Guys, I’m really excited about this cake. Why? For so many reasons! First off, it was ridiculously easy – so easy I can barely even remember making it the next day. Second, the taste is amazing. This cake is all sorts of quintessential spring dessert – there’s lemon and fresh berries, the mascarpone is rich, but the cake is light. Not to mention, it’s beautiful in it’s simplicity. Just like the daffodil that blooms next to a mud puddle, this cake has a natural beauty, but the bare cut edges of the cake bring you back to reality. And that’s another thing I love about it – I don’t believe in stuffy food. Nothing and nobody should be perfect all the time, or even try to be. I prefer life to be a little rough around the edges – it’s better that way.
This cake was inspired by my simultaneous need to use up buttermilk and a clamshell container of fresh blackberries. I know we’ve all been there with the buttermilk. If you buy it for one recipe you’re inevitably left with at least half a carton. This cake helps, but just a little bit. The recipe came together little by little, following a trail of breadcrumbs of inspiration.
Here the buttermilk lends a very moist and delicate crumb, which makes it delightful to eat, but hard to get a clean cut. Refrigerating the cake for 30 minutes should help if you want nice clean edges, but I think this cake has more personality with crumbs and slightly jagged edges. Once you get the cake filled and the layers stacked, you definitely won’t be able to cut a perfect piece, so don’t plan on serving this if you’re trying to impress with perfect slices. I promise though, people will ask you for the recipe. It’s that good.
Flavorwise, this cake is a real winner. Blackberries, lemon, cream and vanilla are a hard combo to say no to. It’s simple and delicious.
The cake batter is based, very loosely, on one from the New York Times, which adapted it from the Joy of Cooking. I started out making a full batch in a jelly roll pan, but once I started stacking the layers I realized if I went any higher than two my cake would probably topple over. In accordance, the recipe below has been halved. I also swapped the cake flour for all-purpose without any noticeable difference in texture. I wanted this to be a fancy sort of everyday cake – the kind you just whip up – and everyday cakes shouldn’t use anything but all-purpose.
Lemon and Blackberry Cake with Mascarpone
- 1 c. + 2 t. all-purpose flour
- ¾ t. baking powder
- ¼ t. baking soda
- ¼ t. salt
- 3 T. unsalted butter, softened
- ⅔ c. granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- ½ c. full fat buttermilk
- ½ t. vanilla
- Zest of 1 medium lemon
- 1 cup (8 oz.) mascarpone cheese, room temperature
- ¼ c. granulated sugar
- ½ t. vanilla
- 5 t. lemon juice (from 1 medium lemon)
- ¼ c. milk
- 12 oz. container blackberries
- Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a 9x9 square baking pan.
- Mix together dry flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl.
- Add softened butter and sugar to a medium bowl. Using an electric mixer or a whisk, cream the butter and sugar until completely combined.
- Add the eggs one at a time, mixing after each addition. Add the buttermilk and flour mixture in three parts, mixing after each addition. Add vanilla and lemon zest with the final buttermilk addition.
- Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and use a spatula to make sure it’s distributed evenly. Bake for 12 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool at least 15 minutes in the pan. The cake will pull away from the sides as it cools.
- Add the mascarpone, sugar, vanilla, lemon juice, and milk to a bowl. Using an electric hand beater or stand mixer with the whisk attachment, beat all ingredients together until smooth and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape into a pastry bag or the corner of a gallon ziploc with the tip cut off.
- Cut the cake in half to create two rectangles and trim the edges so all sides are exposed, just like how you would cut the crusts off of toast.
- Place the first layer on your serving platter. Using the pastry bag, pipe dots or a ruffled line around the perimeter of the cake to create a decorative edge. Fill in the center with a thin layer of the filling. Place rows of blackberries across the short way, leaving a little space in between each row to make it easier to cut slices later.
- Place the second layer on top and, following the same steps for decorating, pipe a decorative perimeter and place rows of blackberries. Pipe dots in between the blackberries to fill in the top.
- Refrigerate if not serving right away. This cake should hold up well in the fridge, although I can only attest to one day, as that’s how long it lasted in my house.
- To get a cleaner cut on the cake layers, refrigerate for about 30 minutes prior to cutting. Use a paper towel with a little vegetable oil to coat both sides of your knife before each cut.
- This cake easily doubles and can be baked in a 12x17 jelly roll pan. In fact I halved the recipe after my first round of testing. However, if you double the recipe be sure not to go any higher than two layers. Lining the pan with parchment is a good idea to be able to lift it out of the pan.
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