We have just returned from a week’s holiday in Anglesey, where we were blessed with the most amazing weather for the time of year. It was sunny and warm every day and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.
In fact I would go as far as to say it was one of the best holidays I have ever had, ever. The skiing holidays in Austria, the diving holidays in Devon, the Grand Canyon and Death Valley experience, the motorcycle camping tours of Europe, are of course all now a distant memory and they were great, but I’d go back to Anglesey for its pretty harbours, deserted beaches and coastal walks any day. Also for the blackberries.
The hedgerows were full of the most beautiful blackberries, large, plump, sweet and juicy. To find so many at the very end of September was a real joy. On the last day of our holiday we picked bagfuls of them so we could bring them home and freeze them.
Back home in Derbyshire, Sunday was a lovely day, so instead of sorting out our holiday baggage we decided to make the most of it and spend the afternoon in the garden. The forecast was suggesting that the fine weather was coming to an end. Sunday was also my sister-in-law Kathy’s birthday so we invited her round for tea and cake in the garden and the sunshine. With all those lovely blackberries washed and ready for freezing I decided to rustle up a quick birthday cake that would use some of them while they were fresh.
In case you’re wondering why there’s a picture of the new CCC cookbook here it’s because I have a recipe in it!
When contributions were invited at the beginning of the year I sent in one of my favourite recipes for a quick but fairly special looking cake that I make when I’m short of time but need to produce something that looks and tastes good – a pear and ginger upside down cake. I was amazed when a few weeks later I received an email saying the recipe would be in the book! Not only that, but as a contributor I was invited to the book launch party in Leeds last month and one of the other contributors at my table said she had already made the cake from the book and it was delicious – was I chuffed or what ??!!
So I decided to make a chocolate version for Kathy’s birthday cake, also using some of my lovely Anglesey blackberries. It was made and on the table in just about an hour.
It was a bit of an experiment and I had no idea if it would work, but it did. The blackberries made a nice pattern on the top of the cake and I added a few more whole ones on top for decoration, fixing them and making sure they stayed in place with a smear of blackberry jam. The cake was filled with more jam and whipped cream. Definitely a cake I shall be making again.
For the cake
200g softened butter, or spreadable butter (I used Stork with butter)
175g self raising flour
1tsp baking powder
4 tblsp cocoa powder
4 tbslp boiling water
200g golden caster sugar
For the topping
2 handfuls of washed fresh blackberries (preferably from Anglesey)
2 tblsp light soft brown sugar
For the filling
2tblsp blackberry jam or bramble jelly
125ml double cream (I used Elmlea Double)
1tblsp icing sugar
For the decoration
8-10 nice large Anglesey blackberries
1 tblsp blackberry jam or bramble jelly
Preheat the oven to 180°C / 160° fan / gas mk 4. Grease two 20cm sandwich tins, line the bases with baking paper and grease again.
Mix the cocoa powder with the boiling water to make a paste. Add a little more water if it’s very stiff. Set aside to cool.
Put all the other cake ingredients into a large bowl and whisk with an electric hand whisk (or use a food mixer) until fully combined and smooth. Add the cocoa paste and whisk again.
Sprinkle the soft brown sugar evenly over the bottom of one of the tins. Add enough blackberries to make a single layer which covers the sugar.
Divide the cake mixture evenly between the two tins, being careful not to disturb the blackberries and remembering that the tin with the fruit on the bottom will inevitably look fuller.
Bake for 20-25 minutes until the cakes are done. The one with the fruit on the bottom will take about five minutes longer than the other.
Allow to cool in the tins for a few minutes then turn out carefully onto a wire rack.
While the cake is cooling, whisk the double cream with the icing sugar until spreadable. When the cakes are cold, spread the jam on the bare cake half. (Warm it slightly in a small pan if necessary to make it runny enough to spread.)
Spread a thick layer of whipped cream on top, remembering to let the jam cool completely first. Put the fruited cake on top of that.
Smear another spoonful of jam or jelly in the centre of the top of the cake and place a few blackberries for decoration.
Cuts into 6-8 slices.