jam

triple blueberry layer cake

Well look at me, another fancy ass layer cake!

triple blueberry layer cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

I generally try to reserve these “celebration” cakes for special occasions, namely my blogging anniversary or my birthday or Russell’s, mostly because they’re a whole mess more complicated than bundts or simpler “everyday” cakes, but also because I really don’t need all this cake in my house on the regular.

triple blueberry layer cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

Only about a month after my own birthday though, another special occasion came up that was a huge deal and really called for a seriously fancy ass cake.

triple blueberry layer cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

Last week my grandfather turned 90 years old!!!

To celebrate, we had a little reunion with 4 generations of grandpa’s family and it could not have been a more perfect day. It was so great to see everyone, especially some cousins I hadn’t seen in maybe a decade or more. There was even a sidewalk snail race thanks to the tupperware full of snails my little nephew found in my sister’s garden the day before.

Of course, it being my family, we definitely overdid it with the food. We did a pot-luck style bbq with all the traditional sides; bratwurst, hot dogs & burgers, German potato salad, baked beans, pasta salad, veggies, cheese & crackers, deviled eggs, watermelon & a fruit tray. My grandma spent the better part of the day going around telling everyone to eat more because we’d never get through everything. I brought my favorite coleslaw, and of course, I was in charge of dessert.

triple blueberry layer cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

To be honest, I can’t even imagine living to 90 years old, especially looking as great and remaining as active as grandpa is at his age.

Although he definitely needs more help around the house than he used to, he and my grandma still live in the country on their own and he still keeps a garden and a small fruit orchard.

A few years ago he had to give up on the gigantic strawberry patch he used to have because he couldn’t bend down to pick them all, but since then he’s planted a couple dozen blueberry bushes, all different varieties so they ripen at different points in the summer, and now blueberries are his favorite!

triple blueberry layer cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

So, I knew blueberry cake was the way to go for grandpa’s 90th!

Grandpa loves blueberry pie, so I made a fresh blueberry jam/pie filling to use between the layers of cake, and then for a brighter, fresher blueberry flavor, I decided to use freeze dried blueberries in the actual cake recipe. When you use freeze dried fruit, it retains much of the freshness of actual fresh fruit, but it’s completely dry so it doesn’t water down your batter. I ground the berries into a powder in the food processor and then mixed that into part of the batter, swirling that in to the remaining plain batter like marble cake.

At first I considered adding lemon zest to the icing, but opted for simple vanilla to avoid competing with the blueberry flavor. Last but not least, the cake was topped with a mound of fresh blueberries, both for flavor, and so that people could tell it was a berry cake even though the icing was solid white.

triple blueberry layer cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

The cake was a HUGE hit. Usually a quiet, stoic German man, complements don’t come super easily from my grandpa, but he must have come over to compliment and thank me for this cake at least 5 times. Nice and moist and not to sweet. His cousin even came over to shake my hand because he liked it so much!

This cake is SUPER blueberry-y. The freeze dried blueberries really come through, and just like grandpa said, the cake is moist and tender and just sweet enough. The blueberry filling tastes just like blueberry pie filling or homemade jam, and the vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream is delicately sweet, smooth and silky, and definitely lets the blueberry filling shine without anything competing with it.

If you love blueberries, you HAVE to make this cake y’all!

triple blueberry layer cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

Triple Blueberry Layer Cake

  • Servings: 12 to 16-ish
  • Print
Blueberry Vanilla Swirl Yellow Cake
makes three 8-inch layers

3 1/3 cups all purpose flour (plus 1 tablespoon for blueberries)
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup peanut oil or vegetable oil
2 1/4 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1.2 oz bag freeze dried blueberries (about 1 cup)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Line the bottoms of three 8″ cake pans with parchment paper. No need to butter and flour the pans. *see note
In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, and salt until well combined.
In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar on high for about 3 minutes, or until pale and fluffy. Reduce speed and add oil, then the eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating after each addition. Add vanilla until just combined.
Alternate adding flour mixture and buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour (3 additions of flour and 2 of milk), fully incorporating after each addition.
Add 1 tablespoon of flour & freeze dried blueberries to a food processor and pulse into a fine powder. Its okay if there are a few small chunks left, but get it as fine as possible.
Divide about 1/2 to 2/3 of the batter evenly between the three pans. Mix the freeze dried blueberry powder into the remaining 1/3 to 1/2 of the batter and fold in to combine. Divide blueberry batter between the three pans by dotting the tops of the cakes, then use a small spatula or knife to swirl it in.
Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. If using bake-even strips, they may need a few additional minutes.
Transfer pans to a wire rack to cool for 30 minutes. Invert cakes onto rack, peel off parchment, and let cool completely.
If the cakes domed in the oven, you’ll want to slice the very tops of the cakes off to make each layer completely flat and level for a more professional look. You can do this using a very sharp bread knife, or a cake leveler.
If you’re not assembling cakes right away, individually wrap each layer tightly in plastic wrap to prevent drying. Layers can be stored in the refrigerator for a day or two, or frozen (wrapped in plastic wrap first, then aluminum foil) for up to two weeks. You may want to consider brushing the layers with simple syrup if you’re refrigerating or freezing them.

