Between tradition and modernity, this historic brand enhances the Basque cake

The blue sky, the singing of the seagulls and the kind smiles leave no doubt as to the location of our report. It is in the heart of Biarritz, on the long Place Georges Clémenceau, that the Chocolaterie Henriet punctuates the daily lives of locals and seasonal tourists with undoubtedly very gourmet breaks. Created in 1946 by the Henriet family, the eponymous chocolate factory quickly established itself as an essential place in the region offering various sweets, notably pastries, while sunbathing on the beach. It was when it was taken over in 1978 by the Couzigou family, renowned artisan chocolatiers, that the Henriet house then expanded its offering by specializing in chocolate like the “Rochers de Biarritz”, crunchy local treats. Then, in 2006, the Dolfi family (also owner of iconic brands such as “À la Mère de Famille” and “Stohrer”) took over the business “with its recipes, its traditional Basque cake and its emblematic location” specifies Steve Dolfi. A conservation of family recipes that hits the mark since “all the Biarritz families pass by the store quite regularly and everyone has their own little story with their cake” adds our host.

Also read: Discover the oldest pastry shop in Paris

Once upon a time… the Basque cake

Even more than a local indulgence, the Basque cake stands out as one of the oldest regional gourmet traditions since it is believed to have originated in the 17th century. Always considered a homemade family cake (“etxeko biskotxa” in Basque, literally meaning “the cake of the house”), it was initially a fairly dry cake, shortbread and without topping. “It was only in the 18th century that we added a cherry compote inside, or other fruits depending on the season. It was then in the 19th century that we replaced the cherry compote with a pastry cream, which made the Basque cake famous today as we know it,” says Steve Dolfi.

History therefore corroborates the murmurs of the region which also attribute the popularity of the aforementioned cake to a certain Marianne Hirigoyen, pastry chef in Cambo-les-Bains and holder of a family recipe which she introduced to the markets of Bayonne, him earning the nickname “La Basquaise aux cakes” in the 1850s. Finally, if it was originally consumed on Sundays and for special occasions, it has now become popular on plates, without further ado.

The meeting of Basque cake and cocoa bean

On the menu at Henriet, you will obviously find the classic versions of the Basque cake, filled with pastry cream or cherry compote, but also a 100% chocolate version, made with cocoa beans. “What is quite amusing in the end is that cocoa arrived in France via the Basque coast. It’s as if we’re giving it back its nobility today,” adds Steve Dolfi. A happy in-between time exclusive to Maison Henriet which combines local artisanal know-how to delight the taste buds of young and old, because in the end, whatever your favorite recipe, everyone ends up finding what they're looking for!

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