Basque cake has bewitched me. I first read about it in Mark Kurlanksy’s A Basque History of the World and have wanted to try one ever sense. It sounded so simple. Just a cream filled cake that may or may not have cherry preserves added to it. It wasn’t until I tried one at Cortez in Echo Park that I understood what all the noise was. A crisp and tender crust sandwiching dense custard, a slice of this cake is worth the trip across town. I set about making my own version of this lovely sweet, but here’s the thing…
…mine is not that cake. I played around with a few recipes for gateau Basque, but none of them provided what I wanted: that sandwich experience. But when I tested out my version with a little bit of almond flour for nuttiness and crunch, I got something different that the crispy tender cake at Cortez. I got a moist, spongey, almost tres leches style cake. Can’t be mad at that! So that is why I’m calling this a “Basque-esque” cake. It’s inspired by a gateau Basque, but the texture is very different. Moist, rich, perfectly simple and eggy, this is a delicious cake, especially served with tea. Enjoy!
1 cup milk
2/3 cup white sugar, divided
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup almond flour (finely ground almonds)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
5 ounces unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
INGREDIENTS (EGG WASH)
1 tablespoon cream
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
In a sauce pan, combine the milk and 1/3 cup of sugar. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. Remove from heat. In a small bowl, combine the remaining 1/3 cup of sugar and 2 tablespoons flour. Beat in the eggs, yolk, and vanilla.
Mix 1/2 cup of hot milk into egg mixture, then pour the egg mixture back into the saucepan with the hot milk. This tempers the eggs so they don’t curdle when you cook them. Return to heat and bring to a boil. Continue cooking over medium heat until mixture thickens and becomes smooth. Remove from heat and let cool for 1 hour.
Whisk together the flour, almond flour, baking powder and salt and keep at hand.
Working in a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a bowl with a hand mixer, beat the butter and both sugars together on medium speed for about 3 minutes, or until smooth. Add the eggs one at a time and beat another 2 minutes or so, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add vanilla and mix for about a minute more. Then 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. It will be really sticky and kind of loose.
Place a large sheet of plastic wrap and put half of the very soft and sticky dough in the center of the sheet. Cover with another piece of plastic or wax paper, then roll the dough into a circle about 8 inches in diameter. Wrap the plastic wrap around it so it’s sealed. Repeat with the other half of the dough.
Put the dough discs on a plate and refrigerate it for about 3 hours or for up to 3 days.
DIRECTIONS (TO FINISH)
When you’re ready to assemble and bake the cake, center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350. Generously butter a 8-inch round cake pan.
Remove the layers from the refrigerator and fit one layer into the bottom of the pan — if it breaks, just press the pieces together. Pour the filling over the bottom layer.
Top the cake with the second piece of dough. Press the edges of the dough together, and don’t stress about the filling leaching out.
Stir together the egg and cream to form an egg wash, and brush the top of the dough with it.
Bake the cake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. 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.
To make the powdered sugar pattern, place a piece of lace over the cake and dust powder sugar over it. Remove the lace carefully.