Seasonal and Creative Berry Desserts

Last Thursday we taught our first class of the summer, Beyond Pie: Desserts with Small Fruits and Berries to introduce people to new, unconventional ways to use berries in desserts. While pies, crisps, cobblers and crumbles are all delicious ways to use berries, we wanted to encourage our participants to be creative and not to limit themselves to these traditional summer desserts. Our menu included our Roasted Strawberry Balsamic Ice Cream; Almond, Honey and Caramelized Fig Ice Cream; Raspberry Curd Tart; Almond Cassis Cake; and Sour Cherry and Gooseberry Cake.

Class participants decorating their tarts

We saved the cakes for last and had the participants create their own versions after tasting ours and discussing the differences in taste, texture and balance. Although both cakes have a nut base and layer of fruit inside, the Almond Cassis Cake is gluten-free, something both Barbara and I have been experimenting with since doing Clean, Dr. Alejandro Junger’s holistic detox program. I’ve found Elana’s Pantry particularly inspiring for creating delicious, healthy, gluten-free (and often vegan) desserts and have used some of her creations as a springboard to my own inventions.

Annabelle making her own version of our cake, photo by Suki Fredericks

The Sour Cherry and Gooseberry Cake, while also having almond flour as a base, includes wheat flour, which gives it a lighter body and finer grain. After discussing the techniques involved and tasting both cakes, the participants were set loose to create their own version. One group created a delicious cherry almond cake with very little flour, while the other substituted walnuts for almonds and decided on a layer of mixed fruits. Both were pleased with their results and now have the confidence to play around with their own recipes following basic ratios. Michael Ruhlman’s book, Ratio, is a great place to start in understanding the principles behind ratios in cakes, sauces and such.

Here’s the recipe for our Sour Cherry and Gooseberry Cake — we hope you too will experiment with it — changing the nut to flour ratio, using hazelnuts, walnuts or pecans instead of almonds, and playing with the filling according to what’s in season. Try blackberries, cinnamon and lime or red currants and peaches or … just about anything you can imagine! Consult The Flavor Bible for ideas about pairing different ingredients. And do let us know what you come up with!

Sour Cherry and Gooseberry Cake

Special Equipment
One 8-inch spring-form cake pan
Parchment paper


For Batter:
1 cup flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
2/3 cup butter
2/3 cup sugar
1 egg
½ cup almond or cow’s milk (or more if your batter is stiff)
1 ¼ cups almonds, (toasting optional), ground to whatever fineness you like (not too fine, though, as the meal will get oily, and not too coarse as the nut texture will distract from the balance of flavors in the cake)
½ tsp. cinnamon or cardamom, optional

For Filling:
1 cup ripe halved gooseberries, ends snipped
1 cup pitted tart cherries
3 TB cherries-eau-de-vie liquid or kirsch
3 TB red currant jelly or tart cherry jam or gooseberry preserves
¼ tsp. cinnamon


Preheat the oven to 350º. Line the bottom of the spring-form pan with parchment paper, butter and flour the pan.

Make the filling:

1.  Mix the filling ingredients together, taste, adjust seasonings, and let it sit while you are making the batter.

Make the batter:

2. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt (and optional spice) into a small bowl and set aside.

3.  Cream the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until fluffy; beat in the egg.  Stir in the almonds and milk by hand and then the flour.  The mixture will be stiff, but you can add a bit more milk to make a silkier texture.

Assemble the cake:

4.  Taste the filling and add a bit more eau-de-vie to heighten the flavor if need be or add a tad more jam or jelly if it is incredibly, puckery tart.

5.  Pour half the batter into the cake pan. Cover it with the fruit filling, smoothing as you go with a spatula.  Top with the rest of the batter—if bits of the filling show through, that’s great—it will give the cake rustic character, and in my book, that’s a good thing.

6.  Place it in the oven for 30 minutes or more, until the top is firm and golden, and the sides begin to pull away from the pan.

7.  Let it cool for a few minutes before removing the pan.  Delicious hot or cold!

Tags: , , , , , ,

Categories: Classes, kitchen, lessons, recipes, Seasons, summer

2 Comments on “Seasonal and Creative Berry Desserts”

  1. July 24, 2011 at 12:41 am #

    The cake looks beautiful.

  2. July 25, 2011 at 11:03 am #

    Thanks, Alisa! I hope you enjoy the recipe, too.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: