Friday, 22 June 2012

Gooseberry, Almond and Elderflower Cake - A Tea Time Treat

This month's Tea Time Treat Challenge is baking with summer fruit. There are several varieties of soft fruit traditionally associated with a British Summer - raspberries, strawberries, cherries and so on - but thanks to improved growing methods and imports, many of these are now available all year round.

So for me. nothing says summer has arrived  more than picking my own gooseberries. Not only do they have a very short season, they are so out of favour with the British public that you hardly ever see them in the supermarkets, either in-season British, or imported. I've been growing them for three years now, and although the bush bearing a red variety of gooseberry has suffered damage since it was first planted, and isn't producing much yet, we get enough off the green variety for several crumbles or pies, plus a batch or two into the freezer in a good year.

Fortunately, this year our gooseberries are just about ready at the same time as the elderflowers, which are late blooming this year. I picked just enough fruit for this cake, and left the rest to mature a little longer. I'm not sure why elderflowers and gooseberries are traditionally paired together - this is the first time for many years that I've seen both ready at the same time. Perhaps things were different back in the days when traditions were being formed! Incidently - I went out to pick the elderflowers on the longest day of the year, after a torrential downpour of rain which was more reminiscent of a tropical storm than a British summer shower. Summer is not very summery this year!

So, for the Tea Time Treat challenge, I needed a cake, rather than a dessert. This is one of my favourite cake recipes for using fresh fruit, but for something releasing a lot of juice, as gooseberries do, the fruit must be cooked first. I used 500g fruit with a tablespoon of water and sugar to taste, and 3 large heads of elderflowers which were only just fully open. I cooked them together until the gooseberries had burst and release their juices, then I removed the flowers. I drained the fruit, reserving the juices, which I boiled down to a few tablespoons of syrup, adding a little more sugar to taste - this will be used to glaze the finished cake.

For the cake I used:

150g unsalted butter
150g caster sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
250g SR flour
50g ground almonds, plus an extra tablespoonful
A few drops almond extract
The cooked fruit, and prepared glaze
A handful of flaked almonds, for topping
A few sprigs of elderflowers for decoration

Pre-heat oven to 180C and grease and line the base of a 20cm(8") springform tin.
Melt the butter in a large bowl in the microwave, then stir in the sugar and beaten egg, followed by the flour, 50g ground almonds and almond extract. Mix until you have a soft dough - the consistency is like a soft cookie dough.
Use just over half the dough to cover the base of the cake tin, spreading it with fingers, and raising a lip around the sides about 1cm(1/2") high.
Sprinkle the extra tablespoon of ground almonds over the base.
Spread the fruit over the base, then cover with the rest of the dough, breaking off small pieces and scattering it over the fruit, and spreading with your fingers. (You need good coverage of dough around the edges, but it doesn't matter if there are small gaps with fruit peeking through in the middle of the cake). Sprinkle over the flaked almonds and press down lightly.
Bake for 50-60 minutes, until golden and firm. Cover with foil if the cake is browning too quickly.
When out of the oven, brush the top with the glaze, which is easier to spread if warmed (my glaze actually set like a jam while the cake was cooking!). Allow to cool.
Decorate with elderflowers just before serving (or just for the photograph in this case!).

This is a really delicious cake - Hubs reckoned that it's one of the best he's tasted for a long while. He's not usually very vocal about my cooking unless he really dislikes something, or finds something better than usual, so it must have been good!  It's a cake that is at home on the tea-table, but which could be served warm with cream, custard or ice cream as a dessert too.

The elderflowers made a huge difference to the flavour of the gooseberries and the glaze on top gave an extra fruity flavour boost. The texture of the cake is moist and dense - somewhere between a cake and a shortcake in texture, and the almonds are detectable but not overwhelming, even after using the almond extract. The centre fruit layer is not as deep as a pie filling but concentrates the flavour of the fruit more than just folding the fruit into the cake batter.

Tea Time Treats is a monthly baking challenge to provide goodies for the tea table, hosted alternately by Karen from Lavender and Lovage and Kate from What Kate Baked. Kate chose this month's theme of summer fruits and will be posting a round-up of entries at the end of the month.

Update - June 28th
I've also entered this cake into the Elderflower Challenge at Lancashire Food, although I don't understand the technical bit about copying the badge code so that it links to the challenge! You'll just have to follow the link above if you want to see what's been entered into the challenge. Thanks to Choclette at Chocolate Log Blog, for bringing this challenge to my attention!


Hello said...

Looks lovely, and a refreshing cake. I especially like the elderflowers as the decoration.

Laura loves cakes said...

This looks delicious...I was tempted to make something with gooseberry for TTT too but in my limited search I couldn't find any!! I'd love to try a slice of this! :-) The glaze and the texture of almonds on top must add an extra dimension too!

Caroline said...

I do love gooseberries - they're very under-rated. I ought to try the gooseberry-elderflower combination. It comes up so often but I've never really tried it out. I like the idea of concentrating the fruit in a layer and may well 'borrow' this recipe at some point. I bet it would be great with plums in the autumn too.

Suelle said...

Hi Caroline - this recipe was originally for an apple cake, but I've tried it with almost every fruit you can think of - plums, peaches and raspberries, pears, rhubarb. The important thing to remember is to cook and drain really juicy fruit first - things like plums and apples can be used raw.

Phil in the Kitchen said...

I don't understand why gooseberries are so unpopular. I pick mine at the PYO farm. Usually there are dozens of people picking strawberries and just me and a stray dog in the gooseberry rows. This cake looks excellent to me. Very summery - very British.

celia said...

How beautiful, Suelle! Love the sprig on top of the final cake. It looks absolutely delicious..

Hazel - Chicken in a Cherry Sauce said...

This sounds incredible - I love that you have used real elderflowers! Wonderful summery collection of flavours.

Kate@whatkatebaked said...

Thank you so much for entering this scrumptious cake into TTT, a really delightful bake!

Linzi_Barrow said...

Thanks for linking to the elderflowerchallenge, lovely looking cake .

Choclette said...

Ha ha Suelle, I didn't understand the badge code bit either and also didn't use it. Thanks for mentioning me.

This cake looks good and sounds absolutely scrumptious - which it obviously must have been to have received a comment from your dear one. Interesting what you say about elerflowers and gooseberries, I just assumed they must be out together. Maybe it depends on the variety of gooseberry.