Desserts

Blackberry Fig Cornmeal Cake

    

Outside is changing. It’s getting darker earlier, and cooler. I bring the usual dinner fixin’s to the table on our little backyard patio at 7pm and the sun is setting. The light is tinted with the oranges usually reserved for hours later. By the time we’re finished eating it’s nearly dusk, mosquitoes nipping at my ankles all the while. It’s crisper in the morning, too. The air is less thick and it’s much easier to run. The sun feels warm, not oppressive. The wind doesn’t feel reminiscent of someone breathing in your face on the subway. It feels practically chilly, compared to those 95 degree days last month. But that doesn’t last long. You could miss it if you aren’t a person who stays awake after getting up at 5 am from particularly unnerving dreams you’re not an early riser. By 8, it’s just as hot as it was in July, when summer was in full swing. It’s only at nighttime that the looming season change is unmistakable.

The other morning I woke up and all the windows were open. I think I was supposed to shut them before going to bed, but I won’t tell if you won’t! The golden August light streamed through the glass. Breeze blew in, disturbing the not-at-all messy and horrifying stack of newspaper clippings and magazines I have piled on my desk. The air was so NOT hot and sticky it almost made me want to put pants on. Almost. I think the thing I’ll miss most about summer is the relative acceptability of pantless-ness. No, actually, beers outside. No, pants. No. Yes. Uh uh uh can we call it a tie? The temperature is going back into the nineties later this week though, so I think this is just a fluke.

But maybe the real thing I’ll miss most about summer is the blackberries. I’ll come clean: I intended to make this cake many weeks ago, but every time I bought blackberries, most ended up in my mouth before I could get the rest of the ingredients together. I finally had to buy several cartons: one use to jazz up my breakfast smoothie, one to munch on, and one for cake. It was worth it.

“As she approached the corner of the barn where the sugar maple stands, she plucked a few blackberries from a stray bush and popped them into her mouth. She looked all around her – back at the house, across the fields, and up into the canopy of branches overhead. She took several quick steps up to the trunk of the maple, threw her arms around it, and kissed that tree soundly.”
—Sharon Creech, Walk Two Moons

I find this cake to be most enjoyable very early in the morning with a large cup of coffee or around 4 pm with…another large cup of coffee. It’s not too sweet, so you could definitely pile on the vanilla ice cream/whipped cream if you feel the need, but I rarely do. It’s also very acceptable to eat half the cake tiny slice by tiny slice with one’s fingers directly from the fridge. Not that I did that or anything.

Blackberry Cornmeal Cake (loosely adapted from Tastebook)

1 1/4 cups non-dairy milk (I used unsweetened almond)
1/2 cup coconut sugar
1/3 cup melted coconut or olive oil
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 scraped vanilla bean
1 1/2 cups cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup blackberries
2 fresh figs*, sliced very thinly

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Oil and line a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper and set aside. In a medium bowl, combine the milk, sugar, oil, lemon juice, and vanilla. In a large bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and sea salt. Pour the liquid mixture into the dry, and whisk until combined. The batter will be very runny. Pour into the cake pan and bake for 15 minutes, then take it out of the oven and quickly top with figs and berries. Bake an additional 35-45 minutes, testing at every 5 minutes after 35. When the cake is done, the top will spring back when lightly pressed, and the edges will start to pull back from the sides of the pan. Let cool completely and slice with a serrated knife as not to disturb the berry magic!

*note: some vegans/vegetarians don’t eat figs because the plants have a tendency to pull an Audrey II on wasps. I’ll leave it at that, but you can read more here if you’re concerned/interested, and use your own discretion when it comes to eating figs. 

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