Butter + flour + sugar + eggs + yogurt + berries = sheer heaven
Yes, that’s an equation, an equation for something that just might blow your mind. It definitely blew mine.
Before we moved from Manhattan to the town I grew up in, we spent a few years in another town while our new house was being renovated. We lived in a huge apartment complex surrounded by vast, beautiful meadows, streams filled with tadpoles, froggies, fish, and all things cool to a curious, young, nature loving girl. I won’t regale you with the huge highway overpass that roared above us over the parking lot, or the main roadway with a constant barrage of passing cars less than a mile away. Instead, I will keep us in the place where nature loomed and bloomed, with not much time left.
My fondest memory of this garden apartment complex of Eden nestled within the asphalt, was the wild blackberry and raspberry bushes hidden in one small area tucked between the pussy willows, cattails, and thick brush. We would sit in the middle of this circle of bushes and pick plump, juicy berries for hours, our lips, fingers and shirts stained purple and red. I took totally this for granted; surely there’s wild bushes like this everywhere, right? When we moved into our new house, I figured I’d have a whole backyard of them!
Unfortunately, the beautiful meadows and streams were eventually mowed down to build a modern, state-of-the-art high school and more apartment complexes, but we were already moving out when this began. Once we moved into our new house, I forgot about wild berry bushes. I loved cooking, but basic stuff since I was too young to think about or dabble in preparations calling for berries, outside of fresh berries topped with cream.
Cut to several years later. Once I hit the big 1-3, I’m baking and cooking on a pretty regular basis, thanks to a few cookbooks gifted to me by my grandmother. Within a year or two, I’m inhaling all cookbooks like oxygen, pouring through gourmet magazines, reading a few chapters of Larousse Gastronomique nightly, and watching hours upon hours of Jacques Pepin showing me every cooking technique known to man (at that time). I watched numerous cooking shows, but Jacques was the man.
I was falling madly in love with all things food, all things sweet and savory, all things plated and lovely.
This food exploration renewed my intense love of two berries with a deep fervor, two berries that I used to hang with and know very well, raspberries and blackberries. I wanted to bake with them, cook with them, make sauces with them, jam them, jelly them, you name it. However, no wild and free berry bushes to be found. My berry passion led to many trips to the market, but was diluted with pints of mediocre, somewhat squashed berries in plastic containers with holes. If I didn’t act quick, they’d morph into plastic containers of white, green or gray fuzz, forgotten in the back of my refrigerator fruit bin.
You never know how good you had it until you want to cook and bake with it.
Like snowflakes, no two berry swirl cakes are alike
Cut to present. A friend of mine attended a wedding in Seattle last summer. One morning he called at the end of his daily run. As he was walking through the parking lot of the hotel he was staying at, he let out an audible ‘wow’ type of gasp. He told me there were tons of wild blackberry bushes around the parking lot, loaded with some of the biggest blackberries he’d ever seen. He took a photo with his cell and sent it to me. I also let out an audible ‘wow’ type of gasp as I listened to him eat those gorgeous berries in the photos.
“Wow, theesh are the jooshiest blackberriesh I’fe ever tayshted in my life!” He exclaimed, his mouth full of berries, pissing me off jussst a little because I wanted a bush to pick off of!
This was one of the photos he sent me. Nice lookin’ Seattle wild blackberries!
The rest of his trip led to occasional phone calls and texts about how wherever he went, there were always blackberry bushes close by.
I contemplated a permanent move to Seattle, but only for a second. Although it’s an awesome city in a beautiful and bountiful state, I need a little more sunshine in my life. My ‘Seattle Me’ image contained tons of buckets in lieu of a purse, picking blackberries from every bush I saw, so much so that I would have to balance an extra bucket on my head, not unlike the Chiquita chick and her naners.
My history with yogurt is a bit different. Okay, a bit is an understatement.
I hated it.
Yogurt, to me, was a bunch of annoying, little plastic containers that dominated our fridge since my mother ate it every.single.day. They would come tumbling out and hit the floor while I was reaching for sandwich fixings or pudding cups, some cracking open on impact; white, fruity goo all over the floor. I hated, Hated, HATED how it smelled, and would sometimes gag while cleaning it up.
“How could she eat this crap?”, I’d mutter faintly under my breath while cleaning up the mess.
Don’t let these skinny swirls of berry fool you, because…..
During my freshman year of college, there was a little truck on campus one day that was just giving yogurt away; Dannon yogurt. One late night, craving something sweet, but nothing but our free Dannon haul in our mini-fridge, I had no choice but to confront my yogurt demons. I was so hungry, I didn’t care..I was going to eat it. One spoonful and BOOM, an explosion of creamy and tangy with sweet strawberries swirled throughout, sort of like a pudding or custard, and I love puddings and custards.
Yogurt, why did I hate you so for so long?
Well, now I’m obsessed, and I eat a container almost every day, and bake with it quite often. As mentioned above, it’s in this cake, the Greek style, which has been my new favorite for a while now.
When I decided to take advantage of an abundance of gorgeous, plump blackberries and raspberries I found at the farmer’s market, I started with a blackberry swirl pound cake recipe I’d bookmarked at Martha Stewart’s site (wow, Martha is making a lot of appearances on my blog as of late!).
Naturally, I wasn’t going to leave raspberries out and, of course, I was probably going to change something. That something was my former foe, yogurt, yogurt instead of the sour cream called for. I had the urge to experiment, and I did, mixing each berry puree with some of the cake batter prior to swirling them in, hoping for the best. Wow, this gave me thick ribbons of berry instead of the usual thin strips of berry, within the cake, exactly what I was hoping for. Success!
Make this cake! I promise you will love it, even if you don’t like berries and/or yogurt. I converted someone who hated both, that’s how good it is.
….when you mix some of the batter into the berry purees before spooning it on and swirling it into the batter, then cut into a slice vertically, this is what you get. Thick ribbons of berry.
Berry Yogurt Cake
- ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan (or ½ cup neutral oil, like canola or coconut)
- 3 ounces blackberries (about a scant ¾ cup)
- 3 ounces raspberries (about a scant ¾ cup)
- 1¼ cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1½ cups all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon coarse salt
- ¼ teaspoon baking powder
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- ½ cup Greek Yogurt, room temperature
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan and line with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on all sides; then butter parchment. In a food processor, puree blackberries with 1 tablespoon sugar. Wipe out processor and puree raspberries with 1 tablespoon of sugar. Pour/scrape into separate bowls and set aside (you can strain them into the bowls if you don't like the light bite of seeds that do not break down). In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, salt, and baking powder.
- In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat together butter (or oil) and 1¼ cups sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla and beat to combine, scraping down bowl as needed. With mixer on low, add flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with Greek yogurt, beginning and ending with flour mixture.
- Stir two to three tablespoons of the cake batter into the bowl with the blackberry puree until uniform. Stir two to three tablespoons of the cake batter into the bowl of raspberry puree, until uniform.
- Pour half the plain batter into the pan and dot with ½ of the blackberry puree -batter and half the raspberry puree-batter. It will seem like it takes over all the plain cake batter, but don't worry, it all works out in the end. Swirl/marble lightly using a skewer or knife. Top with remaining plain batter and dot with remaning raspberry and blackberry batter as you did with the first layer. Again, swirl the puree-batter mixes into the plain batter - pushing a skewer or knife all the way to the bottom for a full marble.
- Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, about 1¼ hours. Let cool in pan on a wire rack, 30 minutes. Lift cake out of pan and place on a serving plate; let cool completely before