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Hello readers! I hope you're as happy to see this month's cake-spiration as I was while making it!
June is a really special month for me. A large handful of family birthdays are this month, as well as my first wedding anniversary! Since my husband and I spent our honeymoon in Provence this time last year - and I'm feeling especially nostalgic - this month's cake is devoted to the sights and smells of the French countryside!
During our honeymoon, we devoted an entire day to driving through small villages in search of lavender fields. They were unbelievably gorgeous, like something out of a storybook. And their delicate fragrance was carried by the wind in intoxicating waves. The entire experience was truly magical.
So in the spirit of Provence, I created a blackberry-lavender upside-down cake. Both lavender and blackberries are in season this month, and berries pair beautifully with floral flavors. I separated the layers with a thick smear of lavender buttercream, which was applied roughly in order to keep the design effortless and rustic.
To maintain a simple, yet elegant look, I decorated the cake with fresh blackberry stems, dried lavender, and a small helping of blackberry meringue cookies. And staying true to the theme, the cake was styled with a plain wooden cake stand, natural linen, silk ribbon, and this gorgeous, aged brass serving plate that our stylist just happened to have lying around. How perfect is that??
Blackberry Lavender Upside-Down Cake
Yields one two-tier, 6-inch cake
Blackberry Upside-Down Cake
2 pints blackberries (enough to cover the bottom of two 6-inch cake pans)
1 ¼ cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cornstarch (see Note 1)
1 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
⅛ teaspoon salt
2 eggs, room temperature
1 cup sugar
½ cup (4 ounces; 1 stick) butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup whole milk
Lavender Swiss Meringue Buttercream
1/2 cup sugar
2 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
7/8 cup (7 ounces, 1 3/4 sticks) butter, room temperature
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon lavender extract (to taste)
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Prepare two 6-inch cake pans by first coating them with additional softened butter. Then cover the bottom interior of each pan with a circle of parchment paper cut to fit. Then coat the parchment paper with more butter and finish by coating the entire interior with flour. Tap out the excess flour. Alternatively, you could use non-stick baking spray and parchment paper. Place enough blackberries in the bottom of each pan to cover them entirely. Set aside.
In a mixing bowl, sift together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder and salt (see Note 1). Set aside. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the softened butter and sugar together on medium high until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat on high speed for a minute between each. The batter should be very pale and thick when finished. Add the vanilla and beat until combined. Next, alternately stir in a third of the flour mixture, followed by half of the milk, and so forth until all of the flour and milk have been added to the batter. Be sure to stir on low speed until just combined between each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl to pick up and left-over ingredients. Evenly distribute the batter on top of the blackberries in the prepared cake pans and bake on the center rack for about 25 minutes (or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and the edges of the cake are pulling away from the pan).
Remove the cakes from the oven and allow them to cool for 15 minutes inside the pans. Then carefully invert the pans over a cooling rack to remove the cakes, peel off the parchment paper, and allow them to cool completely while upside-down.
Whisk the sugar, egg whites, and cream of tartar together in the metal bowl of an electric stand mixer (or in the top of a double boiler) over a pot of simmering water. Be sure that the water does not touch the bottom of the mixing bowl. Whisk until the sugar completely dissolves, then clip a candy thermometer to the inside of the bowl. Continue to whisk and heat the mixture until it reaches 160°F using a candy thermometer. This will take only a couple of minutes.
Once at 160°F, remove the mixing bowl from the pot of water and wipe the condensation off of the bottom. If you were using a double boiler instead, simply pour the mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer. Attach the mixing bowl to the mixer and whip on high speed until it turns glossy and stiff peaks form. Then switch to the paddle attachment, and stir on low speed to cool the mixture down until the bottom of the bowl is room temperature (doesn't feel warm to the touch). This could take 15 minutes.
Once the meringue is at room temperature, add the softened butter to the meringue a couple of tablespoons at a time, mixing constantly on medium speed. Once all of the butter has been added, increase to medium high speed and continue to whip until smooth and thick. Even if the butter looks curdled, just keep whipping until it smooths out. Finally, add the lavender extract, and mix on low speed to combine. Be sure to start with a small amount extract then add more to your liking. It can quickly become overpowering.
When finished, store the icing in an air-tight container at room temperature for up to 24 hours, or store in the fridge until needed. Just be sure that it is at room temperature before you try to use it.
This is the easy part. Just place the first layer of cake, fruit side up, on a cake plate, then cover with a layer of frosting. Top with the other cake layer and additional frosting. Decorate as you like with extra blackberries and lavender stems. Just go easy on the lavender buds as too many will make the cake taste like soap (ask me how I know). Enjoy!
- The cornstarch here is just to make a poor man's cake flour. Cornstarch blended into all-purpose flour helps inhibit gluten development, which leads to a more tender cake with a fine crumb. But this isn't necessary if you don't want to take this step. Just replace the cornstarch with more all-purpose flour.