Monday, 29 August 2011

Foraging with family... and the ultimate in comfort food

I've just returned from a lovely week staying with my Mum in the North East, avoiding doing anything even vaguely related to work. In fact, I am proud to say that the past week has been spent almost entirely in walking along the beach, paddling in the sea, and engaging in the mind-expanding pursuits of Scrabble and Trivial Pursuit. Oh, and... foraging for blackberries! There is something supremely satisfying about preparing food with ingredients you have grwon, or even that you have just collected yourself.  

Since I am also now finally the proud owner of a beautiful non-stick Bundt pan (doughnut-shaped baking tin), it was only a matter of time before the following cake-speriment was underway. The result is a comforting cake of such divine sweetness, tartness and subtle spiciness that it just had to be shared. As a summer pudding, this cake is delicious served still warm from the oven with a generous dollop of thick clotted cream. For winter - serve piping hot and drenched in custard!

Blackberry and Apple Comfort Cake

Sponge ingredients
8oz butter
8oz sugar
4 eggs (beaten)
8 oz self raising flour
4oz plain flour
1 level teaspoon cinnamon
1 tblsp citrus zest
4 tblsp blackberries

Syrup ingredients
3 tblsp sugar
2 tblsp lemon juice
1 cooking apple (half cubed small, half thinly sliced)
½ teaspoon cinnamon
4 tblsp blackberries


1. First of all, start on the syrup mixture. Combine the sugar, lemon juide, apple and cinammon in a pan over a moderate heat. Stir gently until the sugar is completely dissolved and the mixture begins to gently bubble and the outside edge of the apple chunks goes a little bit squishy. Then add in the blackberries and continue to hear for another 3 minutes or so. They should release lots of extra juice, so that you're left with a relatively thick syrup. Leave this to one side as you prepare the sponge mix.

2. Cream together the butter and the sugar, and when they are light and fluffy, start to add in the beaten egg, stirring continuously. Add a little of the flour as necessary to stop the mixture from curdling.

3. Sift the remainder of the flour into the mixture, and add the cinnamon and zest. Stir thoroughly.

4. Finally, add the blackberries, and stir in, taking care not to squash or damage them. This cake works best when there are whole, juicy blackberries to look forward to inside the cake.

5. Spoon the syrup evenly over the bottom of a greased Bundt tin, then add the cake mixture on top. Make sure to push the sponge mixture down a little, as this will force some of the syrup up, to coat the outside of the cake.

6. Bake in a pre-heated oven for about 30 minutes at 160 degrees celcius. Remove from tin when still warm, to ensure that the syrup does not fuse to the tin. If any fruit or syrup is left behind, just scoop this up and spread back over the top of the cake.

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