I’m just gonna come out and say it: this is my favorite cake. Yes, favorite. I love it so much that I was tempted to put off making it, simply so I could keep looking forward to this entry.
Why do I love it so much? In short, the composition of it is a masterpiece. Dense, sweet layers of cake are slathered with fluffy meringue and baked crisp. A generous layer of tart gooseberries seeps into the lower meringue layer and makes it into a cream with its own unique texture, while the whipped cream above the berries is ample and perfectly flavored with vanilla. Crunchy toasted almonds cover each layer. Every component balances out another, every texture has a counterpoint. Every bite has balance.
It even keeps well; multiple days in the fridge won’t do damage to the flavor or texture.
I’ve seen versions of this cake made with mandarin oranges or cherries instead of gooseberries. Phooey. While they are acceptable enough, they throw off the delicate balance. All the subtlety of the torte flies right out the window.
It’ll be no surprise that this recipe is from my Oma’s collection. If alone doesn’t make you want to try it, I’m not sure what else I can do.
German Gooseberry Baiser Cake
125g (1 stick + 1/2 tsp) butter
125g (scant 2/3 cup) sugar
3 egg yolks
200g (1 2/3 cup) all purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1. Preheat oven to 175°C (350°F) and line a quarter sheet pan with parchment. Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the yolks one by one and whip until well incorporated. Stir together the flour and baking powder and sift the mixture into the butter mixture. Mix until the dough has just come together; overmixing will ruin the texture. The resulting dough will be thick, like a sugar cookie dough.
3. Spread the batter evenly into the sheet pan and pat it lightly to ensure it’s even. Set aside and make the meringue.
4 egg whites
200g (1 cup) sugar
100g (3/4 cup) slivered almonds
1. In a clean bowl and with clean beaters, beat the egg whites to soft peaks. Sprinkle on the sugar and beat to medium-stiff peaks. Do not over-beat, you want a glossy meringue.
2. Spread half the meringue on top of the unbaked batter layer. Sprinkle with the slivered almonds. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until the meringue is lightly browned and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
600g (roughly 2.5 cups) sweetened canned gooseberries, drained
150ml (1/2 cup + 2 tbsp) juice from the canned berries
15g (2 tbsp) corn starch
1. Whisk together the juice and corn starch very thoroughly, before boiling in a saucepan until thickened and free of starchy taste. This mixture will be very thick, but it’s necessary to hold the berries to one another. Fold under the whole gooseberries, taking care to avoid smashing the berries, and allow to cool.
360ml (1 1/2 cups) heavy cream
15g (2 tbsp) vanilla sugar (in a pinch, 1 tsp vanilla extract will work)
5g (1.5 tsp) powdered gelatin
1.5 tbsp water
1. In a small bowl, mix gelatin with water and allow it to bloom for 5 minutes. In a large bowl, whip your cream to soft peaks. Add in the vanilla sugar and whip to medium peaks.
2. Heat your gelatin in 5-10 second increments in the microwave until just melted. Do not boil. Continue to whip your cream, stirring the gelatin in as you whip. Once the cream just reaches stiff peaks, it’s ready to use.
1. Trim the edges of your sheet cake a bit (the meringue will likely be quite pufffy along the sides) and gently pat the meringue down if there are any very uneven spots. A little bit of waviness is quite visually appealing, so don’t make it too uniform. Cut 12 4″ rounds out of your cake sheet. If you have cake rings, use one of those to cut the rounds. If not, use parchment or acetate strips to create molds as follows:
a) Wrap the parchment or acetate around a 4″ pastry cutter and tape it in place. Repeat until you have 6 rings.
b) Set the molds aside and use the cutter to cut your cake rounds.
2. Assemble your cakes in lined 4″ cake rings or molds made from parchment or acetate, as mentioned above. Begin with one layer of cake. Spoon gooseberry filling on top of the cake, lining your prettiest berries along the outside.
3. Pipe a generous layer of whipped cream on top of your gooseberry layer. Top with another layer of cake and gently press on the top to level it. Refrigerate for 30-60 minutes or until well chilled.
4. Unmold and unwrap the cakes carefully, then serve.