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Berry topsy-turvy

Fancy dishware and ingredients do not guarantee excellent results.

india Updated: May 15, 2010 00:52 IST
Seema Chandra

These are fresh blueberries sautéed in a lake of butter and brown sugar. It usually doesn’t get better than this, and it’s just the beginning. What follows is a cake that has even more heaps of butter and sugar in it. I’m not thinking fat here. I’m thinking kids, I’m thinking family biting into this mush. With that matronly feeling, the cake is put in the oven.

And then disaster strikes. Since it started out as a blueberry upside down cake, the buttered blueberries mix is at the bottom of the cake tin. You’re meant to flip the cake over once it’s done. But to my utter horror, the butter starts oozing out into the oven. It’s too late to recall the cake, but I realise my mistake.

Instead of using a good old-fashioned cake tin, I chose a fancy one called a springform cake tin. It’s a non-stick, black coloured tin that has a latch on the side, which is meant to prevent the problem of having your cake stick to the tin. In this case, the mechanics of the modern tin proved to be tricky. The sugary goo found a nice crack near the latch to ooze out into the oven, and it ended up emitting a heavenly caramelised-sugar aroma in the house.

Cake done, it’s taken out of the oven on a rather sticky tray. Since it’s my maiden venture with fresh blueberries, I taste a wee bit before it’s ready to be unfurled... Yuck!

The blueberries are head-shakingly sour, and the cake is almost inedible. Perhaps too much of the sugar had oozed out. Now I’ve dealt with ample burnt bottoms and cracked tops in my two and a half decades of cake making, but this one was berry sour. I open the fridge and reach out for a bottle of blueberry jam. This time, I take a pan, sauté a blob of butter, add brown sugar, caramelise it, and instead of fresh blueberries, I bung in a few tablespoons of blueberry jam.

Now for the patchwork. I scraped the top off the cake, which had originally consisted of more than two and half cups of fresh blueberry toppings, and in its place spread the bottled jam concoction. It worked. Remarkably well. The family received the cake very well and I felt like a timid version of Fannie Farmer.

While the whole world is crying hoarse about fresh ingredients and their taste, here was an upside down case of an upside down cake. No one could tell that it was jam straight out of a bottle. Lessons for the day — Number one, beware before buying fancy looking cake tins with latches and non-stick properties. Number two, beware of flying down expensive ingredients from abroad. At the end of the day, it’s all money for jam!

The author is Food Editor, NDTV Lifestyle

Blueberry jam cake

Ingredients
1 1/3 cup flour
1 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/3 tsp salt
1/3 cup butter
2/3 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla essence
2 eggs separated

Topping:
Blueberry jam
A fistful of Brown sugar
A knob of butter
Icing sugar to dust

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 350 F or 180 degrees C
2. In a mixing bowl, add flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Mix. Then add butter and milk, and beat with an electric mixer for minutes. Add a tsp of vanilla essence.
3. Add the egg yolks and beat till it looks like a gooey, creamy elastic mixture.
4. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites till stiff. Fold them into the cake batter with a spatula.
5. Grease a cake tin with butter, pour in the mixture and it goes into the oven.
6. Make the topping, by melting a knob of butter, add the brown sugar and caramelize it, then add around two tablespoons of blueberry jam. It should be enough to form a thick layer on the cake. Your topping is now ready.
7. Once the cake is out of the oven, pour the gooey dark topping on top and spread it evenly. Sprinkle icing sugar. Serve warm.