June 30, 2011

Summer, berries, and cake

I've been meaning to post something on blackberry frozen yogurt, as a toast of sorts, or maybe just a respite, to the official start of summer and hot weather, but with the welcome bout of rain and cooler temps the day before yesterday, a brief respite between weeks hovering in the high 90s and touching into the low 100s, cake felt more appropriate, cake with blackberries. Even yesterday after the clouds cleared up the night before remained cool. It's been nice not to have to use the AC for the past couple of days and open the windows for fresh air again. If only it would last. Sigh. That won't be happening, not with a prediction of 103° for the 4th.

One good thing about the summer heat is the abundance of produce, berries and stone fruit in particular, that come with the season. I do have to say that summer fruits are some of my favorites, even if summer itself is not particularly looked forward to every year. I shouldn't complain, though. Living in California has its benefits, like the blackberry bushes that grow everywhere and are loaded with berries every July. Well, berries and spiders. It seems like some bushes are loaded with almost as many spiders (and an overabundance of cobwebs) as they are blackberries. Spiders definitely put a damper on the prospect of berry picking, even if you can potentially come home with a bucketful or two of plump, juicy, ready-for-eating berries.

Fortunately for this cake, a blackberry buttermilk upside-down cake of sorts, I did not have to go battling with the spiders. Frozen berries from last summer's pickings kept well enough in the freezer and the supply has slowly been dwindling over the past month. I had plans for jam, but when one comes across a recipe for a simple cake with a buttermilk batter spiked with orange zest and a layer of blackberries, well, I just had to make it.

I love a cake with a buttermilk base. Now I love a buttermilk cake with blackberries. This is another one of those easy everyday cakes, my favorite kind to bake, nothing really fussy about it and you can bake it in the morning to have ready in the afternoon for some good snacking. You could even call it a summer coffee cake. I suggest serving it with an iced latte, or at least iced coffee. Blackberry buttermilk cake and an iced latte are good companions on a summer afternoon (or late morning).

Next time, or sometime, soon, I'll have that blackberry frozen yogurt post ready for you. That was some good stuff, too, and perfectly suited to really hot days.

Blackberry Buttermilk Cake
Adapted from Bon App├ętit, July 2011

-If you're using frozen berries like I did, make sure they are completely thawed and drained. I even arranged the berries in a single layer on a few paper towels to soak up excess water for several minutes after draining them in a colander. If you don't do this, your cake could be soggy. If you're using fresh berries, then you have nothing to worry about.

-Also, the recipe calls for a baking time of 1 hour and 25 minutes, but my cake was finished by the hour mark. I probably could have pulled it sooner, actually, because it was slightly overbaked, so begin to check around the 45 minute mark and keep watching for the next 15 minutes or so. The top should be quite golden when finished.

¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 ⅓ cups cake flour (sifted, then measured)
2 ½ cups (10 oz) fresh blackberries
¼ cup plus 1 ⅓ cups granulated sugar
1 ½ tsp baking powder
¾ tsp salt
½ tsp baking soda
3 large eggs, room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 ½ tsp finely grated orange zest
1 cup well-shaken buttermilk
Powdered sugar (for dusting)

Position a rack in middle of oven and preheat to 350° F. Butter a 9-inch springform pan and line bottom with a round of parchment paper. Butter parchment. Dust with flour and tap out excess. Arrange berries in a single layer in bottom of pan and sprinkle evenly with ¼ cup sugar.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda, and set aside. In a large bowl, beat butter and remaining 1 ⅓ cups sugar, occasionally scraping down sides of bowl, until pale and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla and zest. Beat in flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with buttermilk in 2 additions, beginning and ending with flour mixture and beating just until incorporated. Pour batter over berries in pan, and smooth top.

Bake until cake is golden brown and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 50 - 60 minutes. Let cool in pan set on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then run a thin, sharp knife around edge of pan to loosen. Remove pan sides. Invert cake onto rack, remove pan bottom, and peel off parchment. Dust top generously with powdered sugar and let cool completely.

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