This delicious Gâteau Basque recipe can be filled with pastry cream or cherry jam for a traditional Basque cake dessert that will have everyone singing your praises! The sweet crust is simple to make and the egg wash and crosshatch pattern on top give the treat a lovely golden finish. It is perfect for special occasions or anytime you want aa simple sweet treat!
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I'm wrapping up my week of Nevada-inspired recipes as part of my American Eats series and have one more Basque recipe to share as a nod to the Basque immigrants who helped settle Nevada.
This time it's another Basque dessert that is older than the trendier Basque Cheesecake that I shared earlier. But this cherry or cream-filled cake is a delicious dessert that is every bit as deserving of attention!
What is Basque Cake?
You can think of Basque cake as a cross between a pie and a tart rather than what we more commonly think of as a traditional cake made with layers of sponge cake and frosting. The sweet crust is more cookie like and sweeter than a traditional pie crust. And while it could probably be filled with anything you can dream up, the traditional filling options are a classic vanilla pastry cream or cherry jam.
We obviously had to try both options and we loved them both! You're likely to find either variation in pastry shops when visiting French Basque country or the Basque region of Spain, although the pastry cream version is arguably more popular.
What You'll Need
Scroll down to the recipe card below this post for ingredient quantities and full instructions.
- All-purpose flour - I use unbleached flour because it makes for more delicate baked goods compared to bleached flour. You could also use cake flour here, which has a lower protein content and is probably closer to the type of flour used in the Basque region if you want to be even more authentic.
- Baking powder - A small amount provides just enough lift to the crust to give it a nice texture that isn't too dense.
- Salted butter - I use salted butter for almost all my baking, but you can use unsalted butter by adding an extra pinch or two of salt to the recipe.
- Granulated sugar - This adds sweetness and a bit of moisture to the crust, making it more cookie or tart-like than a traditional pastry crust.
- Salt - This brings out the flavor in the other elements of the dessert so it isn't overly sweet or bland.
- Eggs - You'll need two of them. The first large egg goes into the crust itself, while the second on is mixed with a little cold water to create an egg wash that gives the shiny golden finish to the top of the crust.
- Vanilla pastry cream - I used my favorite pastry cream recipe that we also use to make a Fruit Tart, Boston Cream Pie, and fill Eclairs. It's made with whole milk, heavy cream, sugar, cornstarch, salt, egg yolks, butter, and vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract.
- Black cherry jam - I used Bonne Maman cherry preserves and they were perfect!
How to Make Gateau Basque
- Make the crust. Start by beating the butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment until creamy and smooth, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla, then beat again on medium speed for 2 minutes, scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl.
- Add dry ingredients. Add flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix on low speed just until the flour mixture is combined. You don't want to overwork the dough or it will turn out tough.
- Roll out & chill dough. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured piece of parchment paper and gather it into a ball. It will be very soft and sticky, but try not to add more flour. Divide it in half and roll each half of the dough about ¼-inch thick between two sheets of parchment paper with a rolling pin (affiliate link) to make discs that are slightly larger than 8 inches. Transfer both discs to the fridge to chill for 3 hours.
- Prep. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line an 8-inch cake pan a circle of parchment paper and spray with baking spray, just like if you were baking a regular cake recipe. Take the dough out of the fridge 10 minutes before shaping so it can warm up a little bit and be more pliable.
- Assemble. Remove one disc of dough from the parchment paper and nestle it into the bottom of the pan, pressing it up the sides a bit to help keep the filling contained. If the crust breaks, just press it back together and it will be just fine.
- Fill. Spread the pastry cream filling or jam on top of the dough. Place the second disc of dough directly on top of the pastry cream or cherry jam, gently tucking the edges around the filling as best you can.
- Decorate. Make an egg wash made by beating 1 whole egg with 1 teaspoon cold water with a fork. Brush the top crust with the egg mixture using a pastry brush, then score the Basque cake with the tines of a fork in a cross-hatch pattern.
- Bake. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes until golden brown on top.
- Cool. Remove from the finished Gateau Basque from the oven and let it cool for 5 minutes before turning it out onto a wire cooling rack, then flipping it over to cool completely with the design side up. Let it reach room temperature before slicing and serving, or refrigerate and serve chilled.
No, you do not, although you can use one if you would like to for this recipe. I used a regular 8-inch cake pan instead.
I don't recommend using a 9-inch pan for this recipe. It would require rolling the dough for the crust thinner and it is more difficult to fit the crust to the pan while also creating more likelihood of getting cracks in the crust and having the filling leak while baking.
Tips for Success
- Don't be afraid of making your own homemade pastry cream! I have a whole post dedicated to it with step-by-step instructions because we use it so often. It's so much better than any pudding mix.
- I prefer rolling out this dough on parchment paper rather than a clean floured work surface because it's easier to transfer it to the fridge to chill this way.
