Baking Experiments with Basque Cake

This is not the best basque cake I’ve ever had. The best basque cake I ever had was a raw version of the confection primarily using ground almonds, which I was served five years ago at an acquaintance’s birthday party. Such a master hippie recipe is not exactly my forte, so I content myself with a more traditional approach to the basque cake.

Dry and sweet, this cake takes patience and is perfect with coffee. I made a by-the-book basque cake thanks to an NPR recipe with my first batch of dough. I mixed together and rolled out the top and bottom discs of the cake. After a few hours of refrigeration, I globbed a cup of vanilla pastry cream in the center of one disc and carefully placed the other on top.

A little water to moisten the dough and light pressure from your fingers is all it takes to bring the sides of dough together. Vanilla cream made a valiant attempt at escaping as I finished the seal. Just press the sides together and use a fork to score the top like normal. This cake isn’t the kind that oozes while baking (at least in my experience). Even if there are cracks in the top like mine, the basque cake is forgiving.

The NPR basque cake recipe calls for “vanilla pastry cream” but doesn’t actually include how to make it. Ugh. I searched around for a recipe I liked and in the quantities closest to my needs, and I found this one.

I left out (forgot) the egg glaze brushed over the top of the scored crust that gives the cake its signature golden brown, and this mistake gave me an idea. Feeling ambitious, I whipped up another batch of dough and got a little color crazy.

I made one batch and split it into a 4″ cake, a 5″ cake and a 6″ cake. Then I played with food coloring — making the largest cake with a purple top and turquoise bottom, along with two smaller turquoise cakes. Since the recipe I was using only had baking times for an 8″ inch cake, I had to estimate how long these would take. The 4″ and 5″ cakes came out done and pleasantly browned around the edges after 30 minutes, but the 6″ cake took the full 40 minutes suggested for the 8″ cake.

One difference I noted in the smaller cakes was the texture and sweetness. They seemed slightly sweeter and softer than the larger cakes, almost like an over-sized spritz cookie.

Now I’m wondering about savory basque cakes. An experiment for another day.

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