In the Kitchen

Canned Summer


Blackberry Cake for Any Season

     I was reading recently about a woman who “scavenges” fruit and wild vegetables in the Bay Area. She picks from trees the fruit that people don’t want. She also gathers “wild” vegetables (mint, greens, berries and nuts) that grow naturally. She gives some of these to homeless shelters, and then she cooks, cans and sells the rest. Reading this story reminded me that when I was growing up, my mother also harvested and canned many wild fruits and vegetables. I, with the help of my brothers, would pick whatever was in season, and she would can it for us to enjoy in the winter. I loved to pick and to eat blackberries. They grew wild all around our neighborhood, and in July there seemed to be an endless supply.
     We didn’t think of it as scavenging; we just had fun picking and eating them. We also had local wild mint, raspberries, persimmons and hickory nuts, some of which we ate in season, the rest we canned. I especially liked the jellies and jams my mother made from these “found” foods. It was as if she had canned summer for us to enjoy some other time.
     The way my mother used these wonderful canned goods was another great memory. For example, just before the new blackberry season in summer, she would take last years’ jams, if there was any left, and make some kind of dessert. She always told us she had to empty the jars so we could can this years’ crop. My favorite was blackberry cake. It had great flavor, it was a beautiful color and we would eat it even before she had time to frost it. I have taken my mother’s recipe and updated it, but it still has that wonderful flavor of blackberry jam I enjoyed as a child. You don’t have to can your own or wait until July to enjoy this dessert. Just buy good blackberry jam, and make the cake whenever you want a delicious taste of summer.

Blackberry Jam Cake
2½    cups cake flour
1½    teaspoons baking powder
½    teaspoon baking soda
¼    teaspoon salt
½    teaspoon allspice
½    teaspoon cinnamon
3    large eggs at room temperature
1⁄3     cup buttermilk at room temperature
¾    cup blackberry jam
6    ounces (1½ sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
1    cup granulated sugar

     Lightly grease and flour two 8-inch round cake pans. Insert 8-inch rounds of parchment or waxed paper. Grease the paper. Preheat the oven to 350° F.
     Sift the first six ingredients together twice to ensure a thorough mixing. Set aside. Slightly beat the eggs in a small bowl and set aside. Mix the jam and buttermilk together and set aside. Place the butter in a standing mixer equipped with the paddle blade and mix on medium speed until light and pale in color. With the mixer still running, pour the sugar into the mixing bowl in a steady stream. When totally incorporated, about 1 minute, stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Mix again at medium speed until the mixture is light and creamy looking. Again with the mixer still running, add the eggs a little bit at a time until all the eggs are in the mix. Continue mixing until the mixture resembles cream cheese, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the mixing bowl from the stand, and add 1/4 of the flour mixture by sprinkling it on top of the batter. Gently fold it into the batter with a spatula until just combined. Add 1/3 of the jam-buttermilk mixture to the batter and fold in. Continue the alternating process ending with flour mixture. Spoon equal amounts into the prepared cake pans and bake for 30 to 35 minutes until done and golden brown on top. Remove from the oven and set on a cooling rack for 5 minutes in the pan. After 5 minutes remove the cakes from the pan and return to the rack until completely cool. Remove the paper from the cake layers and spread 2/3 cup of blackberry jam on the bottom layer and add the top layer. Frost with your own favorite frosting or make a classic seven-minute frosting and decorate with fresh blackberries.

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