Saturday, June 16, 2018

Blackberry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake

   The long cool spring is only now giving way to warmth and sun. The strawberry season this year was a washout. I didn't feel bad about it, as the commercial growers lost plenty more than us backyard growers. I sold a few meager quarts, and although my prices are always rock bottom, customers insisted on paying me more than I charge over and over again. They either felt so bad or were so thankful just to have any berries at all, and I was happy to have even a little cash. 

   Since God controls the weather, I welcomed the break and ran the race to accomplish some things around the house before the school year ends. These tasks will earn me no jewels in my crown but are necessary for comfortable living. Things like auditing the Tupperware drawer to make sure all containers have matching lids and cleaning the chandelier light in the living room. When I got word company was coming, I set a new record in spring cleaning and finished in two days. Just don't look in the bedroom. 

   About a month ago, my friend Mary broke her wrist and so I have been helping out with driving her to doctor visits, minor hairdressing, or peeling hard-boiled duck eggs to mix with red beets for lunch. I never know what will be needed so I just do what needs to be done. Mary is an active on-the-go type who was forced into sitting down when she slipped on the wet floor at work. She worked at a market food stand where you never sit down, of course. It suited her. Since she is in the seventh decade of her life, it could have been worse and we're thankful it was not. A widow for the past fifteen years, Mary is looking forward to getting back to her old independent self, and being able to drive the couple hours it takes to visit her boyfriend, the widower goat farmer who is well into his eighth decade. Yes, you read that right. Much is said about young love, and not nearly enough about old love, so I'm going to say it here.

   I can't say enough about how much of a blessing it is to have the opportunity to get out and help someone other than your own immediate family. When I had a colicky baby and needed so much help, the few who would step in and help were that much more precious. Challenging times can instill us with empathy and allow God to show us how much we need one another. When the person who takes care of others needs care themselves and learns to accept tangible acts of love, God is glorified. When the harvest fails yet our needs are met abundantly and hearts are thankful, to whom do we attribute that? While my hands can't create a single berry on their own, I aim to nurture life and grow in love. I have failed many times, but the lady who did spring cleaning in two days is not quitting the marathon. Slow, pudgy, a little clumsy, and sometimes surly, I will keep running. I have to if only to catch up with barefoot summer children and dogs who haven't quite learned to "stay" yet. Also, to keep up with Mary. I wish everyone had a spry septuagenarian in their life to chase after and be encouraged by. 

   Right now the blackberries are showing their lavender flowers and my hydrangeas are blooming for the first time ever. I often have more blackberries than I do anything else and I am always on the lookout for something different to do with them aside from the usual pie. 

    This moist coffee cake has a sweet streusel topping that perfectly balances the tartness of the blackberries. I added some cream cheese and sour cream for added richness. June is dairy month, and in case you didn't know, dairy farmers are having a hard time. We may be seeing the last of the family-owned dairy farms right now. Buy a gallon of milk when you can. 

The filling:
1/4 cup sugar
8 ounces softened cream cheese
1 egg white
1 cup blackberries

1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 Tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg  plus one egg yolk
3/4 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon grated orange peel (optional)

Streusel topping:
1/3 cup sugar

1/2 cup flour
3 Tablespoon butter, chilled and cubed

Grease a 9-inch springform pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper and set aside. 

Cream the sugar and cream cheese in a mixer until fully blended. Add the egg white and mix just to combine. Set aside. 

In another bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and orange rind. Set aside. 

In a mixer, cream the butter and sugar. Add the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla. Slowly mix in the flour mixture, alternating with sour cream. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and spread evenly. Spread the cream cheese filling over the batter. Top with blackberries. 

For the topping, combine flour, sugar, and butter in a bowl. Mash with a pastry blender until the mixture is finely crumbed. Sprinkle the topping over the blackberries. 

Bake at 350 for 45 minutes until center is done. Cool on a rack. Run a thin knife around the edges of the pan to loosen the cake from the pan. 

Store in the refrigerator. 

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