When it's February, sometimes I want to pretend that it's summer, or at the very least that summer isn't a long, long way away. You can make this cake with beautiful fresh berries, when they're available, but—fortunately for me and my heaps of dirty snow—frozen berries will also work. You don't even have to thaw them first.
This is a dandy everyday cake, somehow both light and sturdy, and fluffy without being at all dry. It would hold up well in a picnic basket or packed lunch. (Please excuse me as I go on fantasizing about warm weather and sunshine.) It is also well suited to my favorite way of keeping cake, sitting on the counter under its glass cover, ready to slice with coffee or tea.
Blackberries, especially frozen ones, are a little heavy, so they'll end up closer to the bottom than to the top of the cake. Nothing wrong with that.
The original recipe makes a thin cake in which the fruit is just held together with the batter. I like that kind of cake, too, but the crumb and overall effect are both quite different when you change the proportions, as I've done here. See what you think.
Adapted from a recipe by Melissa Roberts, in the June 2009 issue of Gourmet
1 1/2 cup (200 grams) all-purpose flour
3/4 t. baking powder
3/4 t. baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 T unsalted butter, softened
1 cup (220 grams) plus 2 T. sugar, divided
1 t. vanilla
Zest of one lemon (optional but recommended, or about 1/2 t. of lemon oil)
1 egg + 1 yolk
3/4 cup buttermilk
Fresh or frozen berries, enough to scatter in a single layer, with gaps, over the top of the cake.
Preheat oven to 400°F. Butter and flour a 9-inch round cake pan.
Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and set aside.
Beat the butter and cup of sugar together on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about two minutes, then beat in vanilla and zest, if using. Add egg and yolk and beat well for at least a full minute.
On low: mix in the dry ingredients in three batches, alternating with buttermilk, until just combined. Transfer the batter into the cake pan. Smooth the top and arrange the berries over the batter, then shake the remaining sugar evenly over that.
Bake until a tester comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a cooling rack to finish.