Summer brings luscious fruit in abundance, particularly berries, which lure us all with their juicy sweetness. Strawberries, blueberries and raspberries garner loads of attention and acclaim, and justifiably so, but save some love for the blackberry! The generous-sized fruit offers abundant nectar and a subtle sweetness that’s evocative of a cool breeze rustling a shady meadow.
Because of blackberries’ size, it doesn’t take long for them to fill a basket or other container. Then comes a tasty late summer puzzler – what to do with all the berries? A cake is a great way to show off the fruit and to accentuate its sweetness.
Bon Appetit described one such cake in its September 2017 number, Blackberry-Tahini Yogurt Cake. Though the cake hails from Los Angeles, its key ingredients – yogurt, tahini and cardamom – suggest L.A.’s sizable Persian population influenced its creation.
Tahini (sesame seed paste) imparts a creamy nuttiness mildly reminiscent of peanuts. Meanwhile, cardamom is mixed with sugar and tops the cake with a streusel of sorts, finishing each bite with mysterious floral notes. Finally, the yogurt is generously distributed throughout, setting the berries afloat (nearly) in a tender lusciousness.
Completing the taste profile is a sizable grating of citrus zest. This adds an interesting zing. Moreover, the cake is even better when served with freshly-whipped cream. Today’s entry laces that cream with Grand Marnier, which complements the zest with its own exuberant orangey notes.
Of course, the blackberries get star billing here. As the cake bakes, the berries soften and surrender their juices to the surrounding crumb. This creates a blackberry jam, really, that goes a long way toward vaulting the fruit to its rightful place among the berry elite.
Blackberry-Tahini Yogurt Cake
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom (*1)
- 4 tablespoons, plus one cup, sugar
- 2 and 1/4 cups flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup plain yogurt
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 2 teaspoons citrus zest (*2)
- 2 cups blackberries (*3)
- 1/4 cup tahini
Pre-heat an oven to 350°. Spritz a 9-inch square baking pan with cooking spray, line it, bottom and sides, with parchment paper, then spray the paper with more cooking spray. Set aside the pan.
In a small bowl mix the cardamom with 4 tablespoons of the sugar and set aside.
Sift into a large bowl the flour, baking powder, 1 cup of the sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt. Make a well in the center, into which you’ll add the eggs, yogurt, oil and citrus zest. Use a whisk at first to combine, switching to a wooden spoon when the batter gets heavy.
Once the batter is smooth, fold in the berries – gently, especially if they’re fresh. Scrape the batter into the baking pan. (*4)
In another small bowl mix the tahini with a pinch of salt and the remaining two tablespoons of sugar. Drizzle this over the batter, then sprinkle the cardamom mixture evenly over the top.
Bake for an hour, then invert onto a rack to cool. Once cool, peel away the parchment paper, turn the cake right side-up, and serve.
1 – If you can’t find cardamom. use ground cinnamon. Not quite as perfect, perhaps, but still delectable.
2 – I used a Meyer lemon and a lime. An orange would be nice too, or even a grapefruit.
3 – Here’s a rare case in which frozen is even better than fresh, as it keeps the berries intact longer as the cake bakes, leaving the flavor more concentrated.
4 – Here’s something I wish I knew going in – the batter will be thick, and not nearly as viscous as are most batters. In fact, initially I feared I had done something wrong.
Don’t fret – the batter forms up beautifully, turning into the cake you see above. Plus, the batter’s initial thickness prevents the berries from sinking, keeping them evenly-distributed throughout the cake.
Citrus-Laced Whipped Cream
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1/3 cup powdered sugar
- 1 tablespoon Grand Marnier (*5)
Place a stand mixer bowl and a wire whisk attachment in the freezer until frosted, about 20 minutes. (*6) Attach the bowl to the mixer and pour in the sugar. Fix the mixer with the whisk attachment, then pour the cream into the bowl.
Starting at low speed, mix the two ingredients. Once blended, pour in the Grand Marnier, then gradually increase the mixing speed to high. Continue thusly until stiff peaks form. This usually takes about ten minutes, but it varies. Point is, trust your eyes more than my recipe.
Spoon onto, or beside, cake. For a fancier touch, use a pastry bag fitted with a star attachment to create a more structured, fluted look.
5 – The liqueur isn’t needed, of course, but in this case it adds nice citrus notes that really work well.
6 – Frosting the mixer equipment isn’t vital, strictly speaking, but it does encourage the cream to thicken more quickly and evenly.