How to satisfy your sweet tooth in southwestern France? Bite into a moist, tastefully dense gâteau Basque. Not quite a cake, not a pie or even a tart, gâteau Basque is a little of all three. The round, golden and somewhat crispy, double-dough dessert is either filled with preserves of black cherries from the small village of Ixtassou or with a delicious pastry cream.
It’s not known exactly where this artisanal, traditional dessert originated. Some say it originated in the Basque town of Cambo-les-Bains in an 18th century pâtisserie. The town is home to an annual festival to celebrate the “cake,” the Fête du Gâteau Basque in September.
Others say gâteau Basque comes from the town of Sare. The Musée du Gâteau Basque honors the origin of the gâteau, where you can watch it being made while learning about its origin. You can even learn how to make your own to bring home!
No matter where gâteau Basque was first enjoyed, family recipes have been handed down for generations. In the Pays Basque, traditional Sunday dinners aren’t complete unless gâteau Basque is offered as a dessert.
What’s in it?
Flour, butter, sugar, and fresh eggs for the two layers of pastry dough. Milk, fresh eggs and sugar for the pastry cream filling or black cherry preserves. Flavorings of choice are almonds, anise, rum, orange flower water and Armagnac.
Where can you find it?
It’s found on the menus of local, traditional and upscale restaurants, in patisseries, at town markets, and sold on the street by artisanal bakers.
Visit the Pays Basque in southwestern France to taste this unusual dessert…its worth the detour!