7.15.14 Let Them Eat Cake

Skillet 790 xxx
photos by gluttonforlife
There's just something about a skillet cake. In general, I find baking a bit fussy—all those steps, all that precision—so when I can make a relatively impressive dessert without taking out the sifter or the Mixmaster, without whipping egg whites or weighing flour, I'm quite thrilled. It's sort of the sweet equivalent of a one-pot meal. If you haven't already tried this apple version, or this plum one, try this recipe for a rustic cornmeal cake studded with ripe blackberries. They are the dark and glorious jewels of summer, their glossy black beads bursting with a subtly floral elixir. I love to see lips and fingers stained with their scarlet juices, which also seep into the cake much like a trifle. It's no work at all to throw this together and the soft moans of pleasure it elicits will only add to your satisfaction.
Blackberries 790 xxx
the darker the berry
Of course the perfect blackberries are key. They should be very ripe, almost bursting, but not bruised. Freshly picked. Still warm from the sun. Smelling of sticky flowers and sugared breezes. Black kissed with purple. Sexy. Sublime.
Berries 790 xxx
the sweeter the juice
Their voluptuous form is miraculous. Each tiny globule is perfection, a discrete planet crammed with sweet juice. Yes, this is me waxing poetic about blackberries. Don't even get me started about boysenberries. (If you don't want cake, consider making this totally divine sorbet.)
Overhead 790 xxx
black beauties
I baked this cake for friends who came over for brunch. The great thing about it is that you simply stir together a few dry ingredients in one bowl, a few wet ingredients in another, and then whisk the two together. Scrape that batter into a skillet, scatter the berries on top, finish with a sprinkling of sugar and bake for less than an hour. I wanted mine a bit browner on top so I turned the broiler on for the last few minutes. Distracted, I left it in a little too long, but no real harm was done. You can see a bit of blackened edge in this photo. (Love the cherry wood server? It's from Jonathan's Spoons and it would make a great gift for your weekend host.)
Slice 790 xxx
the slice is right
While the cake was baking, I squeezed lemon juice over a bowl of fresh blackberries and let them macerate. By the time I served dessert, the berries had released their juices and made a beautiful sauce. I spooned this over each slice and also poured some heavy cream on top. The cake absorbed most of the liquid without becoming overly sodden. The fresh blackberries played off the sweeter intensity of the roasted ones. The cream sealed the deal. The people they were pleased.

Blackberry Skillet Cake

serves 8
  • — 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (gf is fine)
  • — 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
  • — 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • — 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • — 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • — 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • — 2 large eggs
  • — 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • — 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • — 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • — 1/4 cup sugar for sprinkling
  • — 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, for greasing skillet
  • — 18 ounces blackberries, divided
  • — 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • Chilled heavy cream, for serving

Preheat oven to 375º.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt and granulated sugar.

In another bowl, whisk together buttermilk, eggs, lemon zest, vanilla and melted butter. Whisk this into the flour mixture, blending well.

Place remaining tablespoon butter In a 10" cast-iron skillet and heat in the oven until butter melts, about 5 minutes. Remove from oven (with a potholder!) and swirl to coat bottom of pan.

Scrape batter into the skillet and evenly scatter 12 ounces of blackberries on top. Sprinkle with turbinado sugar.

Place a baking sheet on the lower rack to catch drips and the skillet on the rack above. Bake until top is evenly browned, about 50 minutes. Remove from oven and cool.

While cake is baking, toss remaining blackberries with lemon juice and set aside.

Serve cake warm or at room temperature with fresh blackberries and a generous pour of heavy cream over the top.

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Jamie on July 15, 2014 at 2:29 pm —
Gorgeous! You capture the lusciousness of cake studded with berries perfectly, both with words and on the plate.
Julia on July 15, 2014 at 5:08 pm —
When you don't even want to start talking about boysenberries, I know we shared a California childhood. My favorite flavor when I was growing up. Many visits to Knott's Berry Farm and many pieces of boysenberry pie. Oregon wild blackberries are much juicier and have more flavor than wild blackberries that grow in the northeast, which are smaller and seedier, but still worth gathering. I think blackberries taste best when they are lightly cooked. Same with black raspberries, which I first tasted when I moved east. They are vying with boysenberries for first place in my list of favorite berries.
zora on July 15, 2014 at 5:49 pm —
I love how big and meaty boysenberries can get without compromising their wonderful flavor!
laura on July 15, 2014 at 5:53 pm —
Our blackberries are little green bullets still, but when they come around (and it looks like a boom year!), I'll be flipping back to this bad boy for sure....
Janet on July 15, 2014 at 7:24 pm —
Sounds so lovely!! I plan to buy some berries at my local farmers market this weekend and make this delightful sounding cake. Laura, I'm reading your blog from Canada and I want to say You Rock! I love your blog and the fact that you turn preparing food into a sensual experience! Which in my mind is absolutely appropriate! Why not enjoy the abundance that is ours in a sensual way? Thanks for reinforcing this thought process. Again, You Rock!
B on July 15, 2014 at 9:17 pm —
How delicious this sounds! I must try to bake this as soon as possible. Thank you for sharing this with us.
tanya on July 18, 2014 at 4:47 pm —
Where does the lemon juice go? Sounds lovely.
Cussot on July 18, 2014 at 6:42 pm —
It gets tossed with the fresh blackberries - see second-to-last step!
laura on July 18, 2014 at 6:49 pm —