Gâteau Basques

This traditional Basque pastry is not a soft, moist sponge, but has a slightly crumbly, biscuity quality.

Ingredients

  • 125 g (generous 4 oz) unsalted butter
  • 100 g (4 oz) plain flour
  • 40 g (1 ½ oz) ground almonds
  • 1 coffee spoon fast-action yeast
  • 3 medium-size free-range eggs
  • 125 g (generous 4 oz) vanilla sugar, or caster sugar in which you store a vanilla pod
  • 2 teaspoons rum

Pastry Cream

  • 2 medium-size free-range egg yolks
  • 50 g (2 oz) caster sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cornflour, slaked in a little of the milk
  • 200 mls (7 oz) milk
  • 10 stoned, ready-to-eat prunes, cut into 4, or 150 g (5 oz) preserved cherries, stoned and drained
  • free-range egg and milk for glaze

Method

Melt three-quarters of the butter, and use the rest to butter a cake tin about 22 cm (9 inches) in diameter and 7.5-10 cm (3-4 inches) deep. Mix the flour, almonds and yeast in a bowl. Whisk the eggs in another bowl with tLishe vanilla sugar until light and fluffy. Fold in the flour mixture, butter and rum.

Carefully mix, and let it rest for 15 minutes or so while you make the pastry cream. Beat the eggs and sugar, and then add the cornflour. Stir in well. Scald the milk, and pour it over the eggs, beating continuously. Transfer to a saucepan, and bring to the boil, stirring continuously. When the mixture thickens, remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool.

Divide the cake mix in two, and use half to line the cake tin. Smooth the surface, and spoon on the pastry cream to within 2.5 cm (1 inch) of the edge.

Arrange the pieces of prune or cherries in the cream, and then carefully spoon or pipe the rest of the cake mixture over it to cover and seal in the cream. Brush with beaten egg and milk to glaze, and bake in a preheated oven at 200½C/400½F/gas mark 6 for 40 to 45 minutes. Remove from the oven, cool on a rack, and serve warm or cold.

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