*baker’s note: Not buttering or flouring your cake pans actually helps the cakes keep their shape better when cooling and helps prevent the outer edges of the cakes from overcooking. The parchment will allow the bottoms to release from the pans easily, but you may need to run a knife or a toothpick around the outside edge before turning out of the pans.

Blueberry “Jam” Filling:
(You may also use store bought blueberry jam)
18 oz Fresh Blueberries (about 4 cups)
2 cups sugar
pinch of salt
3 tablespoons corn starch

Reserve about 1/2 cup of the blueberries for the decoration/topping of the cake. Pulse the remaining 3 1/2 cups berries in a food processor just to break them up a bit. Don’t puree them. You can also mash them up with a potato masher instead.
Add the blueberries to a large heavy pot or sauce pan, and stir in the sugar, salt, & cornstarch. The mixture will boil up a lot so a large pot is important.
Bring the mixture to a rolling boil over medium-high to high heat, stirring occasionally, and boil for 15 minutes or until reduced and thickened.
Transfer to a heat safe bowl or container and refrigerate until ready for use. If it’s a bit thinner than normal jam, that’s fine.

Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream Icing:
Adapted from “Layered” by Tessa Huff
3/4 cup fresh egg whites (not pasteurized egg whites)
1 1/2 cups sugar
pinch of salt
2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature (cut into 1 tablespoon slices)
2 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Place the egg whites, sugar, & salt in a very clean bowl of a stand mixer and whisk them together by hand to combine. Fill a medium saucepan with an inch or two of water and bring to a simmer over medium to medium-high heat. Place the mixer bowl over the saucepan to create a double boiler. Be sure that the bottom of the bowl doesn’t directly touch the water, and that the water doesn’t reach a full boil.
Heat the egg whites until they register 160F on a candy thermometer, whisking regularly to avoid cooking the whites. As soon as they’re at the correct temperature, carefully attach the mixer bowl to the stand mixer and add the whisk attachment.
Beat the egg whites on high speed for 8 to 10 minutes until they hold stiff peaks and the outside of the bowl is cooled to room temperature. Stop the mixer and swap the whisk attachment for the paddle.
On low speed, add the butter, a few tablespoons at a time, waiting for it to incorporate before adding more. Once all the butter is mixed in, add the vanilla extract and mix in to incorporate. Turn the mixer up to medium-high and beat until the buttercream is smooth and silky, about 3 to 5 minutes.
If the mixture starts to look curdled, just keep beating. It’ll come together.
If the whites were still too warm when the butter was added and the buttercream is too thin and soupy, refrigerate the bowl in 10 minute bursts until it’s cool (but not cold) and beat again until smooth.

Assemble cake:
Place the first cake layer on an 8″ cardboard cake round, serving plate, or cake stand. Using a cake round will make it easier to ice and decorate, especially if you have a revolving turntable for decorating (I use a lazy suzan, but you can also just spin your plate or cake stand while you work).

Fit a piping bag with a large round or star tip and fill with a cup or two of the Swiss meringue buttercream. Pipe a thick dam of icing around the outside of the cake to contain the blueberry filling. This will ensure that the filling stays in place and doesn’t squish out when the layers are stacked.

