Gateau Basque and a Birthday

As you know, I am Basque. I often times think about what it means to label yourself as some thing or to be from some where. I know that my sense of being Basque is attached to the emotions I felt during my childhood and that are not intrinsic to the land. So do I love the land or do I just long for those childhood feelings? Who knows. According to many experts, the later. But how can I separate one from the other? That’s all we know is what we feel. Grey rainy days, mud on my wellies, chilly cool June mornings on the last day of school before summer vacation, arguing over “Before Sunrise” with Arkaitz and Amaia until 3 am, Christmas Eve rush at the bakery… I could go on and on. My heart is holding on to all those memories.

And today is my mom’s birthday. I won’t say how old she is although I doubt she would mind. She looks 10 years younger than her real age, with beautiful shiny hair, not a wrinkle in sight and porcelain skin (why didn’t I get the good genes? My grandmother’s genes). We have never been gentle with each other. My father has certainly been the touchy feely one of the bunch. But my mother loves me in a different way. She loves me in silence, if that makes any sense. And that’s how I love her back.

So this Gateau Basque is for her. This cake is actually from the French side of the Basque Country, from Lapurdi. It is a very soft, crumbly, sable dough that is flavored with a little rum and baked in tart rings and filled with black cherry preserves. Some versions have a layer of pastry cream inside, some don’t. Today I am sticking to the recipe I know.

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59 Responses to “Gateau Basque and a Birthday”

  1. Ann says:

    Beautiful! Have you seen zen chef’s version ( He is also Basque and makes his with a cream filling.

  2. Aran says:

    Thanks Ann! I will check his out too!

  3. I love black cherry anything, so this looks amazing!

  4. nadia says:

    Aran, The photographs are gorgeous!
    I love what you wrote…i love getting to know
    more about you….I remember my early morning or is late evening chats about Before Sunrise(one of my favorites) I watch it and before Sunset when I want to be just “me from back then” Aran I just read it again the thing about your mum- i understand it’s bittersweetness…Aran this is “magnifique!”

  5. This looks delicious! I can’t wait till cherries come into season.

  6. Eileen says:

    What beautiful memories you have. I also feel very fortunate in the childhood memories I have, growing up in a German community with huge vegetable and flower gardens, great food. I often feel sorry for my girls because life is so different now and the changes from my youth to theirs, so huge. This little tart looks wonderful and it is on my list of must-makes!

    Eileen (passions to pastry)@

  7. these are beautiful. i always feel the need to trace food through memories and then history. even if it starts small individually, that’s what makes a cuisine and gives food so much significance! hope your mum had a good’un. :D

    also, i’ve finally linked your blog. have been finding it difficult to remember all my fav blogs by heart so have updated my foodie blogroll. hope you don’t mind!

  8. What a great option instead of a cake! Love the family photo!

  9. Anonymous says:

    hola aran,
    once again a beautiful, touching blog entry. i teared up reading this one! not sure if its post pregnancy hormones or simply the fact that your artistry and creativity are able to touch ones soul.
    happy birthday to your mom!love the family pic

  10. giz says:

    I admire your affinity to your heritage and everything that it means to you. It translates in the heart you put into your beautiful creations.

  11. Aran says:

    Thank you eveyone! This is a special day for me since it’s my mom’s birthday and she is an ocean away. Your lovely comments are appreciated with all my heart. Thank you!

  12. corine says:

    This is a day of nostalgia for me too, which can only be helped by a giant slice of your gateau basque!

    Bon anniversaire à ta maman.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Zorionak, Nekane.. And Zorionak Arantzazu.
    Gaur egun ederra da… danontzat

  14. Tartelette says:

    Happy Birthday to your mom! I will never ever turn down a gateau basque, and if I do, check my temperature!! Gorgeous!

  15. You can make that cake/tart for me in July. Shall I email you my address? ; )

    On a serious note, its interesting what you say about your strong sense of heritage. I’m Canadian – fourth generation on one side, third on the other. I get asked often (as most people do I suppose) what my heritage is. Somehow in a young country like Canada, saying you’re Canadian doesn’t really satisfy anyone.

  16. Aran says:

    thank you Dana. I am very proud of my heritage indeed but I don’t wear my “nationality” on my sleeve. It’s part of who I am. I cannot separate it from me but I don’t flaunt it like an expensive handbag. It doesn’t matter whether your country is young or old, it’s just what it means to you. I think I have also been affected because we don’t have a state. yes, we do have a sense of nation but no political state which has been a cause of much aggravattion and struggle. I think that has engrained it deeper in me because my grandparents and my grandparents parents went to prision for speaking their language, the language that their mother’s taught them. I don’t mean to get too emotional and that is way in the past, but I think about it and it is a part of me.
    Thank you very much.

  17. Tarah says:

    What a beautiful idea. I need to try this :]

  18. Peabody says:

    I will have to try it this way. The one I made had cherries and pastry cream in it. It was goo though!

