Well, it goes without saying, I have neglected this blog lately. As spring approached, things in the garden at home and in the Demonstration Garden got busy, very busy. As we have worked to prepare the Demonstration Garden, a small team of volunteers worked on getting the word out. The result, a chance to tape two segments for a local TV show, Talk of the Town. The plan, tie the garden into the Royal wedding happening this Saturday. The result, a Blackberry-Lime Julep Cake and opportunity to talk about flowers.
While the cake the royal couple chose sounds delicious, I had to give it a southern spin. Spring in the south means horse races, lots of flowers and a bit of bourbon drinking in the form of mint juleps. For a cake, those things all work well. Elderflowers are not easy to come by but blackberries are so I decided to make a cake that combined blackberries and lime with a rich bourbon buttercream. And for those of you that are shaking your head and wondering about the mint, I chose to use it to decorate the cake. In the photo above, you can see Mountain Mint, False Blue Indigo, Red roses, Blackberry blossoms, Cilantro blossoms, Chamomile blossoms, Tansy leaves and Thyme. If you want to use fresh flowers or herbs to decorate a cake, be sure that they have not been treated with any chemicals. These all came from the garden and were grown without any chemicals, and with the exception of the Tansy and the False Blue Indigo, they are all edible.
And because I love to swirl colors together, I marbleized the layers of the cake and I suggest you do this too! The pale green color of the lime batter contrasted nicely with the purple blackberry batter. Honestly, you could do this with blueberries as well, the recipe was adapted from one in my first book, Sky High Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes.
Blackberry Julep Cake
Makes 1 (8-inch) triple layer cake to serve about 16
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon freshly grated lime zest
½ teaspoon salt
7 egg whites
3 cups cake flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1-1/4 cups milk
Blackberry-Lime Preserves, recipe follows
Bourbon Buttercream, recipe follows
Fresh flowers, mint sprigs and blackberries for decoration
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 3 (8”) cake pans, line them with parchment paper and grease the paper. In a mixer bowl, cream the butter with the sugar, lime zest and salt until light and fluffy. Gradually add the egg whites, 2-3 at a time, beating well between additions and stopping to scrape the bowl.
2. Combine the flour with the baking powder and whisk gently to blend. In 2-3 alternating additions, beat the dry ingredients and milk into the butter mixture, scraping down the sides of the bowl several times. Beat on medium-high speed for about 1 minute to smooth out any lumps and aerate the batter.
3. Scoop out 1 cup of the batter into a small bowl. Divide the remainder equally among the 3 prepared pans, smoothing out the tops with a rubber spatula. Mix 2-1/2 tablespoons of the Blackberry-Lime Preserves to the reserved batter and blend well. Drizzle heaping teaspoons of this blackberry mixture over the batter in the pans. Using a skewer or paring knife, swirl the blackberry mixture in short strokes to drag it down through the batter but take care not to mix it in.
4. Bake for about 25 minutes or until a cake tester or toothpick stuck into the center comes out clean and the cake begins to pull away from the sides of the pan. Let the layers cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, then turn them out onto wire racks, remove the parchment paper and allow them to cool completely.
5. To assemble the cake, place a layer, flat side up on a cake stand or serving plate. Spread half of the Blackberry-Lime Preserves over the top. Place a second layer on top of the first and spread the remaining preserves over it. Finally, place the third layer on top of the second and frost the sides and top of the cake with the Bourbon Buttercream Frosting. Arrange the flowers, mint and berries around the top of the cake and the serving plate.
Makes about 1 cup
3 cups frozen blackberries, fresh or frozen
¾ cups sugar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
2 teaspoons freshly grated lime zest
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1. If using frozen blackberries, allow them to thaw and the juices to accumulate. Place the berries and the juice into a blender. Puree the berries and pass them through a strainer to remove the seeds.
2. In a heavy medium nonreactive saucepan, combine the blackberry puree with the sugar, lime juice, lime zest and the ginger. Bring to a gentle boil over medium heat, stirring frequently dissolve the sugar. Continue cooking, stirring often, for 20 minutes, until the preserves have thickened and are reduced to 1 cup.
Makes about 3-1/2 cups
1 cup sugar
6 tablespoons Bourbon
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tablesoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1. In a small nonreactive saucepan, combine the sugar and Bourbon. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Continue to boil with out stirring, occasionally washing down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush, until the syrup reaches the soft-ball stage, 238 degrees F, on a candy thermometer. Immediately remove from the heat.
2. In a large mixer bowl with the mixer on medium speed, beat the eggs briefly. Slowly add the hot syrup in a thin stream, pouring it down the sides of the bowl; be careful to avoid hitting the beaters or the syrup will splatter. When all of the syrup has been added, raise the speed to medium-high and beat until the mixture is very fluffy and cooled to body temperature. This can take 15 minutes or longer.
3. Reduce the mixer speed to medium-low and gradually add the softened butter 2-3 tablespoons at a time, beating well between additions. As you’re adding the last few tablespoons of butter, the frosting will appear to break, then suddenly come together like whipped butter. Beat in the lime juice, and the frosting is ready for use.
Many thanks to Tuwanda Coleman and Talk of the Town for the opportunity to tape the segments and for promoting the Urban Gardening Festival. To see the segments from Talk of the Town, follow these links: