I have taken the first two steps towards the Gin Fizz cake: sherbet and juniper sugar. The sherbet was incredibly easy – a mix of three parts icing sugar, one part citric acid and half a part bicarbonate of soda. That’s it. I also tried adding some lemon zest, which worked well but did cause the sherbet to start to react, slowly, into little clumps of barely fizzing… fizz, I suppose. This would obviously take away from the idea of a big surprise fizzy hit, so I’ll have to look into another way of flavouring the sherbet, if I decide that’s what I want to do. I think the next thing to try is drying and powdering the lemon zest before adding it, but I’m thinking more about leaving the sherbet unflavoured, and adding lemon zest through the sponge or as a decoration, maybe. I still have to find out how the sherbet will react, or not, to the moistness of a sponge cake.
I really love how the citric acid turned up, just hand-labelled in blue pen. Very low-fi.
The second step was to make some juniper sugar. This was also easy, though I’ve yet to experiment with how strong the flavour is and how good or bad it tastes as part of a cake. It certainly smells like gin, but without the oily, vodka underscent (I’m running with the theme of adding ‘under’ as a prefix to words, I ike it). I filled a wee jar with caster sugar – some to-ing and fro-ing (and spilling) let me figure out that it holds slightly less than three quarters of a cup of sugar. I then put one teaspoon of juniper berries into the food processor, with a flat blade attachment, and let it powder the berries as finely as possible; I let it run for about a minute. The result is a moderately fine powder, which does have some particles of berry that are coarser than the sugar, and this will especially be the case once the sugar has dissolved with the oil or butter in the cake, but I think that once this is incorporated in a cake it won’t be off-putting or even too noticable, especially if it’s being eaten alongside lemon zest. I put the sugar into the blender jar and shook it all together to mix, then poured the lot into the glass storage jar. That was yesterday, and it smells extremely ginny today, so I’m tempted to use it tonight and make some Gin Fizz Cake version 1, although it might be better to really let the flavour infuse over the course of a week or so and try it then. I’m impatient to experiment with the sherbet though – I suppose I can always make a couple of small cakes today and top the juniper sugar up, then make more after a week and see if there’s a difference.
I don’t want the juniper to be overpowering, and I’ve almost decided to leave out the cranberry element altogether, although if I do that I will have to make sure that the sharpness of the lemon, juniper and citric acid are balanced by enough sugar to keep the overall taste pleasant and not too sour. I’ve just remembered that I’ve got a bottle of lemon essence in the cupboard, that could be handy in putting these together, though I had also thought that lemon oil would work well instead of butter, and would add to the richness of the lemon flavour.
Recipe as it stands in my brain:
- 3/4 cup of juniper sugar (or possible 1/2 cup this and 1/4 cup caster sugar if too strong)
- 1/4 cup coconut oil (I liked this for its plain flavour but buttery and not oily end result)
- 1/4 cup lemon oil
- 3/4 cup plain flour
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- 1 or 2 eggs, depending on how it comes together, maybe one whole egg and one white
- sherbet piped into the centre
- brushed with a thin glaze and topped with lemon rind
I’ve fastened on to the idea of individual, bite-sized cakes made in petit-four cases. I think that these will deliver the flavours and the surprise of the sherbet first. Of course it’ll only be a surprise if the people trying them haven’t been reading this – just *pretend* to be surprised, ok? The ‘thin glaze’ – not sure what I intend to do here, really. I think that juniper and lemon flavours are well covered already so I don’t want to add more of either of these. Maybe this could be where the cranberry comes in, just a very subtle fruity glaze could be good to offset the sharpness elsewhere.
I think I’m going to have to make a few today. I can’t seem to resist, and it’s all in the name of research, of course. It’s for the greater good.