Sunday, 6 October 2013

Blackberry and almond crumble squares

3 blackberry and almond crumble squares
Much as I love summer, autumn can also be a fantastic season: beautiful colours and lots of fantastic autumnal fruit ready to be harvested. For me, one of autumn’s greatest pleasures is blackberrying: it’s something that we did as a family, scrambling around the cliffs of Guernsey, eating more blackberries than actually made it into the tubs!  This year seems to have been a bumper year for blackberries and so EHH and I spent a fab afternoon on the outskirts of Bath, clambering into the middle of bramble bushes in search of big juicy berries.

We returned home with a good haul of blackberries and so the next decision was what to make with them! Blackberry and apple crumble was an absolute must but I also fancied making a cake. I’ve made a few crumble cakes recently (rhubarb and marzipan crumble cake; raspberry and apple crumble squares) but wanted to make something new. I was planning to visit a friend who has just had a baby so the oats in this Good Food recipe seemed like a good idea.

The original recipe was blackberry and coconut but I’m generally not sure about dessicated coconut in a cake as it can be rather dry, so I decided to substitute the coconut with ground almonds. I also upped the quantity of oats (and lowered the flour accordingly) and added the additional grated marzipan (this gives fantastic crunch and sweetness to the crumble topping) and chopped hazelnuts (just because I love the nutty flavour and crunchy texture that these add).

This cake was simple to make but I was a little worried that the mix that went in the oven was rather dry and not at all like a typical cake! Don’t be concerned by this – it works out just fine! Judging when the cake is cooked is probably the trickiest part: the crumble topping means that you can’t test the springy-ness of the cake. You will need to test the cake with a metal skewer: the cake will be cooked when the skewer comes out clean, with no sticky cake mixture attached. Make sure that you test in several parts of the cake. On this occasion, I forgot to use my magi-cake strips, which meant that the cake was slightly over-baked at the edge – must remember these next time!

This isn’t a light and fluffy cake: the texture is something between a cake and a flapjack; it's possible that this is due to the addition of ground almonds rather than coconut. The blackberries add a nice sharp flavour contract to the oatiness of the cake. These cakes aren’t particularly sweet – they’d actually work quite well as a tasty and filling oaty breakfast snack. It would work well as a dessert with custard and some more berries, or if I were to serve for afternoon tea, it would be nice served with clotted cream and berries. On the day of baking, the crumble topping was fantastic – crunchy and crumbly with lots of flavour. Unfortunately, after a day, it lost most of its crunch as the moisture from the blackberries seeped up into the topping. However, although they weren’t as good as they were on the day due to the loss of the contrast in textures, these cakes did last well for over a week. 

I think if I were to make these again, I’d consider adding more fruit – possibly a couple of sliced Granny Smith apples. Having recently made a fantastic carrot, pistachio and coconut cake, I’ve been swayed in my opinion about dessicated coconut and would like to give it a go in this cake.

Blackberry and almond crumble cake

Blackberry crumble cake cooling on a wire rack before cutting
Cooling on the rack

  1. 200g self-raising flour
  2. 75g oats
  3. 280g soft brown sugar
  4. 200g cold butter, cut into pieces
  5. 75g ground almonds / desiccated coconut
  6. 75g grated marzipan (optional)
  7. 30g chopped hazelnuts
  8. 2 medium eggs, beaten
  9. 350g frozen or fresh blackberries


  1. Heat oven to 180C.
  2. Line a rectangular brownie tin (31 x 17cm), or a 21cm square tin.
  3. Tip the flour, oats and sugar into a large bowl. Rub the butter into the flour mixture using your fingertips until only small pea-size pieces remain.
  4. Stir through the coconut/almonds.
  5. Fill a teacup with this mixture and set this aside.
  6. Stir the eggs into the remaining bowl of mixture and mix until evenly combined.
  7. Spread over the bottom of the lined baking tin, smoothing the surface with the back of a spoon
  8. Scatter over the blackberries.
  9. Scatter over the reserved teacup mixture of crumble.
  10. Scatter over the grated marzipan and chopped hazelnuts.
  11. Place in oven and bake for 1 hr-1 hr 15 mins until golden and cooked through (if you poke a skewer in, it should come out with moist crumbs but no wet mixture). 
  12. Leave to cool, then remove from the tin and cut into squares.

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