“Red”, I write “is the color of life. It’s blood, passion, rage. …Beginnings and violent end. Red is the color of love. Beating hearts and hungry lips. Roses, Valentines, cherries. Red is the color of shame. Crimson cheeks and spilled blood. Broken hearts, opened veins. A burning desire…” Mary Hogan
I do accept that may not all bakers have a personal berry story, but they sure all do have a story about baking with berries. What exactly makes a berry story? The personal touch – history, memory, like or dislike – that makes one want to eat or bake berries for their versatile and vibrant flavour, colour or content. My berry (and cherry and currant) story is as red as the berries themselves, full of love, family and strong emotions. In the village where my grandparents had lived their whole life and my auntie still lives, many of the locals own huge raspberry and fruit fields, making their living from picking and selling ripe, organic products. As a child, I had spent most of my summer berry seasons with my paternal grandfather, picking these luscious red jewels, including raspberries and red currants. I often talked about imagining love to be as red as the juice of fresh red currant – surprisingly sophisticated from my child self! – so then my grandfather told me a story.
It starred a young berry-picker woman. She was desperately in love with a man who she married, gave birth to three of his sons, only to find out she had a lover. She worked a lot picking berries to provide for her sons and when she fell ill, her husband cruelly said to her that should she die, her successor was already chosen. She was heartbroken, then her husband died suddenly. In the period of tuberculosis epidemic, sudden illness was not uncommon, often leaving poor babies orphaned. The young, loving woman than followed her beloved, unkind husband, died of her illness. The three boys were nurtured, truly loved and well treated by their late father’s ;over and her husband. Missing their caring, young mother, they often found comfort in picking berries. This year I picked berries from my auntie’s field. During the berry jam making, I asked my mother how did my family start growing berries, and my mother told me the story of my grandfather who was brought up by his late father’s lover….my berry story is, indeed, as red as love…
“Red is such an interesting colour to correlate with emotion, because it’s on both ends of the spectrum. On one end you have happiness, falling in love, infatuation with someone, passion, all that. On the other end, you’ve got obsession, jealousy, danger, fear, anger and frustration.” Taylor Swift
Berries, cherries and other fresh fruits, no matter the culture or the place of Earth, are sure the stars of many summer treats, some used more often and others. I love berries and currant to the point of insanity, but even in my kitchen red currents, I believe, are unfairly less fashionable. Even though the little jewels might be a little tart without a fair dash of sugar or syrup, they do look truly beautiful and are truly precious, packed with Vitamin C. These shiny little berries grow low on bushes, hanging from the branches like rows of miniature gems. Their flavour is distinctive and sweet enough to be eaten raw. They pair well with other berries and fruits, such as raspberries, strawberries and melon, and also host a sprinkle of lavender or mint perfectly. They can also be frosted with egg white and caster sugar and used as a decoration.
For the Gateau
6 large free-range eggs
150 g caster sugar
100 g self-raising flour, sifted
50 g cocoa powder, sifted
1 tbsp oil
The Berry Field Jam Filling
240 g mixed berries and red fruit(the mixture of strawberries, raspberries, red currant and sour cherries works beautifully)
A handful of fresh mint leaves
45 ml water
150 g sugar
3 tbsp cornstarch
Cream Cheese Topping
720 ml heavy whipping cream, cold
150 g powdered sugar
1/2 tsp tsp mint extract
450 g cream cheese, chilled
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Lightly grease a 22 cm cake tins and line the base with greased non-stick baking parchment. Break the eggs into a mixing bowl, add the sugar, oil and whisk until the mixture is pale and thick enough to leave a trail when the whisk is lifted out of the bowl. Carefully fold in the sifted flour and cocoa powder. Turn the mixture into the prepared tins. Bake for about 40-45 minutes, until the sponge well risen, springy to touch and beginning to shrink away from the sides of the tin. Turn out onto a floured surface upside down to cool completely and peel off the parchment.
To make the berry field jam topping topping, add the berries, mint leaves and water to a food processor and puree until smooth. Combine the sugar and cornstarch in a medium saucepan. Stir in the berry puree. Cook over medium heat, stirring consistently until mixture thickens and comes to a boil, about 8-10 minutes. Allow to boil for 1 minute, then remove from heat. Refrigerate and allow to cool completely.
To make the cream cheese topping add the heavy whipping cream, powdered sugar and lavender extract to a large bowl and whip on high speed until soft peaks form. Add the mascarpone cheese to the whipped cream and whip until stiff peaks form. It will happen fairly quickly. Set whipped frosting in the refrigerator.
To assemble the cake, use a large serrated knife to cut in three layers. Place the first layer of cake on a serving plate or a cardboard cake round. Pipe a dam of frosting around the outside of the cake. Spread half of the berry filling evenly on top of the cake layer, inside the dam. Add some additional mascarpone frosting to the top of the berry filling and spread into an even layer to fill in the remaining dam space. Add the second layer of cake and repeat the filling layer with the remaining berry filling and additional mascarpone frosting. Add the final layer of cake on top, then smooth out the frosting around the sides of the cake. Cover the outside of the cake, then add the chosen design. Finish off the cake with some swirls of c and cream and some fresh fruit.
“Red is for fire red is for love too it lies in our hand what we wanna choose…” Shivangi Lavaniya