Place about half of the filling in the center of the cake and spread it smooth and even using an icing spatula. Add the next layer of cake, looking from directly over the top and from eye level at the cake to make sure each layer is directly one above the other, rotating the cake to be certain. Repeat the same procedure with the buttercream dam and the other half of the filling, then add the third and final layer of cake and check for straightness again. Using about half of the remaining icing, crumb coat your cake (If you have any icing left in the piping bag, empty it out and use that too). Starting with the top of the cake, spread the icing thin and work some of it down the sides of the cake to completely cover the whole thing in a thin, smooth, even coat of icing. This first layer of icing seals the cake and keeps crumbs from being visible in the outer layer of icing. It may seem like unnecessary trouble, but it really is worth it to get a smooth professional finish on the icing.

Place the cake in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes to an hour to help set the icing and firm up the cake.
Reserve about 1/4 cup of icing for decorating (optional), and spread the remaining buttercream over the whole cake the same way you did the crumb coat. Start by smoothing the top and slowly working the icing down the sides to cover the cake completely. Try to get the icing as completely smooth as possible with straight sides and a flat, level top. I use a long offset icing spatula. If desired, once the icing is smooth, you can use the tip of a small icing spatula or butter knife to create a swirl in the top & sides. Make a small smooth mound in the center of the top of the cake with the reserved 1/4 cup of icing, and cover the mound as completely as possible with the reserved fresh blueberries so it looks like a heaping pile of blueberries. (If you tried to just make an actual heaping pile of blueberries, they’d roll off the top of the cake) If you have some blueberries left, dot them around the mound so they look like they spilled away.

Refrigerate the cake again for at least another 30 minutes to set the icing before covering or serving.

This cake will keep well in a cake saver at room temperature for a day or two if the weather is not too hot or humid. Otherwise, cover tightly and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

If refrigerating, bring cake to room temperature at least two hours before serving.

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the jam-hattan

A few weeks ago I mentioned that my dearest husband Russell had conned me into doing the Whole30 diet with him.

the "jam-hattan" | Brooklyn Homemaker

Thank god that’s over!

the "jam-hattan" | Brooklyn Homemaker

If you’re not familiar with it, the Whole30 is sort of like a cross between the Paleo diet and Atkins. It’s super protein heavy, focusing on calories from fat rather than grains or sugar. Alcohol is also strictly forbidden.

While we did feel a bit “better” after it was all over, we didn’t really have that OHMYGODI’VENEVERFELTSOAMAZINGINMYWHOLELIFE feeling that the internets promised us. It didn’t really seem all that bad at first, but a week in it felt like cruel and unusual punishment, and by the end it just felt like too much of a sacrifice and waaaaay too much work for the payoff. I also didn’t feel like it really was all that “healthy”, because while it does encourage you to eat a lot of fresh produce, it also encourages overconsumption of fat and protein and salt at the expense of the grains and carbs and sugar.

The biggest takeaway that I really hope to stick with is to read ingredient lists for everything I buy, and to avoid sugar in savory foods where it doesn’t seem to belong. Once you start paying attention, you’ll realize there is added sugar in basically every packaged food on the market, and a lot of it really is easy to avoid if you know what to look for.

When it comes to avoiding grains and sugar all the time though…
Nah…
You and I both know that shit just ain’t gonna happen.

the "jam-hattan" | Brooklyn Homemaker

Same goes for booze.

I wouldn’t really consider myself a heavy drinker, in fact I usually go weeks without drinking and don’t even think about it. I do enjoy a good stiff cocktail or tasty glass (or bottle) of wine from time to time though, and to be honest, it’s when I try to deny myself alcohol that I tend to crave it most.

Believe you me, after this crazy diet I fully needed and deserved a good strong drink.

the "jam-hattan" | Brooklyn Homemaker

Lucky for me, Drizly just invited me to join their Top Shelf Blogger Program.

I mentioned back in November that Drizly is basically just like seamless.com or delivery.com, but instead of burgers or sushi, Drizly delivers booze! I mean, how freakin’ amazing is that? We’re officially living in the future y’all!

Once I’d hatched a little plan for my first cocktail as a top shelf blogger, I had to get started with recipe testing. I was out of rye though, and nearly out of vermouth, so I went online, searched Drizly for what I needed, and had the bottles delivered to my front door in under an hour!

Magic!

the "jam-hattan" | Brooklyn Homemaker

The classic Manhattan has always been one my favorite cocktails, and I especially love when I reach the bottom of the glass and get to eat those dark jammy little Luxardo maraschino cherries. It dawned on me one day that if one of my favorite things about a Manhattan is the jammy cherries, what was to stop me from just making a cocktail with cherry jam?

