Wild blackberries are very much at home on the smallholding. They wind their way through hawthorn, ash and nettle hedgerows, providing a welcome barrier from the country lane and home for a multitude of wildlife. Unfortunately the brambles also pop up in less welcome places. This year they have made an appearance in the middle of our favourite rosemary bush, sprawling out from the centre, dangling across the garden path, and snagging our clothes as we walk past. On the edges of the old hazel coppice, they have formed a barrier between us and our prized cobnuts. And amongst the flowerbed roses, they have created an epic tangle of thorns. It is a constant battle to keep them in check.
It’s mostly our own fault of course. We should pull them out as soon as we spot them, but we rarely do. It’s hard to see a bramble appear during the summer and not think of the blackberries that will materialise in the autumn. Instead we spend at least a weekend each winter weeding them all out, coming away with shredded gloves, hole peppered trousers, bramble bits tangled in our hair, and thorny splinters in every finger. It is not a sensible system.
But now is not the time to worry about that. The papery pink summer blossoms have transformed into dusky berries and it’s time to start picking. There is wild blackberry vinegar to be made, plus apple and blackberry crumble, and perhaps some jam too. First though, there is cake.
Wild blackberries have a perfume-like scent and flavour note, which pairs beautifully with rosewater. We combined both in a sponge batter with a few spoonfuls of ground almonds and yoghurt. The resulting cake is light, moist and delicately floral. We added a soft and gently sweetened cream cheese icing to echo the tang of the yoghurt inside. However, the cake is just as lovely unfrosted and served with a few more spoonfuls of thick yoghurt, or simply with a mug of Earl Grey tea on the side.
Wild Blackberry and Rosewater Cake
For the cake
- 150 g golden caster sugar
- 75 g butter, melted and cooled
- 75 g plain yoghurt
- 1 egg
- 1/2 tsp rosewater
- 50 g ground almonds
- 175 g white self-raising flour
- 125 g wild blackberries (ideally ones that are not overripe)
For the icing (optional)
- 150 g cream cheese
- 2.5 tbsp unrefined icing sugar
To serve (optional)
- a sprig of blackberries on the stalk, or a small handful of blackberries and some dried rose petals
Preheat the oven to 180°C and grease a 20cm circular cake tin.
In a large mixing bowl, gently whisk together the sugar, melted butter, yoghurt, egg and rosewater. Break up any lumps where the ground almonds have stuck together and then stir them into the mixture. Then sift and fold in the flour. Lastly, very gently (so that they don't break up) fold the blackberries into the cake batter.
Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin. Pop into the oven to bake for around 20 minutes until risen, pale golden brown on top, and a skewer inserted comes out clean. If the top of the cake looks like it's browning too quickly, cover it with some tin foil for a few minutes to allow the inside to cook through fully. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for a few minutes before turning out onto a wire rack.
While the cake is cooling, make the frosting by beating the icing sugar into the cream cheese until smooth and well combined.
Once the cake is completely cool, ice it (just on the top) with the frosting using a palette knife.
Just before serving, decorate with a single sprig of blackberries (left on the branch). Alternatively, jumble a handful of blackberries with a few rose petals and loosely put them in the middle of the cake.
Cut into slices to serve, perhaps with a pot of Earl Grey tea on the side. Once iced, the cake is best kept in the fridge and eaten within a day or two. The sponge (unfrosted) will keep for around 3 days in an airtight container.