This cake has such a huge place in my heart. I first learned about it and how to make it at the bakery I worked at a couple years ago, called the Sweet Life (no longer with us sadly). That was probably the best and most fun job I have ever had! It was my first time realllyyy working in a full on bakery kitchen, and I was so beyond thrilled. The owner put so much trust and faith in me, I was doing the opening morning bake all by myself after just 3 days of training. The Basque Cake was one of the things I would make every couple days there, and I completely fell in love with it.
Then I went and lived in the Basque Country in Spain for a semester, and that just solidified my love for this cake. The versions I tried while I was in San Sebastian (and my day-trip visits to the French Basque Country) were definitely quite different than this cake…but they have the same essence. In the Spanish Basque Country, you would often find Basque Cakes filled with cherry jam and a thicker cinnamon-kissed version of pastry cream.
While I was in Biarritz and Saint Jean de Luz in the south of France, I saw a lot more variants (including chocolate cakes with chocolate pastry cream, assorted fruit jams, etc.). My favorite is still the vanilla cake with vanilla pastry cream (especially if it is made with vanilla bean paste!! so.good.) however it is always fun to innovate and try new things!
Since it’s now officially Fall, I thought it’d be fun to do a pumpkin cream filled Basque Cake. As we have thoroughly covered by now, I am a pumpkin FIEND. I absolutely love baking and cooking with pumpkin, so I’m always looking for different ways to use it.
These little muffin cakes are completely perfect for a fall feast gathering. They’re individual, so they’re super easy to serve. And they have just a subtle pumpkin-y filling flavor to end a nice dinner with. I’d even suggest them as a Thanksgiving treat (yes, we’re getting a little ahead of ourselves there…I know it’s not quite even October yet. Just sayin’…and of course, only if it’s in addition to pie, because who doesn’t have pie on Thanksgiving?! Hell-ooo. Pie is mandatory. Always.).
Anyways, sorry… back to the Basque Cake. They’re like if a pumpkin pie and an uber vanilla-y delicious cookie-like cake had a baby. That might not be the best way to describe them, but I think you might get the idea. I like them best when served slightly warm still, though some of my family prefer that the cream set up in the fridge a bit before eating them. Try it all! 🙂
12 oz unsalted butter, room temp (Plugra or other European style butter recommended)
12 oz granulated sugar
1 tbsp vanilla bean paste
2 and 1/2 eggs, at room temp
10 oz cake flour (before sifting)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
Pumpkin Pastry Cream:
Use a recipe like this one <I had leftover cream from my baking class that I used>
And then add:
3-4 tbsp pumpkin puree
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp cloves
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Make the pastry cream first, and allow to cool. While it is cooling, prepare the cake batter. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. You can make it in whatever size pan you’d like, I typically did a 10-inch round lined with a baking paper. However this time I made cupcake sized basque cakes. Line your pan (whatever size) with papers that fit it.
Cream the butter, sugar and vanilla in your stand mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. And in eggs one at a time until mixed thoroughly. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, salt and baking powder. Mix the dry ingredients into the butter mixture in three separate stages, gently mixing in between each addition (be careful not to overmix).
Transfer the batter into a pastry bag with a small plain tip. Pipe the batter in a spiral over the bottom of the pan (or muffin tins). Pipe another ring of batter on top of the first layer around the inside perimeter of the pan to create a hole in the center for the pastry cream. Either with another pastry bag, or a small cookie scoop, fill the hole in the batter with a dollop of cream. Make sure that the pastry cream does not touch the sides or bottom of the pan at all, it must be entirely encased in the batter. Pipe over the cream with the cake batter, leaving about 1/4 inch of space from the batter to the top of the pan or muffin paper (they will puff up a bit, so you don’t want to overfill them).
Top with sliced almonds, and bake for 25-30 minutes. Once cooled, dust with powdered sugar. Best served the day they are baked (even better if they are slightly warm still). Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
So there you have it. Welcome to one of my favoritest baked goods ever! It seems like such a simple and plain cake (which can totally be enhanced by spicing up the filling if you want), but the vanilla bean paste is actually such a wonderfully powerful flavor.
It’s basically like you’re eating pure vanilla. It isn’t plain or boring at all you may be surprised to learn (I know vanilla is often thought of as the most boring flavor, but truuuust me). I think it’s one of those things you just have to try to understand. Vanilla bean paste can be found at specialty grocery stores, and Sur La Table or Williams Sonoma definitely have it. Yay for Fall and pumpkin fun…my favorite half of the year is upon us! 🙂