When making a drink with jam, it’s important to shake it rather than stirring like you would a classic Manhattan. The jam needs to be shaken in to fully dissolve into the alcohol, and once shaken it needs to be strained into the glass to hold back any chunks of fruit that didn’t incorporate.

The jam does make the cocktail a bit sweeter than it would traditionally be, almost more like an Old Fashioned, so I think it’s important to use rye whiskey rather than bourbon. Bourbon is sweet and mild on it’s own, while rye has a bold, dry, almost spicy quality that holds it’s own against the sugary jam.

the "jam-hattan" | Brooklyn Homemaker

To add just a little something extra, I thought that a touch of rose water could compliment the sweet fruitiness of the cherry. Rose water is seriously strong stuff though, and a little goes a looooong way. It took me quite a while to work out exactly the right amount that would come through without overpowering the whole drink. We had to do a whole lot of recipe testing to get the ratios just right, but luckily this drink is seriously tasty and Russell was a willing guinea pig.

In the end I realized that it’s almost best if you can only smell the rose when you put the glass up to your lips, but don’t really taste it much in the drink. The difference between a 1/4 teaspoon and a 1/2 teaspoon can mean the difference between a interesting cocktail with an elegant floral undertone, and taking a swig from an old perfume bottle you found in your grandma’s bathroom.

With the jam to whiskey to rose water ratio just right, this drink is a freakin’ masterpiece. I’ve gone ahead and gilded the lily y’all, and I think we’re all going to be better for it. I mean, maybe it’s the hooch talking, but this is seriously one of the best cocktails I’ve ever made for you guys. Strong and serious like a good Manhattan should be, but with a hint of sweet delicate elegance from the floral fruitiness of cherry and rose. Masculine and feminine. Yin and Yang. Tracy and Hepburn.

Now that I’m a Drizly top shelf blogger, you can expect at least a handful of equally “intoxicating” (har har) recipes from me every year. To help you take full advantage of everything Drizly has to offer, I even have a nifty promo code that you can use on your first visit to their site! If you follow this link to refer a friend, you’ll both receive $5 off your first orders with the promo code: bkhoochmaker

Bottoms up y’all!

the "jam-hattan" | Brooklyn Homemaker

The Jam-hattan

  • Servings: makes 1 cocktail
  • Print
2 oz good rye whiskey (I used Bulleit)
1 oz sweet vermouth (I used Carpano Antica)
1 tablespoon cherry jam *see note
1/4 teaspoon rose water **see note
2 to 3 dashes aromatic bitters
garnish with 1 or 2 Luxardo maraschino cherries, if desired

Combine the whiskey, vermouth, jam, rose water, and bitters in a cocktail shaker with plenty of ice.
Shake shake shake until the shaker is ice cold and frosty on the outside, a good minute or so. Strain over ice into a rocks glass, and garnish with a skewer of Luxardo maraschino cherries.

Bottoms up!

Notes:
*Different jams have different sugar to fruit ratios, so your drink may come out sweeter than mine if you use a jam with more sugar than the “Bonne Maman” Cherry Preserves that I used. If your jam is very sweet, you may want to use a little less.
**Some rose waters are more powerfully flavored than others, so if yours doesn’t come through enough you can add a drop more, one drop at a time, until you’re happy with it. Just be careful! Rose water is STRONG stuff and can easily overpower your drink.

strawberry rhubarb skillet cake

You guys. I have a confession to make.
I’m the world’s WORST blogger.

strawberry rhubarb skillet cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

It’s been sunny and warm for the past few days and I had to draaaag myself indoors to write this post. I’ve really wanted nothing more than to lay out in the yard after work and snuggle puppies and drink rosé.
Russell’s been visiting family in LA and I should be taking this opportunity to catch up on my writing, but once the sun goes down and the spring chill sets back in, I’d rather be watching reruns of the Walking Dead or RuPaul’s Drag Race with a pint of pistachio ice cream.

strawberry rhubarb skillet cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

In addition to laziness and springtime distractions, I’ve also fallen victim to springtime cravings. The arrival of warm weather and green leaves makes me crave fresh produce and bright spring berries like crazy. I mentioned last week that as much as I crave these foods, local production hasn’t caught up to my cravings just yet and so far the produce at the green markets leaves a bit to be desired.

strawberry rhubarb skillet cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

I’ve been trying to hold out, but the other day I caved. I’m really the worst.

