pastry cream. Friends have thoroughly approved of them after just one bite, particularly appreciating the special mandarin version while saying they’re all equally delish.
So hope you’ll join me on a little adventure into Healthier Gateaux Basques territory! 🙂
THE RECIPE – makes 2 cakes (16cm/6.3in diametre)
This recipe is adapted from one given me on a course in Bordeaux with a lovely CAP pâtissière. She taught me the ‘boudin’ (sausage) system which makes lining a tin with very soft pastry easier – you’ll see what I mean later.
I used glutenfree flour in the final prototypes which had a slightly sandier texture – it works fine if you have a higher supporting mould and roll quickly in a cool atmosphere. Plain all-purpose flour is easier to roll and holds better but I love the lightness of glutenfree goods. Using half gluten-free and half 00 flour works great! The quantity of caster sugar in my pastry is reduced with half replaced by pure maple syrup and the pastry cream has less cornflour and is only sweetened with pure maple syrup. You can use standard plain flour and sugar – some online recipes use light brown sugar or cassonade.
Please adapt as you prefer using your favourite flour, sugar and jam or compôte. A French magazine recently had a version with a layer of homemade apple compôte and little pieces of apple. And there are versions with almond pastry cream. Yum.
It’s a simple cake to make. The most difficult part is rolling out the soft dough. I still remember the chaos and disasters this caused us all on our Intensive basic Cordon Bleu course during a hot Parisian summer. There was a lot of sticky despair, re-rolling and throwing of extra flour on the work surface. But it’s actually a straightforward process following these tips:
- Don’t make this cake in a hot kitchen. Roll out the pastry not too thinly between two sheets of baking paper sprinkled lightly with flour.
- Put jam on the bottom layer if using with pastry cream or if using alone make sure the top covering layer of dough is at least 4mm thick. Rolling the pastry around 4mm thick and making 4 to 6 smaller individual tarts also makes the pastry rounds easier to handle.
- Make sure your cake tins are high enough. The uncooked cake can be half-way or 3/4 from the top of the tin so it has room to rise. Just in case. Check out the disasters below where the rising pastry had no support so collapsed outwards. The ruins were still yummy.
My cake teacher in Bordeaux uses round cardboard tart moulds which makes the process easier as you don’t have to unmould the cake (I’ve found my springform sandwich tins work great too). Here I am in her kitchen glowing with the cakes.
It’s generally recommended to make these cakes the day before eating so the flavours really develop and come together overnight. If eaten the same day you’ll be disappointed and feel the cake’s a bit bland (yes, speaking from experience).
This is a long post with lots of detail but the cake’s actually pretty fast to put together, especially if you omit the pastry cream – which takes 10 mins to make!
DAY 1 – make dough: 10-15 minutes work then rest overnight. Make mandarin compote if using.
DAY 2 – make pastry cream if using (or make on Day 1): 10-15 mins work then chill in fridge at least 2 hours. Assembling: 20-25 mins work. Baking: 30-40 minutes. Resist from eating.
DAY 3 – start eating! 🙂
2 x round springform cakes tins: 16cm/6.3in diametre and 4.5cm/1.8in high (up to 5 cm high). 16cm/6.3in cake ring cutter or plate to cut the pastry rounds. I recommend 16cm diametre or smaller individual cakes for easier handling.
- 450-500g/16-18oz (4 -5) mandarins or clementines
- 1/2 vanilla pod or 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract/powder, to taste
- 80-100g/4-5 tbsp pure maple syrup
- 168g/3/4 cup (1 and 1/2 sticks) butter, softened at room temperature
- 60/3 tbsp pure maple syrup (or 50g sugar/honey)
- 60g/1/4 cup minus 2/3 tsp caster (superfine) sugar, I used golden unrefined
- finely-grated zest of 1/2 lemon or 1/2 – 3/4 tsp pure vanilla extract or ground ginger, to taste
- 84g/3/4 cup plus 6 tsp ground almonds
- 55g beaten egg (1 medium-large free-range egg)
- 232g/1 and 3/4 cups plus 5 tsp glutenfree flour (I use Doves Farm self-raising gf) OR plain/all-purpose flour OR 116g gf and 116g plain (half of each – my favourite option)
- 1/3 – 1/2 tsp fine sea salt or a little less/more, to taste
- Cream softened butter with a whisk until smooth then whisk in sugar, maple syrup, flavouring and zest (if using) until smooth and creamy.
- Gradually whisk in egg until light and fluffy.
- In a separate small-medium bowl whisk the flour(s), ground almonds and salt to combine.
- Fold these dry ingredients into the egg mixture until just combined. Don’t overwork. It will be a soft cake dough.
- Use rubber spatula to put in a reusable plastic wallet and chill in fridge overnight.
