Berry good cake

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Blackcurrant and vanilla drizzle cake

This summer, they bore their first fruit and I froze them – but what to do with them?

There were no family recipes to draw on, so I turned to the net for inspiration. Here’s three recipes with a little personal twist. Enjoy!

This cake is a delightful twist on your usual lemon drizzle cake. It can be made with any combination of summer berries.

Beware though – it sent my 1978 mixer to its death. It’s a heavy batter, so make sure your food processor/arms are up to it.

6oz/150g very soft butter

6oz/150g golden caster sugar or demerara sugar

9oz/225g self-raising flour

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla essence

6oz/150g blackcurrants

5oz/125g granulated sugar

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/ gas mark 4. Butter a 2lb loaf tin or small round loose-bottomed tin and line the bottom and sides with baking parchment.

Put the butter, caster sugar, flour, eggs and vanilla into a large bowl.

Beat together with an electric mixer/food processor until pale and creamy (about five minutes).

Spread one-third of the batter into the tin and sprinkle with 1/3 of the blackcurrants.

Dot another 1/3 of the batter over the currants and sprinkle another 1/3 of the blackcurrants over top. Spread with the remaining batter, reserving the remainder of the currants for the topping.

Cook in the pre-heated oven for about one hour, until risen and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Remove from the oven but don’t remove from the tin.

Place the rest of the currants in a bowl with the granulated sugar and lemon juice, lightly mashing the fruit with a fork.

Poke holes all over the cake with a skewer. Spoon the fruit mixture over the top evenly. Allow to cool completely before removing from the tin. (The top should be crisp.)

Black is back in fashion

THE bushes I chose are Ben Lomond, mainly because of its reliability and frost resistance, as it is late flowering.

It produces heavy yields of large, short-stalked berries, which are ready to harvest in late summer.

Fully-grown bushes should yield about 4.5kg (10lb) of fruit.

Blackcurrants prefer well-drained, moisture-retentive soil in full sun, but will tolerate light shade.

You can buy plants bare rooted or in containers. Bare-root plants are dormant and can be planted now, as long as the soil is not too wet or frozen.

Container bushes can be planted at any time.

A few weeks before planting, add lots of well-rotted manure and Growmore at the rate of 85g per sq m (3oz per sq yd).

Set each plant at least 6cm (2.25in) deeper than it was previously. Deep planting encourages young, vigorous shoots to develop from the base.

If growing in a container, choose one that is 45-50cm (18-20in) in diameter, using a good-quality compost such as John Innes No 3, mixed with one-third grit.

In late winter, feed with Growmore and mulch around the base.

You can prune blackcurrants now. Fruit forms on young wood, so aim to remove older wood.

Up to and including the fourth year after planting, remove weak, wispy shoots, retaining a basic structure of six to 10 healthy shoots.

After year four, cut out about one-third of the older wood at the base, using a pair of loppers or a pruning saw.