There's a lot of good things that come from living in the country. We can shoot guns off our back porch and no one says a thing. We have a creek that hugs the back edge of our yard - a creek that our pooches are most grateful to have discovered after a particularly hot day earlier this week. The view from our loft varies by season - in the winter, you can easily see the ski slopes just across the way, and in the summer, the sun seems to swell to triple its high-noon size as it drops below the horizon, sizzling bright pink and warming our porch with evening rays.
But when we moved in mid-February, it didn't look so promising. The previous owners hadn't taken care of the yard, so it was barren in the spots where there should've been pretty flowers (or at least the bulbs frozen below the surface), and nearly half of our three acres was overgrown with weeds, unruly bushes, and poison ivy. The basement flood didn't help me warm up to our little log cabin very much, but so far, summer has made up for it, full throttle.
There were rumors about the raspberry bushes when we first moved in. One of our neighbors told us that, come early July, we'd see them popping up against the field. I was skeptical. When my Pop first moved to West Virginia, he had a driveway over a mile long, completely lined with raspberry bushes. My cousin, Danielle, and I would tuck a plastic container under our arms and use our free hands to pluck the fat berries off the prickly bushes only to douse them in spoonfuls of sugar upon return to the house. But after a few years, and much to my disappointment, they stopped coming. My Mom thought it was because the bushes had just run their course, but in hindsight, they were growing rather troublesome and threatening to swallow the driveway right up, so my uncles hacked them back with a few rips of the chainsaw.
But lo and behold, the rumors are true. My backyard is filled with raspberry bushes in near equal amounts of black and red. It's really a fantastic sight to see at sunset, that golden hour when everything looks, well, golden, and the fireflies are twinkling like Christmas lights in the trees. But if you pause for a moment, you can see the endless dots of purply berries scattered (it will be a bit longer before the red raspberries are ready for pie) in the bushes where even the birds can't find them. Every few nights, Justin and I make a loop around the yard for our bounty, destined for oatmeal and muffins and cake. Yes, a cake.
The latest issue of Bon Appetit had a full section on berries toward the end of the magazine and since we were having our neighbors over for dinner that night, it seemed like divine timing to make good use of our raspberry loot. I was leaning toward a cherry-berry hand pie, but about halfway through reading the recipe it struck me as entirely too fussy for a Sunday night and I told Justin we were out of options. Leave it to Mr. Clever to simply turn the page, thump his finger down on a photo of a Blackberry Buttermilk Cake, and simply say, "This, then." He is as smart as he is handsome.
Now, a few things about this cake. It isn't quite like some of the other upside down cakes we've talked about in the past. It's made with cake flour, for starters, which gives an impossibly light crumb to hold up the juicy berry-stained topping. The original recipe called for a mere ten ounces of berries, and that's where I started, but the photo looked awfully sparse in the berry department and ten ounces hardly covered the bottom of the pan. You see, what I needed was a black raspberry topping with cake, not a cake with blackberry topping. So I tumbled in another six ounces to make it an equal pound (for good measure!) and could not be more pleased with the result. The cake is softly scented with orange and vanilla (orange and black raspberry are made for each other) and is perfect for a Sunday dinner dessert, or perhaps with your coffee and milk the next morning, or even sliced straight from the plate and eaten over the sink to catch the crumbs.
You could go with the original instructions and use blackberries for this cake, or red raspberries or even pitted cherries, if you have them. A word of warning to the wise (that's you) - put a cookie sheet on the rack below this cake when you bake it. While the extra berries are well worth it in the end, they do tend to push their juices between the cracks of the springform pan and onto the bottom of the oven. I wouldn't wish that upon anyone.
Adapted from Bon Appetit.