Cake & Jam
Until you have tried this cake you will think that is a non-existent and very silly word. After you have tried this cake, you will know exactly what I mean. Yellowy organic butter creamed to whiteness with organic sugar. Eggs from free-range, organic, corn-fed chickens are mixed in, one by one; each yolk is almost orange and the batter starts to regain its golden eggy shade again. Vanilla and fresh organic lemon zest are added for flavour, and two sticky dollops of honey from my parent’s apiary. Baking powder, some sea salt and spelt flour are sifted in to the mix and slowly stirred to the thickness of an old fashioned cake batter which smells like the birthdays of your childhood. And just when you think it sounds as if it might be getting to be too sweet, now imagine that I have cut the cake in half and spread a thick layer of gloriously tart and freshly homeade gooseberry jam.
The gooseberry jam itself was another learning experience. I’ve never made it before, and every time you try to preserve a new fruit, estimating its pectin content is a bit like throwing craps. So I turned to Nigel Slater, who I always turn to when I have no idea what I’m doing. (He won’t know it, but he taught me to roast my first chicken when I, as a naieve vegetarian, thought I’d treat my boyfriend to a Sunday roast.) I roughly followed a recipe, mixing the gooseberries with an almost equal quantity sugar and a drop or two of water, to partly dissolve the sugar. Its incredibly satisfying, popping the gooseberries with a spoon as they start to warm up and become soft. (All the therapeutic qualities of bubblewrap, but with a lovely tart smell.) I squeezed in a bit of lemon juice to help keep the lovely livid shade of gooseberries in tact, but to no use, as they soon took on a translucent, candied fruit quality, and after about 45 minutes of regular stirring and fussing, the jam finally became jammy, with big chunks of partly dissolved gooseberry skins – all in a beautiful quincy rust shade.
In all truth, this cake was intended to culminate its existence in the form of a Washington Pie. But, in order to turn a vanilla cake filled with gooseberry preserves into a proper Washington Pie, like the kind my grandmother makes for my visits to Canada, you’d need to cover the entire thing in a thick layer of whipped cream. For today, though, I’m afraid that some semi-health conscious urge has stopped me from going to these lengths. We instead, settle for a slice each, after dinner, with a heaped spoonful of low fat creme fraiche.