Gateau Breton – French Shortbread Cake

gateau breton1

I have been making this recipe for over 30 years. It is ina book I keep of hand-written recipes and the more beloved they are, the more stained the page. The page for this recipe is very stained! It is a deceptively easy recipe, but if you don’t use the best quality ingredients – and all of them – then please do yourself a favor and make something else. For years I would scrupulously write down recipes for people only to have them later complain to me that it didn’t taste like mine when they made it. After trying to determine the problem, I found out that they decided to not use real butter or left out the bourbon or cut the sugar or didn’t add the coffee to the chocolate. It finally got to the point that I stopped giving out recipes. Make this cake as written and you will not be disappointed.

This wonderful almond shortbread cake is best made at least one day ahead and will keep at least a week if it isn’t all eaten up. It can be cut into thin slivers for those forever on a diet and becasue it is so rich, a little goes a long way. This would take a starring role for any “high” tea and goes equally well with coffee or a little dessert wine. Unfortunately, I have no recollection where the recipe originated, so my apologies to that cook. I have made a few minor changes to it over the years as I do with most things.

Gateau Breton

Yield: One 9-inch cake that will easily serve 8-10


1.25 cups of unsalted butter, at room temperature (2.5 sticks)

3/4 cup granulated sugar (I always store my sugar in a glass jar with a few vanilla bean pods embedded)

1 large egg

2 large egg yolks

1/3 cup ground almonds (they can be blanched or unblanched – both work)

1.5 teaspoons vanilla paste or vanilla

1 Tablespoon Kirschwasser (cherry liqueur, which is also wonderful for mascerating fruit)

1.75 cups all purpose unbleached flour, sifted

1 egg yolk mixed with 1 teaspoon of ice water or milk and lightly beaten

2 Tablespoons sliced almonds (with skins or blanched)


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and lavishly butter a fluted flan pan with a removeable bottom. (If you don’t have one, buy one. They are so useful.)
  2. In the bowl of a standing mixer, with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. (I have done this entirely by hand, but the results are better and it is so much easier with a standing mixer and if y ou intend to do much baking you should really get one. I had one that lasted over 30 years, so they are an investment.)
  3. Beat in the whole egg and 2 egg yolks one at a time.
  4. Beat in the almonds, kirsch and vanilla. And then fold in the flour using the lowest speed on the mixer.
  5. Spoon the mixture into the lavishly buttered pan and using a spatula, spread it evenly. If you made this by hand, the batter will be stiffer and harder to spread – not impossible, but more difficult. It also won’t be as fluffy.
  6. Brush the beaten egg yolk mixture of the top. I would suggest placing the pan on a baking pan since sometimes the butter can ooze through the bottom a bit. Gateau Breton ready for ovenBake until the top is golden, about 30-35 minutes. This cake is almost impossible to dry out because of the high butter content.
  7. Cool in the pan on a wire rack and then carefully remove from the pan. gateau breton2When totally cool, wrap it well in foil lined with waxed paper or parchment.


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