Food, and baking in general, has the amazing ability to create strong and powerful memories for most of us. The aroma, flavour, and colour, as well as events surrounding certain foods often stays with us for a lifetime. Personally I think that’s part of the reason why I love to bake so much. Besides the absolute pleasure it gives me to see people’s face light up when I share a slice of something yummy, it also brings back so many warm memories I have from my childhood of baking with my Mum and Grandma.
Those baking memories aren’t just reserved to the time spent in the kitchen stood on a kitchen stool trying to roll out some pastry or fill some cupcake cases with my Mum, though of course it was a significant part, it also involved some foraging during the summer months resulting in a bake which seemed even more delicious having sourced a significant ingredient ourselves.
Now don’t get me wrong, we certainly didn’t go out every week to forage for all of our foods, far from it. After all without a huge amount of expertise it’s easy to pick the wrong things and become ill. Invariable our foraging was largely reserved to collecting blackberries and bilberries, two fruits which grow abundantly in our locality.
I have to admit that living in Yorkshire, Mr E and I are lucky to
know of several localities where we can forage for these awesome little
bilberries. But if you’re not lucky enough to have some growing almost on
your door step, and aren’t planning a visit to Yorkshire where you may
find the berry being sold in fruit and veg shops (particularly in market
towns) check out your local Polish store, many sell the fruit jarred
(simply drain away the syrup to use in the cake), or substitute the
bilberry for blueberries, or even use blackcurrants or blackberries for that layer of dark fruit.
During the past few weeks I have been checking the local bilberry bushes for the ripening of this little berry. As luck would have it, with a box in hand, this past weekend saw the tiny berries ripe and ready to be foraged. Dark, deep purple and juicy. So juicy that my hands were stained from their pigment (thankfully a temporary issue which was resolved with some soap and water once we had returned home)!
As lovely and tempting that our bilberry & spelt muffins, bilberry and custard crumble tart and bilberry and white chocolate baked cheesecake are, this easy bilberry cake recipe was inspired by our recent Strawberry and Basil Upside-Down Cake.
Not only was it eye catching with its layer of pinkie red fruit, but it also smelt fabulous, and tasted even more amazing. Plus it was an absolute doddle to make, with no need for any fancy frosting or decoration. The layer of seasonal fruit did all the hard work!
Our bilberry version of the upside-down cake was just as good. The classic Victoria sponge mixture was pepped up with some ground almond (though this of course can be replaced with flour if catering for those with nut allergies) and a little lemon zest. And the layer of dark, almost jam like, fruit crowning the cake not only brought a hint of drama, but oodles of flavour, nutrients and extra moisture.
Upside-down cakes are a really easy bake, resulting in an everyday cake which somehow seems that little bit more special. Although you could combine the fruit in the batter for it to be suspended in the sponge cake itself, an upside down cake removes all of the issues with the fruit sinking because of course it’s meant to be on the bottom during the bake!
So, here’s how to make Bilberry Upside-Down Cake
Bilberry Upside Down Cake
- 150 g bilberries see note c below
- 115 g butter unsalted & softened
- 75 g caster sugar
- 40 g golden caster sugar
- 1/2 lemon (finely grated zest)
- small pinch of salt
- 2 eggs
- 75 g self-raising flour
- 40 g ground almonds
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1-2 tbsp milk
- Prepare the bilberries. Wash the bilberries removing any leaves, stalks and spoilt fruit. Place onto a double layer of kitchen roll to dry.
- Preheat the oven to 180℃ / Fan 160℃ / 355℉ / Gas 4. Prepare the cake tin. Grease and fully line the cake tin with grease proof paper.
- Make the sponge batter. Place the soft butter and sugars into a good sized bowl and beat together with a wooden spoon or electric beaters until very pale and fluffy. Add the salt and lemon zest. Beat again to combine. Gradually add the beaten egg a little at a time, beating well after each addition, (see note b below). Sieve the flour, ground almonds and baking powder into the mixture. Use a spatula, large metal spoon or your hand with your fingers splayed to fold this in gently. Add a little milk and gently mix in until the batter has a dropping consistency.
- Fill the cake tin. Place the prepared bilberries into the bottom of the cake tin, ensuring there is an even layer. Spoon the prepared batter onto the bilberries. Spread the batter out gently to level, aiming not to disturb the bilberries. Use the back of a spoon to make a slight indentation to the centre of the batter. This will help it bake level.
- Bake. Place the cake tin in the centre of the oven and bake for about 45 – 50 minutes until golden brown, slightly pulling away from the sides and a cake skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. You may need to rotate the cake tin after 35 – 40 minutes of baking. Once baked, remove from the oven and place onto a cooling rack.
- Turn out the cake. Allow the cake to cool for 5 minutes before removing from the tin. Invert a cooling rack on top of the cake tin. In one movement, swiftly turn the cake tin and cooling rack upside down. Remove the cake tin and greaseproof paper. The bilberries will now be the top of the cake. Allow the cake to finish cooling.
- Enjoy, with either on its own or served with ice cream, cream, yogurt or even warm with some custard.
- 1 x deep 16cm diameter cake tin
- electric whisk
Cook's Tipsa) When making the cupcake batter, consider weighing the cracked eggs first to ensure the batter has equal weight of butter, sugar, flour and eggs. Simply weigh the butter, sugar and flour to the same weight as the eggs. Of course the value may be slightly different to the 115g listed in the ingredients above. b) Consider warming your lightly beaten eggs over a bain marie especially if they feel particularly cold. Warm them until they feel lukewarm. This should help prevent the batter from curdling and produce a better sponge. c) If you’re unable to get hold of fresh bilberries, either source them jarred or use blueberries instead. Alternatively black currants or blackberries would be great too. d) To make the cake suitable for those with a nut allergy remove the ground almonds and baking powder (as extra raising agent won’t be needed) and replace with the same quantity (40g) of SR flour.
StoreIn an airtight container for 2-3 days in a cool place. Freeze for up to 3 months.
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