Gâteau Basque

The only time I’ve ever had this cake, the real deal, was in St-Jean-Pied-de-Port on the French side of the Pyrenees.

Many of us are still in quarantine. We can’t travel, but our taste buds sure can. I dug through the internet for a recipe that would replicate the texture of the Gâteau Basque I had in St. Jean and this one did it. If food tastes like memories then, for me, this cake tastes like adventure and new beginnings and excitement and freedom. Which are all of the things many of us are craving right now.

This is why I love this cake: it’s not fluffy or frosted. It’s a shallow, thin cake with some kind of decadent filling. Often vanilla pastry cream, lemon cream, or cherry preserves. The texture of this cake is somewhere between a crumbly tart and cake. There’s this papery thin layer on top that I was determined to replicate. It’s kind of dense, kind of crumbly, very buttery. Oh yeah, and RIDICULOUSLY DELICIOUS.

Gâteau Basque Recipe

The dough recipe adapted from here.

Dough

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour + 1/8 cup
  • 1/2 cup almond flour
  • 3/4 tbsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 stick + 1 tbsp unsalted, soft butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract

In one bowl whisk flour, baking powder, salt. In a standing mixer (or a large bowl) fitted with a paddle, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks and then whole egg along with almond extract. Beat until thoroughly mixed. On low speed add the flour mixture and almond flour.

Form into two disks. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.

Lemon Curd Filling

Thank you, Ina Garten, for this recipe.

  • 3 lemons
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 pound unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice (about 3 or 4 lemons)
  • 1/8 tsp salt

Optional: A handful of raspberries, fresh or frozen, to add later during cake assembly

Cream the butter and beat in the sugar. Add zest of three lemons. Add the eggs, one at a time, and then the lemon juice and salt. Mix until just combined.

Transfer to a two quart saucepan and cook over low heat 10 -20 minutes, until thickened, stirring constantly. If the mixture looks grainy whisk it the whole time. The lemon curd thickens around 170 degrees or just below a simmer. Remove from heat and cool then refrigerate several hours. It will thicken up a lot more when it cools.

Assemble the cake

Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease an 8-inch cake pan or tart pan with removable bottom. Cut out a circle of parchment or wax paper to line the bottom of the pan and grease that too if you are using a regular cake pan.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the first disk of dough to a 1/4-inch thickness and cut out an 8 inch round. Use the scraps with the second disk. Slide the round onto a lightly floured baking sheet and refrigerate until firm, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, roll the second disk out to a little over 1/4-inch thickness. It should be bigger than the 8inch pan. Transfer it to an 8-inch pan. Lightly press the dough onto the bottom and up the side of the pan. Trim off the excess and refrigerate the tart shell until firm, about 10 minutes.

Pour in the lemon curd. Dot the top of the curd with a handful of fresh or frozen raspberries. Place the 8-inch disk on top of the curd and seal the edges. Trim the edges. Brush with egg wash. Using a fork, lightly skewer the top to make a diamond pattern.

Place on a baking sheet and bake on the lower third of the oven for 20 minutes. Then transfer to the top third of the oven about 40 minutes longer until golden brown on top. Let it cool in the pan for 10 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack. Enjoy warm or room temperature.

Excess dough can be made into cookies! Roll them out to 1/4 inch thickness and bake at 350 about 20 minutes or golden.

St-Jean-Pied-de-Port. Imagine you’re here while you eat.