French cooking

Gateau Breton

As I started the process of cleaning my work computer in preparation for my departure, I have come across myriad of photos of creations that I served over the years. I hadn’t thought of this particular cake in a long time, a staple of Bretagne, originally consumed for breakfast, that I started making in individual portions and dressed up with caramelized peanut ice-cream.

The original recipe came to me through Anne Willan, an accomplished cook who used to own the French cooking school La Varenne and whose cookbooks are beautiful works of art and sources of inspiration. Ms. Willan makes the cake by hand but, in the interest of time-saving (and of serving many people), I started using my trusted mixer and I can’t say I noticed any difference.

Because this cake’s centrepiece is butter, the better the quality, the better the cake. You want a butter that is extremely high in fat content and low in water – I used Plugra, a fantastic French butter that is also divine just spread on bread (and then forget dinner). This cake can be stored in an airtight container up to two weeks, with the butter flavour becoming more intense as time goes by. Perfect to serve with coffee or tea.

Calvados (an apple liqueur) is not essential but a lovely addition that adds complexity to the overall cake.

Recipe – Serves 8

1 C/225 g High quality butter

6 Egg Yolks

2 C/250 g AP Flour

1 C/200 g Sugar

1 T Calvados

  1. Butter or spray one 8” (20 cm) tart pan, possibly fluted, and with a removable bottom. Mix the egg yolks in a small bowl and remove one teaspoon for the final glaze.
  2. Sift the flour and place it in the mixer. Cut the butter in small cubes and add it to the flour, together with the yolks, sugar and Calvados. Mix on low with a paddle attachment until the dough comes together. It will be pretty stiff.
  3. Transfer the dough to the pan, smoothing it with your palm, dipping it in water  so it doesn’t stick.
  4. Brush the surface of the cake with the yolk you set aside and then mark a lattice in the glaze with the tines of a fork. Place in the fridge for about 20 minutes.
  5. Bake at 35F/190C for 20 minutes. Reduce the heat to 356F/180C and bake 20/25 minutes longer, rotating it for even baking, until golden brown.
  6. Let it cool to warm and then unmold. The butter flavour will become more intense the longer you keep it.




Filed under baking, cooking


  1. Pingback: Sunday Sparkle: 11th August « Beast & Beauty

  2. Hmmm, this is interesting as this is very similar to “Quatre Quarts Breton” (see e.g. — I hope you can read French — or my post The main differences are that this recipe uses only the yolks, and flour : sugar : eggs : butter is 250 : 200 : 100 : 225 rather than 250 : 250 : 250 : 250. Do you know how it compares to quatre quarts / pound cake?

    Also interesting about the quality of the butter! I’ll have to do a side-by-side experiment to see if I can tell the difference between cheap butter and the expensive imported stuff from Bretagne or Normandie.

    • I think the differences are subtle and more to do with consistency than flavor. The pound cake of old used that ratio as a means of convenience as they were not as equipped with as precise scales as we are. I am a stickler for butter for butter based dishes (fewer and fewer these days). It’s a nice challenge. Try and report back to us!

      Date: Sun, 12 Aug 2012 16:45:56 +0000 To:

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