Gateau Breton (Brittany butter cake)

gateau Breton Brittany butter cake nigella lawson

A rather fabulous dilemma to have is one that I had recently when we did a butter taste test with friends. We had purchased 13 fantastic European butters and after doing our taste test we had pretty much 13 cakes of butter minus the small amount we used for tasting. We tried packing up the butters for the taste testers and whilst they took a couple, it didn't really diminish the pile of butter in the fridge. What better to do with good quality butter is a Gateau Breton, the very buttery shortbready biscuit cake originating from Brittany in France. And what better butter to use for it than Brittany butter. The Brittany butter was voted as some of the best in the lot by our tasters so I decided on its fate instantly. Isn't that how butter _wants _to end up?

For some strange reason, slicing the diamond shapes doesn't always result in the lines staying put and I'm not sure why that is (and neither is Nigella). As I was using another kitchen, one of someone who doesn't cook, they didn't have a pastry brush so I had to improvise and fashion myself a brush made out of baking paper so the glaze application wasn't quite up to par. Nevertheless this eggy buttery cake is richly gorgeous and golden hued. It's fantastic served with coffee in the afternoon or for a delicious end to a dinner.

Gateau Breton

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  • 225g plain flour, preferably Italian 00

  • 250g caster sugar

  • 250g unsalted butter cut into cubes

  • 6 large egg yolks

  • 1 x 25cm springform tin, buttered well


  • 1 teaspoon of yolk from your 6

  • 1 tablespoon of water

Step 1 - Preheat oven to 190°C/gas mark 5. Mix the glaze and put aside while you get on with your gateaux.

Step 2 - Put the flour in a bowl (I never bother to sieve 00 flour because it's so finely milled, but if you';re using regular plain flour then do so), stir in the sugar and add butter and yolks.

Step 3 - With the dough hook attachment of the mixer, slowly whirr till you've got a smooth golden dough. If you're making this by hand. make a mound of the flour on a worktop , then make a well in it and add the sugar, butter and eggs and knead to mix.

gateau Breton Brittany butter cake nigella lawson

Step 4 - Scoop this dough into the tin, and smooth the top with a floured hand: expect it to be very sticky; indeed it should be.

gateau Breton Brittany butter cake nigella lawson

Brushing gateau with egg glaze (using improvised "brush")

Step 5 - Brush gateau with the glaze, and mark a lattice pattern design on top with the prongs of a fork. For a reason I am not technically proficient enough to explain, sometimes the tine marks leave a firm, striated imprint (a bit like the scrapy line that drive Gregory Peck mad in Spellbound); at others, as with the cake in the picture, they barely show once the cake's cooked.

gateau Breton Brittany butter cake nigella lawson

Step 6 - Bake for 15 minutes then turn the oven down to 180 C/gas mark 4 for 15 min and give it another 25 minutes or so until it's golden at the top and firm to the touch.

Step 7 - Let it cool completely in the tin before unmoulding it. It will keep well if you've got a reliably airtight tin. when you come to eat it, either cut it in traditional - though slightly narrower - cake-like wedges or, as I prefer if I'm eating it at the end of dinner, criss-cross making irregularly shaped diamonds.

Serves 8-10

From How To Be A Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson

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