It’s that time of year when all the early autumn fruit is ripening, a sort of bonus gift from nature to apologise for the end of summer and the imminence of winter. I’ve been pickling and preserving like my life depended on it, which historically would probably have been all too true.
Happily most of us no longer have to endure a subsistence lifestyle but while the blackberries are fat and juicy, you might like to do a bit of foraging and make this fruity, gently spiced cake.
It’s so perfectly autumnal, you can almost smell the woodsmoke and see the mist curling round the fields.
And that’s where the romanticism ends. The day-glo icing – the astonishing colour comes entirely from blackberries, not artificial ingredients – is optional. It won’t be for everyone but it’s certainly eye-catching.
Blackberry Spice Cake
125g butter (plus a pinch of salt if using unsalted), room temperature
125g soft light brown sugar
2 large eggs
225g self-raising flour (or plain flour + 2 level tsp baking powder), sifted
1/2 tsp finely ground star anise
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
Zest of 1/2 orange (optional but good)
150g blackberries, lightly crushed with a fork
For the icing:
60g blackberries plus a few more to garnish
2 tbsp lemon juice
150g icing sugar, approx
Heat the oven to 190C/170C fan/375F/Gas Mark 5. Butter a 2lb loaf tin (approx 20cm x 12cm x 9cm), dust it with flour and tap out the excess.
Sift the flour and spice into a bowl and stir to mix. Add the salt, if using.
In a second bowl, cream the butter with the sugar. Add one egg and mix well. Add half the flour and mix again, then the second egg and then the remaining flour, blending thoroughly each time. Add the orange zest, followed by the crushed blackberries, and stir through but don’t over-mix.
Spoon into the prepared tin. Level the top and give the tin a few good raps on the kitchen counter to settle the mixture. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. When the cake is done, take it from the oven and leave it in the tin for 5-10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.
While it’s cooling, make the icing. Mash the blackberries and push them through a sieve. Mix the puree with the lemon juice and enough icing sugar to make a thick pouring consistency.
Stand the cake on a wire rack with baking paper or a washable mat underneath. Pour over the icing, allowing it to trickle down the sides. Garnish with extra blackberries. Let the icing set before cutting the cake – overnight is best.