My little gooseberry bush in France produced a couple of handfuls of gooseberries this year, against all odds. The soil is not at all good and we struggle to grow many things, apart from tomatoes, cucumbers, broad beans and courgettes. In fact it’s interesting to see what grows and what doesn’t. My rhubarb plant, a precious cutting from my mother’s old rhubarb bush that produced tons of fruit each year, finally gave up the ghost this year, succumbing to the heat and the stony, clay soil. But my gooseberry bush is showing promise, although many people said it was impossible to grow them in this part of France. I froze some of them and supplemented the rest with some brought from a UK supermarket to make this cake.
It’s an adaption of a recipe in the book “make me a cake as fast as you can” by Miranda Gore-Browne, a GBBO contestant of a few years ago. It’s a whisked sponge, fat free and therefore very light. The gooseberries are cooked until soft to create a compote for the filling and the juice is used as a glaze for the cake.
The recipe suggests that you could sprinkle icing sugar on the cake instead so I did both. I then decided it would benefit from a little decoration but of course by now elderberry flowers are long since gone so I used some flowers from one of our rose bushes and leaves from my gooseberry bush. I was very pleased with the result.
The cake was delicious, gooseberry and elderflower being a gorgeous combination. The cake was flavoured with elderflower cordial as per the recipe but I used an elderflower liqueur called St-Germain to flavour the cream.
St-Germain is a French liqueur which I have to say is delicious. It’s my current favourite digestif and ever since I first learned of its existence in Phil’s brilliant blog, “as strong as soup”, have been on the lookout for a bottle. Having searched the shelves in French supermarkets I finally tracked down a rather dusty bottle lurking at the back of a shelf in my local Tesco! I love the rather art deco style of the bottle.
Gooseberry and elderflower cake
100g caster sugar
4 large eggs
100g SR flour, sifted
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp lemon zest (about half a small lemon)
2 tbsp elderflower cordial
For the filling
100 ml whipping cream
1 tbsp elderflower cordial **
40g caster sugar
1 tbsp water
Preheat the oven to 180°C / 160° fan / gas mk 4. Grease and base line two 20cm sandwich tins.
Using an electric whisk or stand mixer, whisk together the sugar and eggs for 3-4 minutes. The mixture should triple in volume.
Sift in the flour and bp and fold in gently with the lemon zest.
Transfer to the tins and bake for about 10 mins, until done. On removing from the oven, sprinkle the cordial over the cakes and leave to cool in the tins for 5 mins. Remove to a wire rack to cool completely.
For the filling, put the gooseberries, sugar and water into a small pan and cook until the berries are just soft but still holding their shape. Remove the berries from the pan using a slotted spoon and set aside. Turn up the heat and boil the syrup for a few mins until thickened. Leave to cool.
Whip the cream until thick and fold in the elderflower cordial.
Put one cake onto a serving plate and spread the gooseberries over it. Spread the cream on top of the berries. Put the other cake on top and pour the cooled gooseberry syrup over to glaze. (Or simply dust with icing sugar and decorate with flowers.)
** I used St Germain elderflower liqueur in the cream.
Cuts into 8-12 slices.