Just awful.

strawberry rhubarb skillet cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

Wandering the aisles of the grocery store the other day I stumbled across a big bucket filled with rhubarb stalks. Conveniently located behind the rhubarb were stacks and stacks of organic strawberries fresh from the freight truck.

I tried to resist, but their strawberry siren song was too much for me and I circled the produce section twice before finding them in my basket at the checkout line.

strawberry rhubarb skillet cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

Truth be told, I had no damned clue what I would do with my pre-season berries and rhubarb but I just HAD to have them. There aren’t many things in this world that I love more than a strawberry rhubarb pie, but a pie is so filling-centric that I know I need to wait for strawberry season proper to go that route.

In terms of flavor, nothing beats a berry that was ripened in the sun, in season, a few miles (or footsteps) from your home. These bright red little berries however, fresh off the truck from California, travelled a looooong way before finding their way onto the shelves at the Food Town in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. They were pretty durn good, especially after not tasting a fresh strawberry for months, but they tasted nowhere near as fresh and flavorful as they will in a few short weeks.

strawberry rhubarb skillet cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

Tart rhubarb and a healthy bit of sugar would help doctor up my lackluster berries, but in this case they would need to be more of an accent flavor and less of the main attraction. I needed to come up with a recipe that would elevate them and let them shine without expecting too much of them.

strawberry rhubarb skillet cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

It didn’t take me long to think of a rustic skillet cake I made last summer, with caramelized peaches and cornmeal. Perfect! I didn’t want to go the cornmeal route this time, but the basic idea was spot on. I’d cook the sliced berries with the rhubarb, a bit of butter, and some sugar; and then I’d pour them over a tender buttermilk cake baked in a big ol’ cast iron skillet.

strawberry rhubarb skillet cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

This cake is perfect.

In another week or two, when strawberries are actually in season here, this will definitely be happening again because then it’ll be even more perfect than it’s current state of perfection.

Topped with fresh barely sweetened whipped cream, it’s like a jammy little slice of strawberry shortcake.
Rustic and unfussy. Sweet and tart. Fluffy and tender. The cooked strawberry rhubarb is sweet and bright and jammy and fresh. The cake is just sweet enough and a tiny bit tart from the lemon and buttermilk. It’s buttery and light and moist and just…

perfect.

strawberry rhubarb skillet cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

Strawberry Rhubarb Skillet Cake

adapted from Joy the Baker

Strawberry Rhubarb filling:
1 cup sliced rhubarb (from about 3 stalks)
2 cups hulled and quartered strawberries
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons sugar
pinch of salt

Cake:
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
zest of one lemon
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 to 3 tablespoons turbinado sugar or coarse finishing sugar

Preheat oven to 350 and move a rack to the center position.

Combine strawberries, rhubarb, 2 tablespoons butter, 2 tablespoons sugar, and pinch of salt in an 11 or 12 inch skillet.* Place over a medium high flame and cook, stirring frequently, until fruit is soft and coming apart and juices have reduced to a thick syrup, about 10 to 15 minutes. Do not let juices burn.

Scrape strawberry rhubarb mixture into a bowl to cool and scrape skillet clean with a silicone spatula. It’s okay if a little residue remains.
Melt butter in skillet and pour out all but 1 tablespoon to cool. Coat skillet evenly with remaining tablespoon. Add lemon zest to cooling butter and stir to combine.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and sugar.  Set aside.
In a small bowl or large measuring cup, whisk together buttermilk, lemon juice, eggs, vanilla and butter.

Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the buttermilk mixture all at once.  Stir with a silicone spatula just until combined, scraping the sides of the bowl until there are no dry pockets of flour. Do not over mix.  Pour batter into the prepared skillet and spread (or shake) smooth.  Dot the batter with strawberry mixture as evenly as possible, and sprinkle generously with turbinado sugar.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick or cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.  Allow cake to cool for at least 30 minutes before serving. If desired, serve with a generous dollop of lightly sweetened whipped cream or a light dusting of powdered sugar.

Cake will last, removed from skillet and well wrapped in the refrigerator, for up to 3 days.

*If you don’t have a cast iron skillet you can cook the strawberries and melt the butter in any pan you have, and use an 11-inch round tart or quiche pan, or a 9×13-inch pan for the cake. The batter may spread more thin so you’ll need to keep a close eye on it in the oven.