Blackberry Nectarine Cake with Vanilla Sage German Buttercream

  It’s been well over two months since I last made a cake, even eaten a slice of one!  For most people that may be normal, but me?  I love baking cakes, so I usually make them on a monthly basis.  So, two months cake-free was a new record for me, hehe.  

  I like getting creative with fresh, seasonal fruits when it comes to baking.  It can get a little difficult at times, especially with layer cakes.  I really wanted to make a cake with nectarines and also use what little bit of wild blackberries I spent hours scavenging for(thanks, Japanese beetles!).  With this particular cake, I put a lot of brain effort into getting it to come out.  I was working with some pretty juicy fruit.  So, I sat down and did the math for what seemed like hours.  I weighed out every ingredient to the gram and then put the recipe to the test.  Many times the recipes I create take at least two to three(sometimes four)tries before getting my “blog-worthy” stamp, especially when it’s a cake.  My only fear when making this cake was that the nectarines would make the cakes sink in the center, even though I boiled most the juices out before adding the pulp to the batter and that it would make it really heavy.  I was wrong.  For the first time ever, my cake turned out just as I wanted and on the first try! The layers were light in weight and extremely moist(in a good way); the texture was tender and not too sweet. 

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  The blackberries gave it a different color than I expected, I only used a couple tablespoons of blackberry juice.  I was shooting for a purple hue, instead, I got a slight greenish tint(most likely from the baking soda and baking powder).  Some may think of that as fail and proceed to tweak the recipe more; honestly, I rather like the way it turned out.  It doesn’t look perfect and I am one of those people that like things that don’t look perfect.  It makes things more interesting!  

  For the buttercream, I wanted something more than your plain American buttercream.  I took a step forward and tried my hand at German buttercream.  I’m so glad I did as it went perfectly with this cake and tasted so good!  I used this recipe from BraveTart because it looked and sounded amazing(and it was amazing!).  It’s smooth and has the perfect amount of sweetness to it.  The vanilla and sage really complemented the nectarine flavor in the cake as well.

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Blackberry Nectarine Cake

INGREDIENTS
175g unsalted butter, room temp.
500g granulated sugar
4 large eggs (210g)
250g cake flour (2 cups + 2 tablespoons)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
312g whole milk, room temp. (1 1/4 cups)
1/3 cup + 2 tablespoons nectarine pulp (use about 3 large ripe nectarines)
2 tablespoons blackberry juice (use about a 1/3 cup fresh blackberries)

METHOD

Preheat oven to 350°F / 177°C.  Prepare three, 8-inch cake pans by greasing, lining with parchment, then lightly greasing again.
For the nectarine pulp: Peel and pit the nectarines.  Cut into quarters and add to a food processor/blender and pulse 4-5 times till the fruit is loose and clumpy.  Pour into a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat, cooking for 8 minutes and stirring often(it burns easily).  Once done, pour into a wire sieve over a bowl(to catch the juices) and use a spoon to press all the juices out.  Spread the pulp out onto a clean plate and let it come to room temperature.  For the blackberry juice:  Mash a 1/3 cup of fresh blackberries with a fork and add to a small saucepan over low heat, cook, stirring gently till most the juices come out(about 4 minutes).  Pour into a sieve and press the juices out. Discard the pulp.  Add the blackberry juice to the milk and bring to room temperature before using.

For the cake:  In an electric mixer with whisks attached, add the butter and sugar.  Beat on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy (about 8 minutes).  Add the eggs, one at a time(and scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl after each addition).  If you’re using measuring cups, use a large spoon to fill the measuring cup with flour, then use a knife to level it off.  So, whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.  Add a third of the flour to the butter/sugar mixture, then a third of the milk, beat on medium speed till just combined. Repeat this process till the other 2/3 of the milk and flour are combined.  Using a spatula, fold in the nectarine pulp till it is distributed evenly throughout the batter.  Pour evenly amongst the three pans.  Bake for 30 minutes, then check for doneness with a toothpick.   If the toothpick comes out clean, it’s done; if it’s wet, bake for 2 more minutes.
Once done, let the cakes sit in their pans for 10 minutes.  Using a sharp knife, gently loosen the cake from the sides of the pan and invert onto wire racks to cool completely(about two hours).

Vanilla Sage German Buttercream

INGREDIENTS 
Recipe slightly adapted from BraveTart

16 ounces whole milk
2 vanilla bean pods, split and scraped, seeds set aside in a small bowl
2 medium-sized sage leaves, fresh
10 ounces sugar
1.5 ounces cornstarch
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
16 ounces unsalted butter, room temp.
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

METHOD

  Slit the two vanilla bean pods and scrape out the seeds, place them(the seeds) in a bowl to use later.  In a medium sized saucepan, combine the milk, vanilla bean pods, and sage leaves.  Once the milk starts to simmer, remove from heat and let the mixture steep for about 30 minutes(or more for a more intense flavor).  Once steeped, remove vanilla bean pods and the sage leaves.  Return the milk to a simmer over medium-low heat.  In a mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar, scraped vanilla bean seeds, cornstarch, whole eggs, and egg yolks.  Stream a 1/2 cup of the hot milk into the egg mixture, stirring constantly till it is fully incorporated and the mixture is warm.  Now, pour the egg mixture into the saucepan of hot milk, stirring constantly while doing so, and turn the heat to medium.  Keep stirring the mixture till it begins to thicken and bubble very slowly.  Once it begins to bubble, continue stirring for 1 minute(use a timer). Once the timer goes off, immediately pour the custard into a large bowl.  Press a layer of plastic wrap over the custard(so it won’t form a skin)and place in the refrigerator to cool completely(at least 1 hour).
 Once the custard has cooled, remove from the fridge. Beat the butter and salt on medium speed with an electric mixer till smooth and creamy.  Begin spooning large portions of the custard into the butter while beating on medium-high speed. Beat till the mixture is smooth and is completely incorporated.

Assemble the cake:
  Place the first layer on your cake stand, cake board, or plate. Add about 1 cup of the frosting and evenly spread around. Add the second layer, bottom(flat side)facing up, and add another 1 cup of frosting; spread evenly.  Now, place the third layer evenly on top of the second, again, bottom side facing up.  Add remaining frosting.  Decorate with fresh flowers and greenery(optional).  Cut and serve.

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