- Filling variations: I haven't tried these and while they certainly wouldn't be traditional I'm confident you could get away with filling these with other jam flavors (I'm thinking plum or apricot especially) or chocolate pastry cream.
- Let it cool completely. I know it's painful to wait for this to cool when it smells so good, but trust me on this one. If you want to get clean slices that don't run everywhere when you cut into your Basque cake it needs time to set up all the way.
- Flavor boosters: For additional flavor, you could add 2-3 teaspoons of fresh lemon zest to the dough when you add the egg and vanilla. Or you could use the seeds of a vanilla pod instead of vanilla extract or add ½ teaspoon of almond extract when making the pastry cream.
If you filled your Basque cake with the cherry jam filling, you can store it in an airtight container at room temperature on the counter for 2-3 days or in the fridge for 4-5 days. If you opted to use pastry cream as your filling, you should keep the Gateau Basque refrigerated for up to 4 days.
You can freeze both options, although the cherry version does better than the pastry cream filled cake which tends to weep and get soggy when thawed in the fridge overnight before serving.
More Dessert Recipes
- Easy Classic French Cream Puffs
- Classic Homemade Eclairs
- Pistachio Macarons
- Boston Cream Pie
- German Apple Cake
French Fruit Tart
Did you make this recipe?
Let me know what you thought with a comment and rating below. You can also take a picture and tag me on Instagram @houseofnasheats or share it on the Pinterest pin so I can see.
Gâteau Basque (Basque Cake Recipe)
- 2 cups all-purpose flour (250g)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 12 Tablespoons salted butter, softened
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- 1 large egg, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup black cherry jam (optional, if not using pastry cream)
- 1 batch vanilla pastry cream, (optional, if not using cherry filling)
- Egg wash (1 egg + 1 teaspoon cold water, beaten)
Pastry Cream Filling
- 1 ½ cups whole milk
- ½ cup heavy cream
- ½ cup granulated sugar, divided
- 1 pinch of salt
- 3 Tablespoons cornstarch
- 4 large egg yolks
- 2 Tablespoons salted butter, cubed
- 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
- Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.
- In another large bowl, beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer or stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until until creamy and light, about 3 minutes. Add egg and vanilla. Beat again for 2 minutes, stopping to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl.
- Add dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Mix on low speed just until combined to form a soft dough.
- Turn the dough onto a lightly floured piece of parchment paper and gather it into a ball. It will be very soft and sticky, but try not to add more flour. Divide in half. Working with one half of the dough at a time, roll it about ¼-inch thick between two sheets of parchment paper into a disc that is slightly larger than 8 inches. Repeat with the other half of the dough and transfer both discs between their sheets of parchment paper to the fridge for at least 3 hours to chill completely.
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Line an 8-inch cake pan a circle of parchment paper and spray with baking spray. Take the dough out of the fridge 10 minutes before shaping so it can warm up a little bit and be more pliable.
- Remove one disc of dough from the parchment paper and nestle it into the pan. It should go up the sides a bit, which will help keep the filling contained. Just press the pieces together if they break a bit. Spread the pastry cream or jam onto the dough. Top with the second disc of dough, gently tucking the edges under as best you can, if possible.
- Beat the remaining egg with 1 teaspoon cold water to make an egg wash. Brush the top crust with the egg wash using a pastry brush. Score a cross-hatch pattern into the top crust with the tines of a fork.
- Bake for 40 to 45 minutes until golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool for 5-10 minutes before turning out onto a wire cooling rack. Flip the cake back over to cool crosshatch side up until it reaches room temperature before slicing and serving. You can also chill the cake and serve it cold.
- Combine the milk, cream, and half of the sugar in a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until the liquid comes to a simmer.
- As the liquid heats, whisk together the remaining sugar, salt, cornstarch, and egg yolks in a medium bowl until light and creamy.
- Once the milk mixture is hot, slowly whisk about 1 cup of the liquid into the egg mixture to temper the yolks. Pour the tempered egg mixture back into the saucepan with the hot milk mixture and reduce the heat to medium, continuing to cook while whisking constantly, until thickened and a few bubbled burst on the surface, about 30 seconds.
- Remove the pastry cream from the heat and whisk in the butter and vanilla, then transfer to a bowl and cover with a sheet of plastic wrap placed directly onto the surface of the pastry cream so a skin doesn't form. Refrigerate until chilled and firm, about 3-4 hours, before using in your Basque cake.
- Storage: You can keep this in an airtight container for up to 2 days at room temperature or in the fridge for 3-4 days.
- Filling: Traditionally this cake is filled with either pastry cream OR black cherry jam, not a combination of the two (although I think that would be delicious). You could really use any jam you like though, like raspberry, plum, lemon curd, or orange marmalade. I think this would also be good with a disc of almond paste rolled out and used to line the bottom before adding the layer of jam.