  19. Katelynn says:

    It’s nice to hear these sentiments towards your mom. Yes..we as moms and daughters don’t always relate the typical or norm..but communication..if it keeps going is a good thing! Beautiful Gateau Basque! My husband’s heritage is Basque but he was raised in the USA and has little to share of the Basque land..but he takes great pride in his ancestry…although, we wish we had more of his heritage to share with our kids.
    It’s good to hear your sentiments of your land and family! :)

  20. cakebrain says:

    I too have a mother (and a father) who loves in silence. When my father died suddenly I was left feeling like I missed an opportunity to vocalize my feelings for him. I must say my mother still loves me in silence and it has affected me in this way: when I had my own children, I made it a point to do the opposite from the beginning and talk about our love openly. Your anecdote is touching and your Gateau Basque looks delicious.

  21. Beautiful post, Aran, and beautiful cakes too. This is actually one I think I could do! ;)

  22. Lael says:

    your site is beautiful!
    I especially loved reading your thoughts in this post about being Basque. I spent some formative years of my childhood in New Zealand, and even though I don’t have the deeper link of being a Kiwi, I often wonder if my deep feelings of connection to the place are authentic or only based on longing for childhood feelings experienced there. I agree, “how can we separate one from the other?”
    back to you and your blog: this cake looks simply delicious, as do so many other recipes on your blog. I look forward to coming back.

  23. Astrid says:

    Lovely cake, lovely memories! I’m sure your mom is moved by this tribute.
    And great photo! I suppose the little girl is you? Your dress looks exactly like the kind of dresses my mother would buy for me during our vacations in Spain. Today Spanish little girls still seem particularly adorable to me, and I always try to buy shoes for my daughters when we vacation there. (I hope I’m not committing a faux-pas talking to you about Spain when you just posted about the Basque region…)

  24. Astrid says:

    Oh dear, I just read your comment about your family being persecuted for speaking their language. Feel free to delete my comment referring to cute Spanish girls!

  25. Inne says:

    Happy birthday to your mum, the gateau looks wonderful.

  26. Mobula says:

    Un compañero de trabajo, Gorka, me enseño a hacer tanto el pastel vasco como el goxua comolo hace su madre y francamente son deliciosos!!!

    Felicita a tu amatxu de mi parte, tiene una hija con unas manos de oro.



  27. Aran says:

    Thank you everyone for your kind words.
    Astrid- no worries sweetie, it’s ok not to know. sometimes it’s about semantics. thank you for your comment!

  28. Again, not only a delicious recipe (I’m going to bake it now!), but a gorgeous and elegant photos.

    From today, I’m fan of the Gateau Basque. And happy birthday for your mother.

    Salut des de Catalunya (another nation without state).

    Joan Vicent

  29. nicisme says:

    Happy Birthday to your Mom! Lovely post to read, thank you.

  30. Bridget says:

    Beautiful post! I love the old picture, too. Happy birthday to your mom! :)

  31. Y says:

    Gorgeous looking pastry, Aran. So simple, yet so complex because of all the memories it holds. Great post :)

  32. nipsum says:

    I am a Japanese. I send this site in search of joy to meet you from Japan. It is a Japanese site to understand it in various ways, but I feel joy about the encounter with you.

  33. Brilynn says:

    I only recently learned of the gateau basque, it sounds wonderful!

  34. Gloria says:

    Aran, esto està maravilloso, se ve exquisito, Feliz cumpleaños a tu mamà!!! Me rìo cuando hablas de los vascos, porque mi mamà dice “los vascos son porfiados” pero yo creo que los españoles son asì, Mi abuela por el lado de mi mmà Asturiana (y por Dios que son porfiados tambièn) y conocì a casi todas mis tias todas españolas de Asturias, yo con el Blog redecubrì mis raices españolas e inglesas (mi abuelo que se casò con esta española inglès) y es una maravilla como una se siente interpretada antes no le daba importancia, pero en algo estaremos de acuerdo, La cocina española es estupenda!!!! Mi abuelita cocinaba fantàstico y mi mamà tambièn, un beso xxxxGloria

  35. Mrs.French says:

    Your mother sound a lot like mine. Not exactly cuddly, but cares for us in her own way. One of the strongest women I know. This cake looks luscious. I hope you continue posting on your Basque heritage, I love the pride you take in it.

  36. Chuck says:

    What can I say but YUMMY, YUMMY, YUMMY and the photos are gorgeous. I just love the tarts.

  37. Meeta says:

    Oh wow! aran this is simply incredible. i love black cherries and using them in this is perfect!

  38. Alfie says:

    I always love reading your blog and I’ve left you an award for creativity and design for all your lovely pics (it’s on my blog if you’d like to pick it up!)

  39. C.L. says:

    Aran, this particular post touched my heart. Thank you so much for sharing. The gâteau looks phenominal, and your family picture makes me long for my childhod.. In a good way though. Happy Birthday to your mom.. (my dad is a silent man too but I feel his love bigger every day, he is an amazing man as I am sure you mother is an amazing woman.) thanks again for sharing!


