A sponge cake contains no fat, and the leavening is provided entirely by the eggs. Think angel food cake, but with more flavour. It’s light and airy, the perfect base for the tangy, creamy gooseberry mousse topping.
For the gooseberry filling
- 400 g fresh or frozen gooseberries, topped and tailed (black currants, raspberries or strawberries also work well)
- 50 g or ¼ c granulated sugar
- 45 ml or 3 tbsp Elderflower syrup
- 236 ml or 1 c heavy cream
- 20 g or 3 tbsp confectioners’ sugar, sifted
For the sponge cake
- 3 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
- 200 g or 1 c extra-fine sugar, divided into 50 g or ¼ c and 150 g or ¾ c portions
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- ¼ tsp salt
- 120 g or 1 c unbleached cake flour
Make the gooseberry filling
- In a medium saucepan, bring the gooseberries, sugar and elderflower syrup to a boil and simmer gently until the gooseberries break down (about 10 minutes). Remove from heat and beat with a whisk to break them up further. Let cool thoroughly and refrigerate.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the heavy cream and the confectioners’ sugar on high until soft, billowy peaks form (about 3 minutes). Fold the chilled gooseberry mixture into the whipped cream.
Make the cake
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add 50 g or ¼ c sugar, beating on medium-high speed until the whites are stiff and glossy (2 minutes). Transfer the egg whites to a large, clean bowl, or if you have two bowls for your mixer, just put it to one side.
- Return the bowl and whisk attachment to the mixer (no need to wash) and beat the egg yolks and the remaining 150 g or ¾ c of sugar on medium-high speed until the mixture becomes pale and thick (3 to 5 minutes). You’ll need to scrape down the bowl a few times. Add the vanilla and salt. Fold the yolk mixture, one third at a time, into the whites.
- Sift the flour over the mixture and fold gently until incorporated. The batter will be creamy and fluffy.
- Spray the charlotte pan with a good quality baking spray. Gently scoop the batter into the pan, levelling with a small offset spatula. Tap the pan against the counter to release any air pockets (protect your countertop with a cutting board). Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until the edges just begin to pull away from the pan and the centre springs back when lightly touched.
- Remove the cake from the oven and let cool in the pan on a rack for 5 minutes. Then turn the cake out of the pan and return it to the rack to finish cooling the right side up.
Assemble the cake
- Spoon the gooseberry cream mixture into the hollow of the charlotte cake, swirling it into attractive peaks. If you have them, garnish with a few fresh gooseberries or some thin slices of lime rind twisted into curls.
Frozen gooseberries (among other delicious seasonal berries) are available from NorthWest Wild Foods. Stock up when they’re in season and you can enjoy fabulous desserts all year round.
The elderflower syrup is available from Amazon.