It is most definitely berry season, and I am excited to say this time next year, we'll be living in Florida - aka Berry Mecca! We are moving to Tampa the first of June; Not too far from the state's renowned Strawberry Festival, YUM!
As time is flying by, and I am just trying my best to take in all the wonderful things here in Arkansas while I can. Not everyone can say this, but I am proud to admit I LOVE my job. The elementary school where I have worked the past three years is top-notch to say the least. There I have found the most lovely people who, each and everyday, mold and shape me in the most positive ways. For their presence in my life, forever I will be grateful!
In case you didn't already know it's the office ladies at any school that make-or-break its atmosphere. We have been more than blessed with an amazing office staff at our school, and I am totally going to cry shamelessly when it comes to saying my good-byes to these girls. They have truly made my work place feel like a family. This week we had the opportunity to celebrate their dedication and show our appreciation as part of administrative assistants' day! (Just for the record, the term "administrative assistant"does not do their job duties justice).
I didn't have much time after school to bake for our potluck, but I knew this recipe would fit well into the quick, easy, weeknight theme I've taken to cooking this month. Although, it certainly wasn't as big a hit as Mrs. Capps famous brownies (NEVER have I EVER eaten brownies as good as hers), or Mrs. Nash's incredible peach cobbler (her dish was scraped so clean I wondered if crack was her secret ingredient), I do believe it held its own among these two potluck queens and their incredible desserts.
The recipe is from a cookbook I've been enjoying the past year called Vintage Cakes (available at Anthropologie) by Julie Richardson. Her baking tips and frosting pointers are some of the best I've ever read! The cookbook starts out with super simple cakes and works it's way up to more complicated ones. This particular cake is in the section titled "hasty cakes" with another one of my favorites, the Ozark Pudding Skillet Cake. Others I have made with fabulous success include the Kentucky Bourbon Bundt cake and Texas Sheet Cake; Both delicious and incredibly easy.
For me, the ginger crumble elevates this cake from Betty Crocker's berry sheet cake (circa 1945), while still retaining its traditional feel. However, if you prefer, I am sure the cake would be just as delicious even if you can't get your hands on any candied ginger at the moment.
1lb (about 6 cups) berries (left whole if small, otherwise sliced)
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbs vanilla
For the topping:
1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup diced candied ginger
4 tbs unsalted butter cut into small cubes
For the cake:
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup fine cornmeal
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter cut into small cubes
2/3 cup whole milk
Start by centering your oven rack, and preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
In a large bowl, toss together your berries of choice (I used raspberries and blackberries, but adding blueberries would be great, too) with the sugar and vanilla. Set them aside at room temperature while you prepare the cake.
To make the topping, combine the sugar, flour, and candied ginger in a small bowl. Blend the butter into the dry ingredients, using either your fingers or a fork, until the mixture forms crumbs. Then, put the topping int he freezer while you mix the cake batter.
To make the cake, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, ground ginger, and salt in a large bowl or using your stand mixer. Add the butter cubes a few at a time, whisking as you go, until completely incorporated into the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, whisk together your eggs and milk, then stir them into the dry ingredients until just combined.
Spread the batter into your buttered pan (2 1/2 quart dish or 9 inch square cake pan). Evenly distribute the sugared berries (and juice) on top of the batter. Then, scatter the chilled ginger crumble topping over the berries.
Place the dish in the center of your oven, and bake until the berries bubble and the cake is firm, about 40-45 minutes. Some places where the crumble topping has melted may still look buttery, but that's just fine.
Cool the cake on a wire rack for 30 minutes and serve warm.
This cake will keep for 2 days or so. If serving the next day, I recommend placing a cookie sheet over the dish after it's cooled for at least 2 hours to avoid moisture collecting and making the topping mushy. Only after the cake has cooled completely (overnight or for 5-6 hours) will you want to wrap with plastic or foil.