  40. Aran,

    I can’t imagine being persecuted as your recent ancestors were. Awful! There’s no need to apologize for being emotionally affected by such events.

  41. I’ve been meaning to comment on this! Only getting around to it now…

    Lovely pictures, of course.

    Happy Birthday to your mother!

    And, I think I have to make that very soon for my husband. I was just reading about sable dough today. I’m smitten. I need those tarts, Aran!

  42. Sherry says:

    It’s so lovely to hear about how proud you are of your homeland. I remember living with a host mother in Galicia and she would tell me about how she refused to teach Gallego to her kids because it was the language of the farms and the poor people and she wasn’t like that, oh no.

    Well, I left (but for other reasons) and I lived with a new family who loved being Galician and they would play the gaita and teach me traditional folk dances. It was so lovely and fun, especially because I have been raised all my life to believe that everyone should be proud of his or her own culture.

  43. diva says:

    just stopping by to let you know i tagged you for an award. check out my blog for details!

  44. Loved thru silence – that I do understand. Beautiful picture, what a great memory! And your dessert looks delicious as well!

  45. Oh WOW, these are stunning gateaux. This is one of my favorite pastries. Oh how I wish I could share one with you!

    I LOVE your photos. Your work always shines with tremendous beauty. Thank you for sharing your culture and your memories.

  46. Jokin says:

    Kaixo Arantzazu:

    Oraintxe bertan egon naz amatxugaz eta esan daust zorionak jarri dozuzala berentzat eta niretzat blog-ean eta irakurten etorri naz. Zelango blog polita daukazun eta zelako gauzak esaten dozuzan! Artista bat zara!. Bueno eskerrik asko zorionagaitik, eta zorionak zuretzat be hain gauza polita eta unkigarria egiteagaitik. Jontxu ikusteko gogo handia daukat. Musu handi bat danori. Jokin.

    Hello everyone! I am Jokin, Arantzazu’s oldest brother. I only want to say that my family is very proud of her and of what she is doing with this little blog. We often talk about how she and her family will be doing, and although the distance is long we feel she is right around the corner as we have her so deep in our heart. Thank you everyone for reading this blog and share her feelings.

    Jokin Goioaga (the one on the left in the picture, taken 30 years ago)

  47. Cakelaw says:

    These look just devine! Happy birthday to your Mom.

  48. Cakespy says:

    Well, you know I love a good gateau basque (excuse lack of accent)–and what a perfect thing for your (super-fashionable!! Love the pic!) mom!! I loved this.

  49. linda says:

    I love traditional regional recipes. And this one looks delicious with the dark cherries. Love the addition of rum in the crust.

  50. thank you so much for the recipe! do you have any tips for keeping the tarts from bubbling over?

  51. Aran says:

    Hi Tooknap Press!
    The trick is to dock the bottom dough and then poke a hole on the top layer so steam can scape. It doesn’t always work because as you see, some of my filling spilled over. But it’s ok, I kind of like that. Another trick is to maybe fill them a little less than what I did. Hope that helps!

  52. Melissa says:

    Hi Aran, what gorgeous, gorgeous cakes! I love Gateau Basque (though of course I only discovered it years after living in the Basque Country :), and will definitely try your version soon. Isn’t it incredible how a single bite of something familiar can transport us thousands of miles away?

  53. Anonymous says:

    I tasted this when on holidays in the Basque region and loved it. I have been looking for a recipe since I came home. This looks fab and I’m looking forward to baking it tomorrow morning!

  54. Hi Aran,

    I just discovered your blog last night. It is awesome! I can’t wait to try some of the recipes.

    In your “Pink Peppercorn Macaron” posting, you mentioned that you often wish you had a photographer buddy to accompany you on your experiments. This is so funny because I am a photographer (of people) and I have always wanted a pastry chef friend so that I could photograph his/her pastries. If you live in Dallas, I would love to be your photographer buddy! But since your photos are fantastic already, maybe I can just be a taste tester? :)


  55. Aran says:

    Cindy- That would be fantastic but I live in South Florida!

  56. Just found your blog and I was hoping I could find this recipe. I had some gâteau Basque near Biarritz many years ago… and it was so good, I’ve been hunting for the recipe. À moi, le gâteau basque! Thank you for the recipe. Your blog is lovely… congratulations from north of the border.

  57. Marcela Lasaga says:

    Que alegría poder encontrar la receta de la tarta Vasca!!!En 1998 cuando visite a mi familia,la deguste y no olvidare jamas ese saborrrrrrrrrrrrr!!!Gracias por vuestra gentileza!!!
    Ya mismo me pondré a hacerla

  58. Julie says:

    I miss the Gateau Basque so much!! Portland has so many European food, I wish Basque food was one of those, I need to try that recipe for sure, it’s been probably 4 years since I moved here that I didn’t eat any! Thanks!!

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