Ten years ago, we planted blackberry bushes. Naively, we believed it was only a matter of time until we were picking quarts of berries and making them into jam and pies and freezing them for the long, cold winter. By "matter of time," we were thinking a couple of years.
A couple of years passed, and then a couple more. It was probably a good five years before a single berry appeared on those bushes. By "single berry," I mean just that. Exactly one.
In subsequent years, our crop grew exponentially. By "exponentially," I mean that the next year we would have three times as many berries (for a total of three), and the following year three times that (for a total of nine). However, these berries would ripen one at a time, so it wasn't like we were wondering what we were going to do with, say, all nine berries at once. They would ripen days apart, one at a time. We're never ones to overlook nature's smallest gifts, but it's really hard to get excited about nine blackberries over the course of a summer.
This year's crop looked promising (possibly as many as 27 berries over the course of a month) but we knew better than to get our hopes up. And then, miraculously, more berries appeared. And two weeks ago, while my sister-in-law was visiting, we were strolling about the garden and realized that we had possibly a cupful of blackberries all ripe at the same time.
We were ecstatic. I knew exactly what I would do: I would make this cake. We picked the berries Saturday afternoon and planned to bake the cake Sunday.
Except that when I came downstairs Sunday morning, I discovered that all of the berries were gone. One of my son's college friends also was visiting, and apparently when he remarked upon the bowl of glorious blackberries on the counter, my son, being the good host, offered them as a snack.
And we, of course, said nothing. (Who really wants to go through life being known as the kind of people who scream at two 19-year-olds for eating fresh berries?)
But two weeks have passed, and amazingly, there are even more blackberries. And so this Sunday, I finally got to make the cake. This is my favorite summer cake, and maybe my favorite cake, period. It's light and not overly sweet, but with a sugary top that crackles just a little when you slice into it. Because there's buttermilk in it, and fresh berries, it seems healthy. And the berries (up until now, we've used raspberries) kind of melt and slump and take on the texture of jam but without the sweetness. It also takes about five minutes to mix up the cake if you remember to put out a stick of butter to soften first.
Especially if you have a Jade-ite cream pitcher and sugar bowl sitting nearby. You might remember a couple of weeks ago that I mentioned buying a box lot of Jade-ite that included a lid without a sugar bowl. (It wasn't a hint - I really was relishing the thought of having a piece to look for.)
I don't think a day had passed when Pam e-mailed me to say that she had an extra (!) sugar bowl without a lid and would be happy to send it to me. Which she did, just as soon as she somewhat recovered from a bike accident that required an ambulance ride (double !).
And so here I am, with my Jade-ite and my crop of blackberries, and I'm thinking that life is pretty good indeed. And if you'll excuse me, now that the photo shoot is over, there is a piece of cake calling my name.