Though not their season, lemons and limes grab summertime attention in cocktails and desserts while oranges, save for the odd Creamsicle, are largely ignored. And yet, oranges make all the difference in this recipe. Lemons are too sharp, limes would be discordant, but oranges are a harmonious match.
This snacking cake is a straightforward combination of sturdy cake beneath a jammy mix of blackberries and blueberries. That sturdiness comes from a generous quantity of ground nuts in the batter; pecans or walnuts are the route I choose. They also fleck the batter with pretty brown speckles. Buckwheat flour adds both colour and a bitter edge to the cake, which underscores the same notes in the toasted nuts. That said, if you do not have any buckwheat on hand, substitute with an equal amount of spelt or whole wheat flour.
The combination creates an unexpected elegance, and the reserved sweetness makes the cake especially suited to accompany a cup of coffee at breakfast, or an espresso after dinner.
The orange comes into play twice: first, with the zest rubbed into the butter and sugar so the full effect of its oils is felt. Then, the juice gets folded into sour cream to make up the liquids for the cake. The overall impression is of a distinctly floral character, lending its brightness to the depth of the berries like fireflies in the dark. Which is to say, it is a cake that captures the feeling of late summer.
Black and Blue Buckwheat Cake
Makes a 9-inch cake
Butter for greasing the pan
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- ¾ cup buckwheat flour
- ½ cup toasted pecan or walnut pieces, ground
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon medium-grained kosher salt
- ½ cup sour cream
- Juice of half an orange
- 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
- ¾ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1½ cup sugar
- Zest of half an orange
- 4 eggs
- 1½ cups blackberries and blueberries
- Icing sugar, to serve
Preheat an oven to 350F with rack in the middle position. Lightly grease a 9-inch springform pan. Line the bottom with a round of parchment paper, and form a collar of paper up the sides of the pan (use a bit of extra butter to make the collar stick to itself where it overlaps).
In a small bowl, whisk together the flours, ground pecans, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, whisk the sour cream, orange juice and vanilla bean paste until smooth. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attached, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, cream the butter, sugar and orange zest on medium-high until pale and fluffy, about 8 minutes, scraping down the bowl regularly. Turn the speed to medium, and beat in the eggs, one at a time, stopping and scraping down the bowl and beaters after each.
With the mixer on low, stir in the flour in two additions, alternating with the sour cream. Scrape down bowl and beaters periodically, and stop the machine before all the dry ingredients are incorporated. Fold by hand to finish, making sure to get to the bottom of the bowl.
Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Scatter the blackberries and blueberries across the surface, making sure to cast them toward the edge of the tin (the fruit will migrate towards the centre during baking).
Bake in the hot oven until the cake is puffed and a cake tester inserted in the centre comes out clean (it may be stained with fruit, but should be free from crumbs), 55 minutes or so.
Unmould from tin, then dust the cake with icing sugar, and serve. Store at room temperature in an airtight container for up to five days.
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