Pastry cream (enough for the 2 cakes)
- 375g/ml full-fat milk
- 90g/4 and 1/2 tbsp pure maple syrup or 90g/2/5 cup caster (superfine) sugar
- 70-75g beaten egg – I use 44g beaten whole egg (about 3/4 of a medium large egg) plus 28g egg yolk (1 and 1/2 yolks) – save remaining beaten egg to brush over cake before baking
- 40g/1/4 cup and 2/3 tsp cornflour (cornstarch, like Maizena)
- 1/3 to 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract, to taste (or some other flavouring like rum or orange blossom water)
- small pinch of fine sea salt, optional
- In a medium bowl whisk maple syrup or sugar with beaten egg a few minutes until combined and a little paler.
- Whisk in cornflour until combined.
- Heat milk in medium-small saucepan until just boiling.
- Pour carefully into egg mixture whisking at the same time.
- Pour back into saucepan and whisk continuously over low-medium heat scraping the bottom and sides well so nothing gets stuck or burnt down there. Keep whisking until pastry cream thickens enough and holds its shape. It should boil (you’ll see big bubbles popping slightly) for at least 30 seconds to cook off the flour/cornflour.
- Use clean rubber spatula to scrape into a clean bowl to cool down and cover on contact with plastic film. Or as I have been doing lately, scrape into a reusable (washable) plastic wallet.
- Store in fridge at least 2 hours before using.
Assembling and baking
Preheat oven to 180ºC/360ºF (fan/convection oven) or 200ºC/390ºF (static oven)
Get all elements and equipment ready beforehand then you can work quickly with the pastry so it doesn’t start softening too much.
Versions with various fillings
Mandarin cake: 2 slices candied orange and 1 ball candied stem ginger (in syrup) finely chopped, 4-6 tbsp mandarin compôte.
Cherry, redcurrant and walnut cake: 4-5 tbsp sour cherry jam (or combine sour cherries with black cherry jam), a handful of fresh redcurrants warmed a few minutes in a saucepan with 1 tbsp maple syrup or sugar, a handful of roughly chopped walnuts.
Blackcurrant cake: as for cherry cake but with blackcurrant jam and blackcurrants and/or redcurrants. Nuts and pastry cream layer on top are optional.
- Let pastry soften a little at room temperature 10 minutes or so.
- Lightly butter your springform tins (or cake rings placed on lightly greased baking paper).
- Divide pastry into 6 – this is a loose calculation and you might use more or less for each section.
- Roll out one piece of pastry (about 1/6) between two sheets of lightly floured baking paper until 3 to 5 mm thick (I prefer 4mm).
- Cut out 16cm round and place in one tin. Repeat with second 1/6 of pastry to fill the second tin.
- Use another 1/6 of pastry to roll a long thin ‘sausage‘.
- Brush with beaten egg around the edge of each pastry round.
- Place long ‘sausage’ or various small sausages around the edge of the base. Press lightly to sides making the edges high enough. Reserve extra pastry to add to top pastry rounds.
- Spread 4 to 6 tablespoons of jam or compôte (if using) on base. Sprinkle with fruit, dried fruit or nuts if using.
- Top with layer of pastry cream (if using) – pipe concentric circles then smooth out carefully.
- Repeat steps 3 to 5 for second cake.
- Roll out top pastry round using another 1/6 pastry plus leftover pastry.
- Brush sausage with a little beaten egg and place pastry round on top. Use your fingers to press down gently and seal pastry edges together.
- Repeat steps 8 – 9 with remaining 1/6 pastry (plus leftovers) to finish second cake.
- Brush both cakes with a little beaten egg.
- With back of a fork make a classic Gâteau Basque pattern (see photo).
- If using jam but no pastry cream it’s traditional to top with a Basque cross. Cut out a small round then slightly cut into it. Stretch round out a bit to make required shape, as in photo. Make 4 shapes to form the cross.
Here’s a printable illustration (click on image):
Bake 30 – 40 minutes or more until golden brown or quite dark, to taste. Cool 10 – 20 minutes in tin then loosen the springform tin. Wait 10 more minutes then carefully take off base of tin. Be careful, the cake can be delicate. Cool completely on wire rack.
Eating and storing
This cake’s best eaten the next day at room temperature. You can keep at room temperature in airtight tupperware for 3 or 4 days. But if there’s pastry cream then store in fridge in airtight tupperware where it keeps well up to 4 or 5 days (take out 20 mins before eating). Slices can be stored in freezer in reusable plastic wallets for up to 2 months or so.
Slices seem quite happy going on hiking trips too. I carried the pastry cream ones in my mini fridge bag, in my backpack.
A traditional cake
French Wikipedia says the Gâteau Basque first appeared in the 19th century in the French Basque country and was eaten only on Sundays or holidays. A pâtissière in Cambo, Marianne Hirigoyen, was one of the first to commercialise this cake by selling it at the Bayonne market.
But if you can’t get to the beautiful Basque Country you can still make your very own delicious Basque cake! I think you’ll love it! Bon appétit!
Bye for now dears! Wishing you lots of rustic delicious treats, happy baking and eating! 🙂 Lili x