Blackberry Lemon Coconut Cream Bars

Friday morning, summer ended.  From my office window, I watched dark clouds blow in and with them came all autumn’s wet and windy glory, leaves swirling through the mist.  I trudged through the garden after school, feet tingly wet, and with muddy fingers, pulled fallen cornstalks, bolted lettuce, and withered melon vines.  I reminisced back to July and August, and even the day before, Thursday, when I was still picking blackberries, knowing all too soon, the weather would change.

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Each year I hoped they’d keep, knew they would not.  – Seamus Heaney

Blackberries. Blackberry picking. Our new apartment complex cozies up to the forest on this edge of town. Wild briers take over here, and to my delight, I have noshed on blackberries for weeks. While not many have found their way into a bucket for later, I’ve made it a mission to send summer off proper like with lemony-coconut cream blackberry bars. They just so happen to be raw, vegan, gluten-free, and super easy.

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Though the photos are a delicious mess, I’d still like to tell you about all the layers of goodness. Dates, nuts and spices make up the salty-sweet bottom layer, followed by fluffy coconut cream with a hint of lemon. The topping, so simple and divine, is pureed berries mixed with a bit of chia seeds to help it set. If they fall apart coming out of the pan, that means you were like me and in being overly anxious to taste, weren’t patient. That’s fine. As is running to snag some frozen berries from the store if all the wild ones in your area are long gone. Relish the last day of summer with me before snuggling into that sweater and pumpkin spice latte.

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This recipe is part of September’s Recipe Redux challenge to create a healthy no-cook dessert. 
 
Lemon Coconut Cream Blackberry Bars {raw, vegan & gluten-free}, inspired by Sprouted Kitchen
4-5 medjool dates, pitted
1/4 cup raw walnut pieces, toasted
1/4 cup raw almonds, toasted
1/2 cup almond meal
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. coconut oil
pinch of salt
1 15 oz. can full-fat coconut milk, chilled
2 Tbs. powdered sugar
zest from 1/2 a lemon
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups blackberries
1 Tbs. chia seed
Stevia extract, to taste 
  • In a food processor, combine dates, nuts, cinnamon, oil and salt.  Puree until finely chopped and the mixture sticks together when pinched with your fingers.  Turn out into a square baking dish (I used a 6 x 8 glass container).
  • Open the chilled coconut milk and without stirring, spoon out the cream layer into a medium bowl.  With a fine mesh strainer, pour out the remainder of the can and keep all the cream that is in the top.  Reserve the watery milk for another use.
  • Whip the coconut cream along with the powdered sugar, lemon zest, and vanilla.  Pour atop the nut layer.
  • In the food processor, puree berries and chia seed until smooth.  Add stevia or sugar to taste.  Pour atop the cream layer, and set into the refrigerator to set for at least 2 hours.  (Or dig in and make a mess, like I did!)

Blackberry Buttermilk Cake—A Birthday

It was my birthday, so I made myself a cake.  Always an adventurer, I finessed a blackberry buttermilk concoction.  We had friends over, my close friends, and despite the joy that it brought me to see them all together with me, I couldn’t help to feel a touch of bittersweet afterwards, as I know this will probably be the last birthday, for now, with us all together.

Nevertheless, the combination of wine and pleasantly intellectual conversations, laughter, and painted watermelons, made for a lovely evening.  Never-mind the cake.  Oh yes, it was so good I had two slices.

 
Blackberry Buttermilk Cake, adapted from Super Natural Every Day, by Heidi Swanson
6 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 3/4 cups cake flour
1 1/2 Tbs. baking powder
3/4 cups baker’s sugar
3/4 tsp. salt
3 large eggs
2 1/4 cup buttermilk
Zest of 2 large lemons
1 1/2 cups blackberries
 
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Butter and flour two 9-inch cake pans.
2. Whisk flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt in a large bowl.  In a separate container, whisk milk, eggs, and butter.  Whisk in the lemon.  Add the wet mixture to the flour and stir until combined.
3. Pour the batter into the prepared pans.  Arrange the berries on top of the batter and gently press in.  
4. Bake for 35 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking.
5. Cool and frost as desired.
 

