Gâteau Basque is a traditional dessert from the French Basque region. A layer of buttery soft biscuit pastry with a layer of jam (traditionally black cherry) and pastry cream and topped with biscuit pastry, it’s a firm favourite in southern France. In the Basque language it’s called “etxeko bixkotxa”. It’s thought to have been invented around 200 years ago, a home bake favourite for special occasions with recipes passed through the generations.
The cake is much loved to this day, there’s even a Gateau Basque museum where you can join in an workshop and make a cake. You’ll find it in the Plus Beaux Village (officially one of the prettiest) village of Sare, Basque country.
Recipe for Basque cake
Pastry base and top
200g plain flour
Lemon – grated zest
25g ground almonds
80g caster sugar
1 egg (half for the pastry, half for the cream pastry)
Several drops vanilla essence
75g softened butter
30g plain flour
30g ground almonds
500 ml milk
3 eggs yolks
90g Caster sugar
1 vanilla pod (or several drops vanilla essence)
2 large tablespoons of jam – preferably black cherry
How to make Gateau Basque
Mix the flour, almond power and lemon zest together in a bowl and make a well in the centre.
Add half a beaten egg, the softened butter and vanilla essence and mix to form a dough. (You can also use a mixer with dough hook).
Divide the dough into 2 pieces, wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together until they appear pale. Sift in the flour and almond power and mix.
Heat the milk and scrape the seeds from the vanilla pod and add to the milk and bring to the boil.
Pour over the egg and flour mix, stirring all the time to avoid lumps. Pour the mix through a strainer if you used a vanilla pod, if not add the vanilla essence. Add the rum and pour the mix back into the saucepan and cook over a gentle heat to bring to the boil, keep stirring the whole time until it’s thick and smooth – 2-4 minutes.
Leave the mix to cool.
Roll your pastry out to fit a small tart tin lined with grease proof paper.
Spoon the jam over the base and spread evenly
Pour the pastry cream over the top.
Roll the second lot of pastry to create a ‘lid’, place over the pastry cream. Score the top with a sharp knife and brush with beaten egg (left over from the pastry).
Bake at gas mark 4/180˚C/35OF for 40 minutes until golden brown. Leave to cool, it’s delicious warm or cold.