Photo courtesy of Driscoll’s
About a week ago I got to be part of an exciting event: Driscoll’s held a holiday cooking and food photography workshop in San Francisco and several local food bloggers, including yours truly, was invited to attend.
I had previously got to tour some of the farms that grow Driscoll’s berries, so another chance to sample their delicious product was most welcome.
Held in the Hands On Gourmet kitchen in the Dogpatch, we were treated to an entertaining cooking demo by the talented Rick Rodgers, who presented several suggestions for holiday treats (I was particularly enticed by the blueberry cobbler cocktail). I have been a Rick Rodgers fangirl ever since I got hold of his Kaffeehaus book, so this was a big thrill for me. Apparently we both are enthusiastic users of pastry tampers (if you don’t have this very useful kitchen tool – do get one!)
After Rick, we then got to see some food styling and photography by the lovely Caren Alpert and Carol Hacker. Caren is a wonderful food photographer – I’ve had the pleasure of seeing her in action before and she is a master of minimalist tactics. She easily makes bounces out of foil, bedsheets, white paper, etc, proving you don’t need tons of expensive equipment to create beautiful photos. Carol owns one of the most extensive prop collections in town: I basically covet her entire inventory. She’s also an experienced stylist and provided pulled the event together with some perfectly chosen pieces from her storeroom.
Photo courtesy of Driscoll’s
You can see some more photos of the event, including the food and the setups, on Driscoll’s page.
Driscoll’s also invited all of us attendees to participate in the event by bringing a dessert made with blackberries. As an incentive, the winner would get a free berries for a year. Now, as a baker, I’m a fan of berries, but hubby is a fiend for berries. I actually don’t make berry desserts as often as I would like because any berries we have get eaten before I can bake with them! So when the husband found out about the contest, he told me I had to enter. For him. So I did.
My entry was what’s pictured at the top of the post: a lemon cupcake on a graham cracker base, with a blackberry jam filling and blackberry buttercream. I pulled it together in the late hours the night before the event, brought them in and crossed my fingers. A couple days later, I got the tweet from Driscoll’s saying my entry had won! Thanks, Driscoll’s! Please know you’ve made our household very, very happy!
Also, as the winner of the contest, I will be working with Driscoll’s on a new recipe to be featured on their site. I’ll let you know when this recipe will be revealed! In the meantime, I hope you’ll enjoy the winning blackberry recipe below. The blackberry and lemon combination is a classic, and I added the graham cracker crust to add crunch and textural contrast to the very light, almost chiffony cake. I wanted to make sure that blackberries were the star, so you get a double dose with the filling and the buttercream. You can substitute blueberries or raspberries if you like – it’ll be a winner either way.
Two other announcements: 1. If you’re tired of my old, non-updated About Me page, head on over to Knitting Contessa where I’m interviewed as part of her 12 Days of Knitting Contrismas event. I’m also giving away a set of my two books in the interview, so check it out!
2. The wonderful Shannie of Shannie Cakes, who did my wedding cake, has released her line of holiday cakes. I helped photograph these beauties, so take a look at her website – and if you are looking for a custom cake, I can vouch for their tastiness!
Graham Cracker Crust
- 1 1/2 cups (160 g) graham crackers
- 1/3 cup (76 g) unsalted butter, melted
- 1/4 cup (50 g) sugar
- 3 cups (375 g) cake flour
- 2 1/2 teaspoons (11.5 g) baking powder
- 1 teaspoon (6 g) salt
- 1 cup (244 g) whole milk
- 2 teaspoons (8 g) vanilla extract
- 1 cup (227 g) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 2 cups (200 g) sugar
- 2 large egg, room temperature
- 4 large egg whites
- zest of 2 lemons
- 2 large egg whites
- 1/2 cup (100 g) sugar
- 3/4 cup (170 g) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 3 oz (85 g) blackberry puree
- 1/2 cup blackberry jam for filling
For the crust:
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two 12-cup muffin tins with cupcake papers.
- Pulse graham crackers in food processor into fine crumbs.
- Add butter and sugar and pulse until combined.
- Place about 2 teaspoon of graham cracker mixture into the bottom of each cupcake paper. Use your fingers or a pastry tamper to press mixture firmly together.
- Place muffin tins in oven and bake for 5 minutes. Remove and let cool while you make the cupcake batter.
For the cupcakes:
- Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.
- Combine milk and vanilla in a measuring cup and set aside.
- Place butter and sugar in bowl of stand mixer. Cream together for 3-5 minutes until light and fluffy.
- Add in eggs and egg whites one at a time, beating to fully combine before adding the next one.
- Add in the flour mixture and milk in five alternating additions, starting and ending with the flour. Mix just to incorporate before adding the next addition.
- Fill cupcake papers about 3/4 full with batter. Bake for 16 to 20 minutes, rotating pans halfway through. Cupcakes should be just starting to turn golden on top and a tester inserted in the center should come out clean.
- Remove from oven and let cool on wire racks while you make the buttercream.
For the buttercream:
- Combine egg whites and sugar in a metal bowl. Place over a pan of simmering water.
- Whisk the mixture constantly over heat until sugar is dissolved and mixture looks smooth and shiny. Continue whisking until the mixture reaches 160 degrees F.
- Remove mixture from heat and pour into a stand mixer bowl. Whisk on medium speed for about 5 minutes until the mixture has cooled.
- Switch to the paddle attachment and with the speed on low, add the butter a few pieces at a time, beating until smooth. Do not add the butter too quickly or beat too quickly or the buttercream may break.
- When all the butter has been added, beat the buttercream on medium-high speed for about 6-10 minutes until it is very thick and smooth. It may appear to separate briefly but continue beating and it should come back together.
- Add the blackberry puree to the buttercream and beat to combine. (To make the puree, puree the berries in a food processor and strain out the seeds).
To assemble the cupcakes:
- Cut a small core out of the center of each cupcake. Fill with a spoonful of blackberry jam (you can also use fresh blackberry puree). Fill a piping bag with the buttercream and pipe a swirl on top of each cupcake.