Monday, July 12, 2010

Gâteau Basque Cake

Happy Monday!

I apologize for being so lax with my blogging this last week and then late with today's post. It has been so crazy-busy around here. We've been getting the Humble household "organized", which of course requires its top to bottom destruction. That's how everyone organizes, right?

Unfortunately the organized Humble Household phoenix isn't really rising from the ashes, it is sort of coughing a sputtering as it crawls around in a daze. Dragging its soot covered bottom across the carpets.

This place is a mess.

The kitchen is no exception. As I'm trying to cook today, every inch of counter space is taken up by boxes and stacks of… who knows what. I want to pull a diva-card and shout "I can't work like this" but I know that the current state is essentially my fault and besides, there is no one to listen to my whinging save my two year old and Mr. Stinky.

Neither is very sympathetic.

So yes, "organizing" and I also found myself busy with volunteering, there is that. Then there was that heat advisory in Seattle last week and it was far too hot to even think about cranking up the ovens. So yea, I've been a bad blogger of late.

So today we're making a cake based on the Gateau Basque. This is my second attempt to blog about this dessert as I botched the last one. The little Humble decided that she would go mess with the knobs on my oven during its hour long baking process and the results were neither pretty nor edible.

Now gateau basque is a bit hard to describe as there are several different variations (owning to differences in region and individual taste preferences). Typically the dessert involves fruit preserve filling and/or pastry cream baked between layers of pastry. Like… a Poptart, only better.

Not all Gateau Basques are pastry however, a few versions are more cake-like, like the one I am baking today. This version is a bit more difficult than the others. Why? Well, it shouldn't take much imagination to conjure up the failures that can occur when attempting to combine pastry cream and cake batter and bake it into a structurally sound dessert. Still, I adore the idea of baking jam and vanilla cream into a cake. When done right, the flavors and textures meld together a bit during baking, creating a cake with a gooey creamy layer that is different and delicious.

Now admittedly, this isn't the most attractive of cakes. It lacks frosting, icing or even a dusting of powdered sugar. However it really doesn't need any of that frivolity. Once you taste it, you'll understand it needs nothing else. The cake is aromatic with orange juice and zest, creamy with the layer of the vanilla cream and fresh preserves. It is good. This cake was meant to be eaten naked.

The cake, folks. The cake.

Enough rambling, let's get started...

Pastry Cream

1 cup whole milk
5 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

In a small sauce pan over medium heat, combine 2 tablespoon of the sugar and 3/4 cup of the milk. Stirring occasionally until the sugar dissolves and the milk begins to simmer.

While attending to the milk, whisk together the remaining sugar with the egg yolks in a separate bowl. Add the remaining milk and corn starch and whisk thoroughly. Temper the egg mixture with the hot milk, adding it in a thin stream, whisking constantly. Pour the mixture back into the sauce pan and bring to a boil over medium heat whisking constantly. Once thick, whisk in the vanilla and then strain through a fine sieve into a clean bowl. Press a piece of plastic wrap onto the surface of the cream and set aside to cool completely.

Once the pastry cream is cool you can start the cake batter.

Gâteau Basque
yields 8-10 servings
adapted from The Williams-Sonoma Baking Book
2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 medium orange
3 large eggs
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup unsalted butter

1 cup pastry cream
1/4 cup raspberry preserves (feel free to use cherry, blackberry, etc)

Note: You'll need a professional sized cake pan for this. A 9 inch round with 3 inch sides, lined with parchment. I know high sided cake pans are not the norm in the housewares sections of big box stores, I'm sorry, but they really should be. You can find them online, at specialty baking stores like Sur la Table and restaurant supply outlets. You may also use a 9" springform pan.

Preheat your oven to 325°F and arrange a rack on the lower third of the oven.

Melt the butter and set it aside to cool.

Zest and juice the orange (you'll need 1/3 cup of fresh orange juice for the cake) and set aside.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt into a small bowl and set aside.

In your stand mixer's bowl, using the whisk attachment, beat the eggs and sugar on high speed for several minutes until the mixture has doubled in volume. Reduce your mixer's speed to low and add the orange juice and zest and combine.

Add a third of the flour to the egg mixture and beat on medium speed, then add half the melted butter and repeat. Alternating the flour and butter. Mix until just combined.

Immediately pour half of the mixture into your prepared pan. Spoon the pastry cream onto the batter, staying a full inch away from the sides of the pan. spread the jam onto the cream and then pour the remaining batter into the pan, around the outside of the pastry cream and jam and then spread gently with an offset spatula to cover.

Place into the oven and bake for 50-65 minutes. Until firm to the touch and the cake no longer jiggles loosely in the center. I probably pulled my cake out 5 minutes too early as the center sunk a little after it cooled. Unfortunately this is one cake where the toothpick test is of little help.

Allow the cake to cool completely in the pan on a wire rack. Once cool, turn out onto a plate and remove the parchment. Invert onto a second plate and serve.


  1. when i think of Basque i recall nearly being arrested for giggling in a train carriage on the French-Spanish border in the '70s
    this cake looks considerably friendlier!!!

  2. Giggling!? Capital Offense!

    Sounds like a good story, that.

  3. Yummy Yummy, I can tell that cake needs nothing else. It goes on my list of things to try...I am going to be baking for years

  4. wow this sounds amazing and I am totally gonna make this!!! Great blog!!!!!!

  5. I don't have cake pans, I tend to use a spring form pan and it works nicely, so I suspect people could cheat and use that, if they've got one.

    Also, I'm DEFINITELY going to have to test this theory as soon as I have free time. Sadly, that's likely to be sometime in October. CURSES!

  6. Absolutely, a 9" spring form pan would be suitable here too.

  7. I'm not a big icing fan, so I think this cake is perfect. Looks scrumptious!

  8. Lovely looking cake. Stealing it.

    In my slackness and no blogging week, I did actually make a few of your cakes by the way. You're like an online resource. Actually, that's exactly what you are.

  9. So glad you are OK and only buried under mountain of house organization! The cake looks fabulous; can't wait to try!

  10. I so relate to the 'it is too hot to turn the oven on!'. On the East Coast we've had some scorchers too. And then when it's not scorching, we all go out to play . . so . . I'll add this to the "bake in the fall" list!

  11. Nooooo it's evil! We had to make gateau basque by rolling out the cake batter and working with it like dough (

    I like the pouring method much better!

  12. one of the very first cakes i made when i started baking....yours came out perfectly. it's also a fun cake to experiment w/ various add in's and flavors.

  13. Oooh, I want to try this with the quince jam we made from the wild-ish quinces at my brother's condo complex. Nobody cultivates them or sprays them, and they bear tons of great fruit. Also made a huge batch of strawberry-rhubarb jam this summer, mmmmmmmmmm..............

  14. Looks amazing and easy! And to top it off, those are mostly ingredients I keep on hand (I'll have to stop for a fresh orange).

    One question: I am lacking both a "professional" cake pan and a springform as well. How about a bunt pan? Will that work?

  15. A cake with built in pastry cream?? I'm in lurve. Wonder how this would work with some meyer lemon curd?? I think it'd be delicious!

  16. Oh my... we may have to make this instead of the chocolate chip cookies this weekend! And I even have the right pan for it!

  17. I have GOT to make this. (Note to self: Snitch an orange from the employee lounge)

    How would this work with cake flour? Bad idea? Would the finer crumb soak up the cream and preserves, or maybe refuse to rise?

  18. Lovely, simple, and light. Thanks for sharing!


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