I have a confession to make. Before I cooked for you this weekend, I hadn’t made a single thing, not one thing, for a week. Actually, I rounded down. Secretly, it was more like eleven days.
It was my official Spring Cooking Strike.
I don't know what came over me, but I felt awfully rebellious. The sun came out, the greenhouse warmed up, and I started itching to be outside. I went over to Cahoon Hollow to check out the waves, dreamt big dreams of orderly brick garden paths and neat picket fences and a brand-new raspberry patch, and frittered away a few lovely afternoons planting tomato seedlings and zucchini seeds and summer squash.
We made our way along with a big puddle of lamb shanks and sauce the fishmonger slaved over last Sunday (thank goodness someone was cooking), and some leftover sourdough bread and frozen carrot soup, and a few dinners at friends' houses. But by Friday, the jig was up. And to tell you the truth, I was itching to get back. I had a recipe for blackberry jam cake to try.
I found it in Carole Walter's book, Great Coffee Cakes, Sticky Buns, Muffins, & More, as part of my eternal search for the Wedding Cake. It was swirled with nutmeg and cinnamon, just a pinch of cloves, and almost an entire cup of thick, sweet jam. It sounded absolutely perfect for a jumping in endeavor.
It was. It helped with the pantry cleaning that's been going on around here recently—using up some jam, and a good deal of butter and flour and sugar and all that. Plus, it eeked the last drops from a jar of lemon extract, which went into an absolutely scrumptious glaze. It seemed somehow very spring: spicy, sweet, just barely hinting of sprouting grass and bare feet.
BLACKBERRY JAM SPICE CAKE
I think you could swap a cup or so of the all-purpose flour called for in this recipe for whole-wheat with excellent results, but I didn’t try it on the first go-round. Also, the original recipe called for seedless blackberry preserve, which is fine if that’s what you have, but I think chunky whole berries and seeds add far more character to the finished cake.
for the cake:
2 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup buttermilk or sour milk
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 sticks butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
3 large eggs
3/4 cup blackberry jam, preferably homemade
1 teaspoon vanilla
for the glaze:
1 tablespoon butter
2-3 tablespoons milk or cream
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon lemon extract
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9-inch bundt pan; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, spices, and salt. Combine buttermilk and baking soda, and let side for about 5 minutes.
In a medium-size mixing bowl, cream butter with both types of sugar. Beat in eggs, one at a time, then add blackberry jam and vanilla. Add the flour mixture and the buttermilk alternately, mixing until just combined after each addition.
Spoon the batter into the prepared pan, using a spatula to clean the bowl and then smooth flat the surface of the batter in the pan. (It’s important to take the time to do this, otherwise when you flip your cake and place it on the stand, the bottom will be rounded and it will teeter around instead of sitting flat. Trust me; I found this out the hard way.)
Bake for about an hour, or until the cake starts to pull away from the edges of the pan and the top turns golden brown and begins to crack apart. Let it cool in the pan; in the meantime, melt the butter in a small, heavy-bottomed pot and mix in the other ingredients until smooth. If the icing doesn’t seem runny enough, add a bit more cream. Flip the cake onto a plate or cake stand, and drizzle the icing over it into a thin, ribbon-like pattern. Once the icing has hardened, enjoy with a cup of tea.