July 3, 2012

Gateau Basque

Two of our friends, Matt and Bonnie Hargreaves, both served missions in France and Matt shared with me a few years ago his memory of a french dessert called "Gateau Basque." I did a little bit of research on the cake and finally got around to making it using fresh cherries from Bonnie's dad's farm. This cake or tart hails from the Pays Basque region of France and is typically made with cherries but can also include other ingredients like pastry cream. I was amazed at how this cake came together considering that there really is no batter. Instead, it is created using thick cherry jam surrounded by two disks of dough. The dough rises and expands around the jam and makes for a delcious treat. The recipe below, found on NPR's website, yields one 8 inch cake, good for about 8 servings. Enjoy!

1. Start the jam about 45 minutes before taking the dough disks out of the refrigerator.
2. If you let the dough disks sit too long after removing them from the fridge, they will become too soft and brittle and will be difficult to place.

2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
10 Tbs unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup thick cherry jam (see recipe below)
1 egg beaten with a splash of water, for the glaze

Cherry Jam
2 cups cherries, chopped
2 Tbs lemon juice
¾ cup sugar

1. Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt and keep at hand.

2. Working in a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and both sugars together on medium speed for about 3 minutes, or until smooth.

3. Add the egg and beat another 2 minutes or so, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

4. Add vanilla and mix for about a minute more.
5. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients in two or three additions, mixing only until they're fully incorporated into the dough.

6. Place a large sheet of plastic wrap or wax paper on your work surface and put half of the very soft and sticky dough in the center of the sheet.
7. Cover with another piece of plastic or wax paper, then roll the dough into a circle just a little larger than 8 inches in diameter. As you're rolling, turn the dough over and lift the plastic or paper frequently, so that you don't roll it into the dough and form creases. Repeat with the other half of the dough.

8. Put the dough on a cutting board or baking sheet and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.
9. Preheat the oven to 350.
10. Generously butter a 2-inch high, 8-inch round cake pan.
11. Remove the layers from the refrigerator and let them rest on the counter for a couple of minutes before peeling away the plastic or paper. Fit one layer into the bottom of the pan.
12. Spoon some of the jam onto the dough, leaving one inch of dough around the border.

13. Moisten the bare ring of dough with a little water and then top with the second piece of dough, pressing down around the edges to seal.

14. Brush the top of the dough with the egg glaze and use a fork to etch a cross-hatch pattern on top.

15. Bake the cake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the top is golden brown.
16. Transfer the cake to a cooling rack and let it rest for 5 minutes before carefully running a blunt knife around the edges of the cake. Turn the cake over onto a cooling rack and then quickly and carefully invert it onto another rack so that it can cool to room temperature right side up.

Cherry Jam
1. Combine cherries and lemon juice in tall sauce pan.

2. Cook on medium high heat for 10-15 minutes, until cherries are soft and tender.
3. Add ¾ cup sugar and continue to cook on medium high for 5-10 minutes until bubbles slow and jam is thickened.

4. Remove from heat and cool for 10 minutes.


  1. My understanding is that the Gateau Basque is made from frangepane (almond meal), not flour. Should be served with cheese on the side and a good Sauternes.

  2. I had my first gateau basque at Piperade Restaurant in SF and I couldn't get it out of my mind. I really want to learn to make it at home. Can I replace jam filling with pastry cream? Does anyone know the secret of making successful pastry cream? Piperade served this dessert with mango coulis. Since it may be hard to find good mango during this time, what sauce can be good with it?

  3. Hi - yes, a pastry cream is another common filling. I'm not sure what sauce would accompany this well. The way I made it with the jam filling, it really didn't need a sauce.

  4. Thanks for the recipe! I spent a week in Biarritz a few years ago eating plenty of gateaux basques! The cream filling was my favorite -never heard putting sauce on it.
    I've got the dough chilling right now -I'm experimenting with 1/3 misutgaru powder to 2/3 parts flour and using yuzu tea jelly as the filling for a Korean twist!