March Shortbread Project, Take Four: Gateau Breton

by moderndomestic on March 31, 2009

Gateau Breton

Nigella Lawson's Gateau Breton. Not quite a shortbread, not quite a cake - and absolutely to die for.

This shortbread-ish recipe slips in under the wire as the final entry in the March Shortbread Project.

As I said at the beginning of the project, I had never made shortbread before I tried Michelle Obama’s Shortbread cookies, because I wasn’t a big fan of crisp, dry butter cookies. Still, I felt remiss in my baking and blogging duties, because I had gone through the entire without making a classic, round shortbread cookie that you cut into wedges. But I didn’t want to make a huge cookie that I didn’t want to eat.

I found the perfect compromise in Nigella Lawson’s “How to Be a Domestic Goddess.” Her recipe for Gateau Breton, a Brittany butter cake, is “a cross between a shortbread and a pound cake.” Really, I should have done it at the beginning of the month, because it could have bridged the February Pound Cake Project and the March Shortbread Project.

The cookie/cake is extremely simple, but absolutely to die for. The batter is high in egg yolks and butter, and the resulting cookie is sweet and buttery, rich without being overpowering. The texture is crumbly and soft – it reminded me of the texture of Nigella’s Lemon Syrup Loaf Cake, but denser. I can’t imagine why anyone would go back to eating classic shortbread cookies after tasting this cookie/cake.

I made a couple changes to the recipe. I added 1/2 a teaspoon of salt to enhance the buttery flavor of the cake, and I added 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla to complement the sugar. I actually was extremely surprised that the recipe didn’t call for salt to begin with, since you usually add salt to enhance the flavors in baked goods.

I served this in my office, cut into thick wedges, but it would be a fabulous dinner party dessert as well. I would dress it up with berries and a dollop of whipped cream, and serve it with coffee.

Gateau Breton
“Adapted from How To Be A Domestic Goddess,” By Nigella Lawson


6 large egg yolks, 1 tsp reserved
1 tbs water
1 1/2 cups cake flour
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup plus 1 tbs sugar
1 cup plus 2 tbs unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1/2 tsp vanilla

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 10 inch springform pan, line the bottom with parchment paper, and butter the pan again.

After separating your eggs, take the one teaspoon of reserved egg yolk and mix with the water. This will serve as your glaze

Place flour in a mixing bowl. Whisk in sugar and salt until combined. Add butter, yolks, and vanilla and stir until the dough comes together. It will be a deep golden color.

Scoop the dough into the pan and smooth out with lightly floured hands until it fills out the pan and is of uniform thickness. The top will be slightly lumpy. Brush with the glaze. Using a sharp knife or razor blade, slash the top with a decorative lattice or other design of your choosing.

Place in oven and bake for 15 minutes. Turn heat down to 350 and bake for another 25 minutes, until the top is golden and the cake is firm to the touch.

Remove cake from oven and place on a rack to cool. Cool the cake entirely in the pan. Invert the cake onto a plate and peel off the parchment, and then reinvert onto a serving platter.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

elpisandjustice March 31, 2009 at 9:53 am

You are a modern domestic goddess- thank you for bringing this into work. I think it would also be great with some Irish breakfast tea.


Joanne March 31, 2009 at 1:04 pm

I might try to make this tonight!


moderndomestic March 31, 2009 at 1:05 pm

Yay! Do it. It is totally worth it.


Alice March 31, 2009 at 1:53 pm

I absolutely love shortbread, by the way. I love the melt-in-your mouth buttery goodness. Maybe it’s time to try one of these recipes… What’s your baked good for April?


moderndomestic March 31, 2009 at 1:54 pm

That is TBA. I have some ideas but no definite plans yet. It partly depends on how much free time I’ll have in April, which is not a lot.


Quynh March 31, 2009 at 6:13 pm

I’m going to try and make this. Yum.


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