For sheer simple beauty, there’s no beating (no pun intended) a slice of gâteau battu. The brioche family of breads is like that. They’re golden in color and can be baked in all sorts of elegantly shaped molds. Gâteau battu differs from brioche mainly in its flavor — which is significantly sweeter — and its texture which is extremely tender and moist. Especially when topped with custard, jam or some other sweet spread, it truly lives up to it’s designation as a cake (versus a bread). Start by making the sponge. Combine the yeast, egg and flour…
This isn’t the standard French method for making gâteau battu (“beaten cake” in English). Traditionally it’s made with fresh yeast using what some people call the “blitz method”, i.e. just throwing everything into the mixer all at once and turning it on. I’ve converted this to a dry yeast procedure on the assumption fresh yeast isn’t easy for most people to find. To compensate for the lack of a fresh, live culture, I’m using instead the sponge method, which gives the yeast a running start since it’ll eventually be confronted with lots of sugar and/or alcohol. I also add the butter in late, as you do if you’re making standard brioche. This creates both a fluffier texture and a higher rise. Omit this step if you’re a stickler for authenticity.