“What’s in this?” asked the group, peering at the dark brown, ruby studded slab in front of them.
“Chocolate and blackberries and gingerbread. It’s pretty spicy and it tastes like Christmas!” said I, settling into my position on the floor.
“What kind of cake was it again?” queried a latecomer, physically present but distracted.
“Gingerberry” replied another, with the gravitas that only someone who has no idea at all can possess.
My off-on-a-Christmas-baking-rampage has continued this past week with spices, icing sugar and assorted bits and bobs covering as many countertops as I can manage before getting unceremoniously kicked out of each and every kitchen I dare to take over because, “we have to cook dinner and cake isn’t going to cut it. This time”.
And so the various messes are cleaned up and a not-at-all Christmassy meal of lasagne with salad is consumed, whilst the warming scent of ginger floats through the kitchen. Pre-emptively warming our tastebuds for dessert.
I came oh-so-close to making a batch of gingerbread cookies, for what is Christmas without little men adorned in royal icing clothing? But then, a long-haired, photo-bombing, agriculturally inclined friend popped by the share-house with two punnets of blackberries.
“Fresh from the farm in Kenthurst” we were told, as he sampled a couple with ice-cream before dinner. “Every time I’m working out that way I have to get a couple.”
A few slurps. A wince at the tartness of the berries.
“Shey, you’d better make sure they don’t go to waste. If no-one’s eaten them, cook them down or something yeah?”
Armed with my mission (and a half punnet of berries over a week later), I hit the kitchen.
I won’t lie. These are tart little berry bombs.
And usually, my m.o. when it comes to tart berries is a swig of balsamic vinegar, a sprinkling of brown sugar or maple syrup, and a long maceration in the fridge before tossing them erstwhile into just about anything that will take them.
But this time, I decided to leave them be.
To let them sit in hot cake batter until each globe of purple juice popped and sweetened and concentrated.
To pair them with flavours equally as confronting and assaulting on the tastebuds. In a good way.
Sticky sweet treacle (in lieu of molasses, which I struggled to find until hours after I’d finished baking).
A peppy spice hit of ground ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and cayenne pepper.
A good gluggy dollop of creamy greek yoghurt.
And best of all? Two bowls. No mixer. A lined, square baking tin for easy clean up and portioning.
…and a mini bundt on the side. Baker’s treat, of course.
chocolate & blackberry gingerbread
makes one 25cm x 25cm square tin (plus a mini bundt, though that batter could have easily fit in the tin as well)
recommended serving suggestion: heated up til it’s just steaming and served with fresh blackberries & ice cream. Bliss!
you will need:
1/3 C cocoa powder
1 tbsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 C plain flour
1/2 C treacle
1 C dark brown sugar (packed in!)
1/2 C greek or natural yoghurt
25 or so blackberries
how to do it:
1. In a large bowl, whisk together the cocoa powder, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cayenne, baking soda & flour until they are blended evenly.
2. Place the butter in a large, microwave proof bowl and melt it. Add a bit of the butter to your 1/2 C measuring cup, swirl and pour back into the bowl. Now measure out the treacle and tip it into the butter bowl. (By buttering the measuring cup first, you’ll avoid a treacley mess). Add the dark brown sugar, eggs and yoghurt to the butter bowl and stir well to combine.
3. Turn your oven on to 180C and line a 25cm square baking tin. (If you aren’t lining it, make sure you butter it well!)
4. Tip the dry ingredients into the butter bowl and stir until it is just combined. You don’t want to overmix it. Immediately tip the mixture into the baking tin and spread it out. (If you leave it for too long, the baking soda will react and cause it to go strangely puffy).
5. Place the blackberries in rows on the top of the cake mixture and use your finger to poke them into the mixture, so that they are just showing.
6. Bake for 30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the cake (around the berries, not through them) comes out clean. It’s better to slightly underbake this cake than to overbake it, as it may dry out. Lift the cake out of the tin and let it cool before serving.