14 September 2012

Blackberry Cake

 I've been searching high and low for cheap blackberries lately. Growing up as a country bumpkin, I was always able to get blackberries for free at this time of year by scaling a few hedgerows. Unfortunately (and solely because of the blackberries) I'm in Newcastle and the only ones I can find are either too low down to eat without questioning what else you might be ingesting or £1 for 150g in the supermarkets. Newcastle's high street is lined with market vendors selling fruit and veg at low prices, but apparently I've already missed the blackberry harvest this year. I'm not sure how this is possible, but far be it from me to argue with someone who makes their living from selling in-season food.

One of the best possible things one can make this time of year is Apple & Blackberry Crumble, but that's for a later date; today, I have something much more decadent for you. I made this Blackberry Cake yesterday when I was staying with my Grandparents in Liverpool. I don't think they get to eat a lot of good food these days because their carers buy food in for them, and all they get dessert-wise is supermarket cake, which, let's be honest, is not good. They always seem to appreciate when I come round and bake them a cake, anyway!

I actually baked two cakes yesterday: the second cake was requested by my Grandparents' carer and good family friend for a birthday party. I made a chocolate cake with an icing similar to the one I used in today's cake, but instead of colouring the icing I blended blackberries into it, in the same manner as with the Cinnamon Raspberry Cake. I didn't get to try the finished cake, but the batter was certainly tasty!

Anyway, back to today's cake. The icing is a simple Swiss meringue buttercream, which I divided into three and coloured before spreading onto the cake in layers. I really can't get enough of this cake: it tastes of blackberries, has a moist yet light and fluffy sponge and has a smooth vanilla icing with jam in between the layers - and it's colourful! It ticks all the boxes for a great cake. The only issue I had with it was crunching on the blackberry seeds, but this is a small price to pay for a cake such as this.

For the cake:

  • 200g Caster Sugar
  • 200g Self Raising Flour
  • 200g Butter
  • 1 Tsp Baking Powder
  • 225g Blackberries
  • 1 Tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 50-60mL Milk
  • 200g Blackberry Jam
For the Swiss meringue buttercream:
  • 450g Good Quality Butter
  • 6 Egg Whites
  • 90g Caster Sugar
  • 2 Tsp Vanilla Extract
  • Blue and Purple Food Colouring
  • Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan. Line two sandwich tins with parchment paper.
  • Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
  • Beat in the eggs one at a time, then sift in the flour and baking powder. 
  • Fold in the flour mixture and stir until everything is well combined. 
  • Add enough milk to give a soft dropping consistency.
  • Add the blackberries and use an electric hand whisk to blend in, then divide the mixture between the sandwich tins and bake for 22 mins, or until a skewer comes out clean.
  • When the cakes are completely cool, turn them out, wrap them in clingfilm and freeze for at least four hours and up to five days. 
  • To make the Swiss meringue buttercream, put the egg whites in a small bowl with the sugar.
  • Place the bowl over a pan of hot water, making sure that the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl. Put the pan over a low heat.
  • Stir the mixture with a fork until the sugar has dissolved - you can check for this by dipping your fingers in and rubbing the tips together: a grainy feeling means that the sugar hasn't dissolved yet.
  • Pour the egg white mixture into a bowl and whisk to a stiff peak consistency.
  • Make sure the butter is room temperature. Chop it into small chunks, and add it to the whipped egg whites (meringue) a chunk at a time. At first the meringue will deflate and turn into a soupy mixture, but do not despair! Once most of the butter has been added the buttercream will take on a more solid appearance, and once all of the butter is added it should be smooth and silky with no liquid in the bowl - if some still remains, just add more butter.
  • Whisk in the vanilla extract.
  • Unwrap the cakes and place one on a plate. Cover it with the jam, then a couple of tablespoons of the buttercream. 
  • Place the second cake on top, then spread a thin layer of icing over the whole cake. The aim here is to create a barrier between the crumbs and the outer, decorative layer of icing (hence why it is called a crumb coat), so make sure there are no crumbs in this layer! Scrape off any excess icing and save it for the next bit.
  • Divide the mixture into three, then colour one part blue and one part purple.
  • Spread the purple icing around the bottom of the cake, then spread the white icing around the middle. Spread the blue icing over the top and over the edges of the cake.
  • Use a spatula or pallette knife to blend the layers of colour together by brushing it around the outside of the cake and over the top, making sure that you don't scrape into the crumb coat. You should have some excess icing so if you make any mistakes you can always have more!

For information on how you can make this cake a little better for you (and trust me, the blackberries aren't enough!), take a look at Healthy(ish) Baking.

I'm entering this recipe into Simple And In Season, which was started by Ren of Fabulicious Food but this month is hosted by Katie of Feeding Boys And A Firefighter


I'll be back next week with some macarons. See you then!

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