Lovely Lemon Cake

Cakes.  When I was young I wanted to decorate cakes.  I dreamed of owning an eensy shop with the most exquisite flavors. Colors. Details. 

For years I attempted to decorate cakes that with their uneven edges and soft, fluffy frosting never turned out as I had imagined.

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Last year, I convinced my two roommates to take a cake decorating class with me.  This was the loveliest of adventures.  Anneke, Shannon, and I each baked a cake per week and attempted to learn what real cake decorating required: 

 

Lots of sugar, butter, coloring, and frustration.  Lots of boys stopping by for lots of cake. 

 

Not only was this a special opportunity each week for us to spend quality time together, it resulted in many interesting creations.  Like Shannon’s Proposal cake dedicated to Anneke’s boyfriend, Russel.  Or the “Wedding Cake” baked for the firehouse boys—which meant we never had to worry about getting immediate aid in case of a fire.  Perhaps the best creation that slid out of this class was Tyler’s birthday cake—the one Shannon spent all day creating.  Dark chocolate with vivid blue flowers.  It was served with what has come to be a delicate and infamous beverage—what Tyler termed “pond water.” 

After partaking in this class, testing more frosting recipes than I ever want to again, and getting frustrated with my own lack of patience, I came to the conclusion that I am not a cake artist. 

Yet I still bake lots of cakes.  Whenever I have time.  And decorate them.  These days the cakes end perfectly level.  The frosting consistency and flavor is just so. But the decorations—layers of petals, vines, and scrolls—they’d be better found in a real cake shop.

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Lovely Lemon Cake  adapted from Cooking Light.
1 1/2 cups granulated or ultrafine baking sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
6 egg whites
1 T. each lemon and lime zest
1 T. fresh lemon juice
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1 1/3 cups non-fat milk, plus 1 T. white vinegar
Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting
1 t. each lemon and lime zest
1 t. lemon juice
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
Lemon Curd Filling
3/4 cup sugar
1 T. lemon zest
4 egg yolks (saved from cake)
2/3 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 3 large lemons)
2 T. butter
Preheat oven to 350°.
To prepare the cake, coat 2 (9-inch) round cake pans with cooking spray.
Add vinegar to milk and allow to sit until thick.

Place sugar and butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended (about 5 minutes). Add eggs and the next 3 ingredients (through 1 tablespoon juice); beat well. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, stirring well with a whisk. Add flour mixture and milk alternately to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Spoon batter into prepared pans; tap pans on countertop to remove air bubbles.

Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans on a wire rack 10 minutes; remove cakes from pans. Cool completely on wire racks.

To prepare frosting, place lemon zest and next 3 ingredients (through cream cheese) in a medium bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until smooth (about 1 minute). Gradually add powdered sugar, beating at low speed just until blended (do not overbeat). Cover and chill for 30 minutes.

Prepare Lemon Curd Filling:

Combine the first 3 ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring with a whisk. Cook until sugar dissolves and mixture is light in color (about 3 minutes). Stir in lemon juice and butter; cook for 5 minutes or until mixture thinly coats the back of a spoon, stirring constantly with a whisk. Cool. Cover and chill (the mixture will thicken as it cools).

To Assemble:

Place 1 cake layer on a plate; spread with Lemon Curd. Top with remaining cake layer. Spread frosting over top and sides of cake. Chill 1 hour. Decorate as desired. Store cake loosely covered in refrigerator.

 Pond Water
1 pitcher water
add any or all of the following to taste:
sliced cucumber
sliced orange, lemon, lime
melon chunks
basil, thyme, mint or other herbs

Chill until cold and water is murky.  Enjoy with friends and cake.