Saturday, 19 July 2014

Gooseberry Cake with Orange Flower Water Drizzle Icing

Gooseberries can be an awkward fruit to use in cooking; because of their tartness, they need to be cooked and sweetened in order to make them appetising. There are dessert varieties to be found, but these can be hard to source and are often more problematic for the gardener to grow, and as such are not often readily available. It is all too easy to merely use gooseberries in pies, crumbles or to make jam and I have been on a quest to try and find new and interesting but also delicious ways of using them in my cooking.
Unsurprisingly, gooseberries are so called because the berries were traditionally used to make a sauce to accompany Roast Goose. Because of their tartness, gooseberries cut through the richness of many foods and create balance in the dish. In particular, gooseberries go extremely well with mackerel where their fruity but acidic tartness balances out the oiliness of this fish. I have been experimenting with different ideas for savoury dishes that include gooseberries and when I have perfected them, I will, of course, post the recipes here. For the moment though, I have been preoccupied with recipes for desserts, cakes and other bakes where gooseberries could be used.
This cake is extremely simple to make and is absolutely delicious. I was so pleased with how it turned out. Elderflower is often the flavour of choice when seeking something to pair with gooseberries, but I find that orange also works very well. Initially, I was going to add the grated zest of a large orange to the cake batter, but then I opted to use orange flower water instead as I thought the floral notes would complement the gooseberries perfectly, in much the same way that elderflower works so effectively.
This is what I would call a “plain” cake, to which I have substitutes some of the flour for ground almonds and to which I have also popped a few gooseberries on top. I have introduced the flavour of orange flower water and finished the cake with drizzle icing. So long as you keep the basic proportions of the cake batter constant, you can tweak the recipe a little and add your own flavourings. This is what I love about cooking and baking… once you become confident and understand why certain ingredients or proportions are used, you can then unleash your culinary creativity and start to experiment. I don’t believe that you should experiment just for the sake of being different and shocking; there should be a sound basis for the cooking choices you make and I certainly don’t regret the ones that I made concerning this cake – that’s not to say that I won’t also make a good old gooseberry crumble, because I am sure that I will before the gooseberry season finishes!


250g butter, softened
250g caster sugar
6 large eggs
2tsp orange flower water
200g plain flour
1 heaped tsp baking powder
50g ground almonds
350g gooseberries, topped and tailed
1tblsp caster sugar for sprinkling
100g icing sugar
1-2 tsp of orange flower water
A little boiling water if needed


1. Preheat oven to 180C/Fan Oven 160C/Gas Mark 4. Grease and line a 23cm round spring-form tin with non-stick baking parchment and set aside.
2. Place the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl and beat together using a hand-held electric mixer until light and fluffy. Gradually mix in the eggs, beating well after each addition, until they are fully incorporated and then mix in the orange flower water.
3. Sift the flour and baking powder together and fold into the egg mixture along with the ground almonds. Spoon the batter into the prepared tin and level the surface. Arrange the gooseberries on top of the cake and sprinkle with the tablespoon of caster sugar. Bake in the oven for approximately 60 minutes until the cake is well risen and a thin skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes in the tin, before transferring to a wire rack to finish cooling completely.
To finish:
4. Mix the icing sugar and orange flower water together to create a smooth but slightly runny icing. You may need to add a tiny amount of boiling water as well to reach the desired consistency. Drizzle over the cake and allow to harden a little before serving.

Serves 8-10.