Blackberry Hunting – by Lacie Wall
About two blocks from our house is an elementary school, with a playground, large field, hidden oak tree, and a church with a food pantry sign. Just beyond that sign we have an endless field of blackberries. It’s a little ironic. When Sean first realized what was growing there we were thrilled, our last bramble of blackberries grew near the highway and was mowed down, so we immediately began watching and planning.
This past year has afforded us many adventures and opportunities to build a community for ourselves, with new friends and the wildlife that hunted the berries with us. Berry picking was a great opportunity for us to get free treats, but it also gave us a chance to learn so much about our environment: hemlock loves to grow with blackberries, birds are not patient and will eat them ALL before they are ripe, Luna loves blackberries and can be trusted to pick the right thing every time, our dog is only trusted within a 12 foot radius, scratches from thorns are worth it, and sunset berry picking is absolute magic.
We ate our berries in cobbler. We ate them frozen. We ate them as jam. We ate them warm and tart in the middle of the meadow. We glazed barbecue with blackberry syrup. We ate them in a house, we ate them with a cat, in the dark, here or there…. we ate them just about everywhere. Then, we saved them. As our ration dwindled, we became more and more stingy, until finally we decided (after our success with beautyberry flour) that we would try the impossible and make blackberry flour.
Blended and dehydrated, then ground as fine as possible, we used a blender, but would have used our coffee grinder if it wasn’t gummed up and we weren’t so impatient.
I tried two different versions of this cake, and I was more pleased with the second. Alternately I think you could probably add blackberry flour to anything and it would be delicious! Dehydrated and ground berries – think waffles or muffins; just throw some in a yellow cake mix or add to pancake batter – the options are pretty much endless. What we ended with is a gluten free product, with minimal sugar. I used inspiration from http://christinascucina.com/2012/12/yule-log-made-easily-delicious-and.html to get me started, and altered as needed.
The final product is a very light sponge cake, filled with whipped cream that won’t leave you dragging. For version 1, I soaked lavender buds in cream and then strained and whipped; I wasn’t a fan, but Sean was. Maybe with less lavender and real sugar I would’ve like it. Next summer, I’m going to make a blackberry jam to swirl with whipped cream for the filling.
Start with this very basic, and short list of ingredients:
1 C. blackberry flour
6 large eggs – separated, at room temp.
¾ c. sugar, stevia, or preferred sweetener (honey or molasses would be delicious and you could get away with less)
¼ tsp. cream of tartar
2 tbsp. cream cheese, softened (take the remaining 6 oz block and make a delicious curly dock cream cheese spread!)
1 C. heavy whipping cream
Pinch of salt
Parchment paper – a must. Your cake with tear/fall apart without it, it’s an egg-based cake folks.
And follow these steps –
Preheat oven to 325 F.
Line a jelly roll sheet with parchment paper – mine is large, —- I think a smaller pan would be better.
In large bowl whisk your egg whites at high speed with ¼ tsp. cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Begin adding in ¼ c (4 tbsp ) sugar while whisking until stiff peaks form. They shouldn’t move if you take the bowl and turn it sideways.
Transfer to separate bowl if you need the same one for your mixer, but don’t worry about cleaning the bowl or your whisk attachment.
Now, take your egg yolks and whisk at medium speed until combined and smooth. Add in 1 -2 tsp vanilla, depending on preference, the remaining ½ c sugar and a pinch of salt. Turn up speed to high and let whisk for 3-4 minutes until you products resembles a rich, thick cake batter.
Turn your mixer down to low speed and add the magic berry flour! The finer the flour the better. Mix until combined well. Keep this step on low speed.
Fold blackberry mixture into egg whites. Be careful not to breakdown the egg whites, and just gently fold until combined into a light yellow/spotted purple mixture.
Spread evenly onto parchment lined pan and place into the over for 20 – 25 minutes until light golden brown.
Whisk 1 C. heavy whipping cream with 2 tsp vanilla – add sugar to taste if desired. Whisk at high speed in mixer until you have a thick whipped cream topping. This is also good on its own, mixed with passion fruit juice and a little sugar.
Take the pan out of the oven and flip onto a long tea towel topped with parchment paper. Very carefully peel off your layer of parchment that you baked on. VERY carefully….
At this point you have two options –
- You can roll up your cake, and let cool and then fill like a Swiss roll. We did this, and it was good. While the taste was wonderful, I’ll be doing the following option next time.
- Cut equal sized rectangles and then start stacking: cake, cream, cake, cream, cake – for however many layers.
We loved this cake. It was delicious, made a pretty good breakfast too, and I’m now dreaming of Summer for more blackberry magic.
Let us know how yours turns out or if you have any tips to improve the recipe!