Black Raspberry Birthday Cakes

I felt Farmer’s Market Greed during our Saturday morning trip to the Tower Grove Farmer’s Market. I was in line waiting – relatively patiently, I might add, despite the fact that my eyeballs were starting to sweat and it wasn’t yet 9 a.m. – to purchase a few baskets of fresh, dewy black raspberries. Then the woman at the front of the line chose to buy all the pints displayed on the table. I felt a clenching, anxious panic come over me as I watched her snatch them up.

The person behind me sucked in her breath and said “Oh, are there any left!?”

That’s just what I was wondering, but because I was in the process of sending out invisible extra-pointy asparagus spears into the back of the black raspberry-buying woman’s head, I wasn’t able to articulate the question myself.

It turned out that yes, there were plenty more berries – enough for everyone!

But I was a little traumatized by my greediness. I might need to do some deep breathing before shopping for precious produce next time out.

We just happened to be celebrating a birthday in the middle of a busy weekend, and I thought that individual cakes would be satisfying and fuss-free. I might be a little greedy, but I don’t have time to mess with fussy, fancy cakes. I adapted a recipe for Brown Sugar Bundt Cake from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours (is there any recipe in this book that doesn’t turn out perfectly?) by baking the batter in oversized Texas muffin tins instead of a Bundt pan and reducing the baking time.

These are essentially big, rich cupcakes. They would be yummy without the topping, maybe just a dusting of powdered sugar over the tops.

I would stand in line for these any day. Just don’t buy all the berries!

Black Raspberry Almond Birthday Cakes
for 10 cakes

2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup finely ground almonds, hazelnuts or walnuts
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (8 ounces) butter, softened
2 cups (packed) light brown sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature

Topping:

1 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons sour cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pint mixed fresh berries (blueberries, raspberries and blackberries or black raspberries)
Powdered sugar

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Grease 2 6-cup oversize (Texas) muffin tins with softened butter and dust with flour, tapping out the excess.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl.

In an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar with the paddle attachment on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating for one minute after each addition. Beat in the extracts.

Reduce mixer speed to low and add flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture, and mixing just until dry ingredients are incorporated.

Spoon batter evenly into 10 cups of the muffin tins (pour water 3/4 full into the 2 empty muffin cups for even baking) and bake 20 – 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.

Cool pans on a rack 15 minutes before turning cakes out to cool completely.

To make the topping, combine all ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat at high speed until the mixture forms soft peaks. Dollop over the tops of the cakes and top with berries. Dust with powdered sugar.

Happy Birthday!

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Copyright (c) 2007 FamilyStyle Food

Market Dinner: Fettuccine with Baby Artichokes and Wild Mushrooms

Yesterday was one of those days when I’m glad that I tend to overstock the pantry with dried pasta (among other things), because I was able to throw together this simple dinner using my Portland produce. I found a bag of wild mushroom fettuccine hiding behind the Barilla spaghetti in my cupboard – lucky me.

I’d never had the opportunity to taste a fresh porcini mushroom. I use the dried ones frequently, though. They’re readily available and are pretty strongly flavored – a little goes a long way in soups or sauces. One of my cooking contest friends even used dried porcini “dust” in a prize-winning recipe at the National Beef Cookoff last year.

I ‘d assumed that you had to go Italy or France to find fresh porcini, also known as Boletus edulis (and as “cepes”in French). So I just about fell over when I saw them on the menu in a pasta dish at a little neighborhood restaurant, Alba Osteria, on our first night in Portland. Since Fresh and Local is the mantra there, I was on the lookout for these plump fungi at the market, and sure enough, a wise old forager had a nice selection of them on display at his booth at the Farmer’s Market.

According to him, the mushrooms should be cut in half to ensure there aren’t any critters living inside, and stored in a paper bag in a cool place. I bought one to take home, and it arrived in fine shape. It was only just starting to break a sweat after 8 hours of traveling in my tote bag.

I trimmed the base and most of the leaves off the artichokes (and actually, I could have trimmed off even more – don’t be shy at this step), leaving just a tight, light green ball, and sliced them in half. They were pretty tiny. I cut the mushroom into thick slices, and admired the soft, pure white flesh inside (critter free, thankfully). I braised the artichokes for about 10 minutes in lemon juice, olive oil, fresh garlic and a scoop of pasta water from the fettuccine before adding the mushrooms. They soaked up the liquid like little sponges, and tasted delicious, with a creamy texture and a milder flavor compared to the dried version.

Thanks to the efforts of Alanna at A Veggie Venture, this recipe will be sponsored by this cute little sweet tomato. You can get your own here.
Or better yet, go out and visit your local farmer’s market!

Fettuccine with Baby Artichokes and Wild Mushrooms
serves 4

12 ounces mushroom flavored fettuccine (plain would be just fine)
1/2 pound baby artichokes, bases and tops trimmed off and outer leaves removed down to the pale green part, sliced in half
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 large fresh porcini mushroom, cut into 1/2-wide slices, or 1/4 ounce dried porcini soaked in warm water 15 minutes and drained
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Fresh Italian parsley
Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for grating at the table

Bring a 6-8 quart pot of water to a boil and salt generously – about 2 tablespoons kosher salt.

Place the artichokes in a medium skillet with the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and 1/4 cup water or broth. Cover and place over medium-high heat. Cook until tender when pierced with a fork, 10-15 minutes, adding some of the boiling water if the pan begins to dry. Toss in the mushrooms and cook, uncovered, until tender. Season with salt and pepper and stir in the parsley.

Add the pasta to the pot and cook until al dente. Drain and toss with the sauce in a warmed serving bowl. You could add a large knob of butter at this point, too, if you’re so inclined. Pass the Parmigiano at the table.

Serve with an Oregon Pinor Noir if you’re looking for a perfect pairing.

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Portland Paradise

Baby Artichokes at the Portland Farmer’s Market

Some people come home from faraway places with T-shirts and postcards; I bring porcini mushrooms, freshly harvested garlic, and tiny little artichokes. As Tony Soprano would say, whataya gonna do? I’m hopeless.

I’m totally smitten with the city of Portland, as I knew I would be. Just a few minutes after arriving, I got the feeling the place was like the lovechild of San Francisco and Madison – all tattooed and double-latteed but with a small town Midwestern feel.


Superlative local food, great bookstores, a temperate climate and acres of my most favorite wine grape, pinot noir. I could pitch a tent in any one of the numerous parks, and live very happily. (And people do just that, apparently – there’s a sizable homeless population).

I’d been going on and on to T about how perfectly the place appealed to me, and he just nodded his head. But after we walked a few blocks to the farmer’s market on Saturday morning, I knew I had him. It’s high cherry season in Oregon right now, and for my husband the sight of endless crates of just-picked cherries puts him over the edge. It’s like baiting Cookie Monster with a lifetime pass to the Mrs. Fields factory.


We restrained ourselves, and carefully packed a few pounds to tote home on the plane. We have at least one kid who devours ripe fruit until her belly distends.

I’ll get back to you with the results of tonight’s dinner – I need to cook up those mushrooms and artichokes!


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