Gâteau Breton with Dates and Chocolate

Although the Gâteau Breton is very often plain, some people prefer it with a filling such as apples or prunes soaked in armagnac. Less traditionally, I put together a date and chocolate filling this time, which may look unpromising (or even faintly disgusting) but I assure you it tastes good. You don't even have to buy expensive whole dates for this – simple chopped dates will do fine, as long as they're nice ones. 

There are a lot of rules about how the authentic Gâteau Breton should be made and I don't seem to stick to all of them; but then neither do all the apparently authoritative recipes I've seen. Two rules I do stick to, though, are that there should always be the same weight of sugar as butter and that the butter has to be salted. I'm reliably informed that using unsalted butter in a Gâteau Breton would be one of the worst thing you could do in Brittany – roughly the equivalent of walking into a bar in Quimper and announcing that you don't like bagpipes.

Gateau Breton
You could make the filling the day before and keep it in the fridge until needed. Bring it back to room temperature before using, though.

For the filling:
     100 g chopped dates
     140 ml water
     1 tbsp dark rum
     1 tbsp dark brown soft sugar
     a knob of butter
     20 g plain chocolate, broken into small pieces
For the gateau:
     225 g salted butter, softened and cut into pieces
     225 g golden caster sugar
     300 g plain flour, sieved
     1 tbsp calvados (not essential but I add it for luck)
     5 egg yolks
     1 egg white

First, make the filling. Put the dates, water, rum and sugar in a saucepan and heat gently with plenty of stirring until the mixture starts to look like a paste (a spoon dragged through it should leave a clear trail on the bottom of the pan). Take off the heat and stir in the butter and chocolate. Keep stirring until both have dissolved. Set aside to cool.

Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Thoroughly grease a 20 cm cake tin (it needs to be about 5 cm deep). If you happen to have a mixer with a paddle attachment standing round doing nothing then it will make the following gateau-beating process a lot easier.

Cream the butter and sugar thoroughly. Lightly beat the egg yolks, remove a scant tablespoonful and set this aside for glazing the top of the gateau. Add half of the remaining egg yolks to the butter and sugar and beat in, then do the same with the other half of the yolks and the calvados. Finally add the flour and beat in until everything looks nice and smooth.

Put half of the mixture into the prepared tin and spread it out as flat as reasonably possible – a combination of a palette knife and fingers works best for me. Spread the filling over the mixture evenly but avoid going right up to the edges. Cover with the other half of the mixture making the top as flat and smooth as possible. Lightly beat the egg white and paint over the top of the gateau – you probably won't need it all. Now paint with the reserved egg yolk – add a tiny amount of water if the yolk is too thick to spread. At this point, it's traditional to mark the top of the gateau with a pattern using the tines of a fork.

Bake for 40 – 45 minutes – the top should be a deep golden brown. Allow to cool a fair bit before removing carefully from the tin. Quite small slices are probably the order of the day – this is pretty rich.

Gateau Breton


  1. Looks far from disgusting to me Phil!!!

    Great idea to play with Gateau Breton - I have only ever made the plain version.

  2. ooh i can't tell you how much I love gateau Breton! It's so comforting and I should have made it in winter, not summer or spring. Maybe I'll do this next week :)

  3. I had the opporutnity to taste Gateau Breton recently whilst in Brittany this year and they have a number of flavours, inc prunes and raspberry. Your version I have to say looks like the real thing and I'd love a slice :)

    Your right it has to be salted butter.

  4. Your lady wife has come up with a winner there Phil. I love Gateau Breton, although I've never made it and can imagine how good it would be with dates and chocolate.

  5. Very impressive! I love how your posts for We Should Cocoa are always 'out there'. Love it!

  6. I too love gateau breton - and dates (and chocolate!) - so this looks like a real winner to me. Love the instruction about adding calvados for luck - I might start applying it to everything!

  7. I missed out on this last time I went to Brittany, how I don't know as it looks so delicious! I really like the idea of dates and chocolate together, will have to add to my list of must-make's!


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