Blackberry Tea Cake and Chickadees

IMG_5008I was riffling through a cookbook temptingly called “The Afternoon Tea Cookbook,” when I came across a recipe for Blackberry Spice Cake. It called for seedless blackberry jam, and before I knew it I was at the store buying the jam and the buttermilk the recipe called for. Certain recipes have that effect on me! Wild blackberries are ripening in forest preserves all over the midwest, and the word “blackberry” lured me.

Midway through making the cake, though, I felt uneasy. Based on four eggs, the recipe yielded a cauldron of batter, and I could not imagine that it would bake in the specified 35 minutes. There are cakes that, when it comes time to peek into the oven, you feel afraid, and this was one of them. It took one hour and thirty five minutes to bake, and the loaf was like an enormous, sunken brick. My hopes for a delightful cake were dashed. After it had cooled, though, I cut off a corner, and to my surprise, found it was delicious. Moist and fine-grained, it was spicy with a jammy undertone. However, the brick-like appearance was daunting, and there was too much clove for my tastes. At any rate, I cut the recipe in half, adjusted the spicing, and here it is . . . Blackberry Tea Cake with Caramel Frosting and Hazelnuts, a marriage made in heaven.

Blackberry Tea Cake with Caramel Frosting and Hazelnuts

Prepare an 8-1/2 x 4-1/2 loaf pan by greasing and then lining with greased and floured wax paper.

IMG_49891 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 eggs
6 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup seedless blackberry jam
1/3 cup buttermilk combined with 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Caramel Frosting
several handfuls of chopped nuts, such as hazelnuts

Sift together the flour and spices. Set aside. Whisk eggs until lightly beaten. Set aside. Cream butter and sugar together until fluffy, then add eggs and jam, beating continuously. Add flour and buttermilk mixtures alternately, beating continuously. Pour into the prepared pan. Bake for 40 minutes. Allow to cool, and remove from pan.

IMG_4993Caramel Frosting

2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup confectioners sugar
1/4 cup milk or cream

Melt the butter in a medium-sized saucepan. Add the brown sugar and stir until mixed. Pour in the confectioners sugar, and stir briefly–it will be crumbly. Add about half of the milk or cream and stir. Dribbling in more of the milk or cream, stirring, and keep adding dribbles until the frosting is a thick, creamy consistency. Keep stirring for about a minute longer, and then spoon over the cake. Immediately sprinkle with chopped hazelnuts.

Note: You could use a simple confectioners sugar glaze, but the contrast between the spicy, fruity cake and the buttery fudgey frosting is delish. Also, this would be good with freshly whipped cream and wild blackberries. Also, if you don’t have all the spices called for, put in your own mix! Just keep the cloves to a minimum, or that flavor will dominate.

IMG_5067The flower above is a weedy campanula named Campanula rapunculoides. I would not bring it into your garden intentionally–it really is a nasty weed–but if you have it already, you might as well enjoy it!

IMG_4969Meanwhile, there has been a new phenomenon at the bird feeder–influxes of chickadees. I’m not complaining, and the gold and purple finches still find plenty to eat. But it is like a bird/motorcycle gang roaring into town. This little fellow seems to be looking for something.

IMG_4970

Just being cute.

IMG_4972Dramatic profile.

IMG_4971Seems to be a chickadee thing to do.

IMG_5012Meanwhile, the daylilies are opening. These two seem to be singing a duet.

IMG_5014I like this picture because it shows all three stages of flowering, with the bud, the flower, and the spent petals.

IMG_5015I gussied this portrait up a bit.

IMG_5064Blooming along with the wild campanula.

IMG_5065A jumble of flowers.

IMG_5044Purple coneflowers are starting to bloom. This blooms in a mist of Galium aristatum.

IMG_5045Not sure why only the center area appeared, but it’s interesting!

IMG_5051As dusk falls on a summer’s evening, the moon reigns supreme. Namaste. Fran

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