Although autumn is my favorite season by a long shot, I’ll readily admit that summer has a lot going for it. The warm months usher in an unparalleled joy and vibrancy as the city comes alive with park picnics, bountiful farmers markets, the aroma of street food fairs and unusually cheerful New Yorkers.
Many of my childhood memories are rooted in the summer season as well: picking black raspberries from the bushes in our neighborhood, running to the local river in search of crawling fish, catching fireflies in broad daylight, my grandmother taking my nails. To paint Beautifully painted natural red color using desi flower petals. Popsicles and watermelon were welcome treats, but nothing could beat the homemade bingo – sticky sweetened condensed milk in a bowl of Korean shaved ice, chewy morsels of packaged rice cakes, red bean paste (which I had used as a kid). I had left in… silly me), and ended up with Misugaru, pouring milk over. Icy, no-frills perfection.
If the start of summer, with full energy and potential, has always felt like an occasion to celebrate, then this year it feels even more festive as the city begins to recover from the pandemic. And because any celebration is an excuse for dessert, I dreamed up a fun, seasonal cake to inaugurate the season: a simple but elegant matcha blackberry layer cake. Jammy, lightly mashed blackberries and silky whipped mascarpone cream are sandwiched between 8-inch rounds of just-sweet-enough matcha cake to create a colorful, striking dessert that will turn heads (and sure to win you new friends).
Even though I’m a pastry chef, the truth is that any kind of careful frosting work is enough to drive me through a recipe. For this reason, this cake is one that you can put together on a large plate using the highly technical “stack and serve” method. Given that cake layers are left uncovered, it’s important to use fresh matcha powder, rather than whatever you have in your pantry for who knows how long. The fresher the powder, the more vibrant the greenish-purple cross section of the cake will be.
Although I originally envisioned this as a 6-inch cake, the layers turned out to be very long and not cumbersome to slice when serving. Pointing to the 8-inch cake during the testing process, adjusted according to recipe proportions, resolved this issue and created an even better ratio of cream to fruit. Plus, a slightly larger cake means you can share it with more people – although speaking from personal experience, you might be surprised how easy it is to eat it, and keep eating.
While I happily ditch this cake year-round, I can’t think of a better way to welcome the warmer weather, longer nights, and what feels like we’ve returned to normalcy in a year. It’s a celebratory start to the season – and the new beginning – we’ve all been waiting for.
Matcha Blackberry Layer Cake with Mascarpone Cream
Makes 8-inch layer cake
1½ cups (210 grams) flour
3 tbsp (15 g) matcha powder
2¼ tsp baking powder
tsp kosher salt
1½ sticks (170 g) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (225 grams) granulated sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
tsp pure vanilla extract
cup (165 g) whole milk at room temperature in moderation
12 oz (2 standard package) fresh blackberries
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
For Mascarpone Cream:
8 oz mascarpone, chilled
1 cup heavy whipping cream, chilled
3 to 4 tablespoons powdered sugar, depending on your sweetness preference
tsp pure vanilla extract
Phase 1: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease three 8-inch round cake pans with nonstick cooking spray, line the bottoms with parchment rounds, and grease the parchment. (If you don’t have three pans, you can bake in batches and reuse the pans.)
step 2: In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, matcha powder, baking powder and salt. To cancel.
step 3: In a large bowl, beat butter with an electric hand mixer or in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until smooth. add sugar; Whisk the mixture until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Scrape the bowl with a rubber spatula.
step 4: Add eggs one by one, beating after each addition until combined. Scrape bowl once more, then whisk in vanilla.
Step 5: Sift half of the dry ingredients over the creamed butter mixture and whisk until blended. Carefully whisk in the milk, then sieve the rest of the dry ingredients and whisk until the batter is smooth.
Step 6: Divide the batter equally among all the three pans. Smooth the surfaces with a small offset spatula, then place the pan in the oven. (You can also place the pans on a baking sheet, which will make them easier to turn.) Bake the cakes for 17 to 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Step 7: Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 to 15 minutes, then gently run a small offset spatula around the sides of the cake to loosen it. Carefully invert them onto the cooling rack.
Step 8: Prepare Blackberries: In a large bowl, toss blackberries with 2 tablespoons sugar. Reserve a handful of whole berries (to decorate the top of the cake), then mash the rest of the blackberries with the back of a large spoon, leaving a few pieces of fruit intact.
Step 9: Make Mascarpone Cream: In a large bowl, whisk together mascarpone, heavy cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla. Using an electric mixer or stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the ingredients—starting on low speed to prevent splattering—until the cream comes together and forms medium to hard peaks. Take care not to be too fast.
Step 10: When the layers are completely cool, assemble the cake. Place one layer on a large plate or cake stand, spread one-third of the mascarpone cream over it, and top with one-third of the blackberry mixture. (Use more fruit than juice.) Repeat with remaining layers, adding reserved whole berries on top to finish. You can either lightly frost the outside of the cake or leave it unfrosted for a rustic yet beautiful look.
Note: For an attractive purple hue, drizzle a little blackberry juice over the cake and swirl it in a layer of cream before garnishing with mashed and whole berries.
Joy Chow is a pastry chef and freelance writer based in Brooklyn. After losing her job as a pastry cook at the start of the pandemic, Joy launches Joy Chow Pastry, an Instagram business through which she sells her Gem Cakes in the New York City area.
celeste knight is a Filipino American food, travel and portrait photographer based between Portland, Oregon and San Francisco.
Recipes Tested by Dina Pritchep