Do you remember the search for the Seville orange that kept many of us occupied for a full month? This week's search for the elusive marionberry reminded me of that.
Nothing if not resourceful, the Heavenly Cake Bakers looked high and low for marionberries (fresh or frozen). Did the absence of marionberries stop anyone from making marionberry shortcake? Indeed it did not. There were nearly as many substitutes as there were bakers, and all the varieties of fruit went well with the delicate, beurre noisette-flavored sponge cakes.
If you're going to make shortcake--even a spongecake shortcake--and you don't have access to marionberries, the logical first choice for replacement berry would be the strawberry. That's what Mendy did, and he mixed a little strawberry juice in the whipped cream for a pretty pink tinge. Kristina too used strawberries, adding "a handful from [her] own patch of 5 everbearing plants" to her storebought berries. Apparently berries of any kind are in short supply in Malaysia, but Gartblue's husband proudly presented her with a kilogram of jaw-droppingly expensive berries, so she made a double batch of the shortcakes, which are already long gone. Lois added her own special take by roasting the strawberries, both to help her sister's food allergy and to make the flavor more "intense, tart and sweet."
Lynnette substituted fresh raspberries (also with the pink-tinted whipped cream), which is a natural choice because, as Rose noted in her comments, the raspberry is a close biological relative of the marionberry.
An even closer relative is the generic blackberry, which both Raymond, who was reminded of his "childhood when we had whole fields of them in our neighborhood and we children would spend all day in what we called “Blackberry Land” picking and eating them," and Lola, who jazzed hers up with a little cabernet jelly and homemade Greek yogurt, used. Nancy B. opted for frozen blackberries after being unable to find marionberries in Atlanta, and was sorry she hadn't remembered Rose's warning about using fresh berries if frozen marionberries are not to be had. Still, she liked the combination of fruit, cake, and creme fraiche.
Katya balked at calling these cakes "shortcakes," which means a biscuit-like creation to her, but liked them all the same with her "tiny Maine blueberries."
And yes, there were a few people who managed to make the marionberry shortcakes with marionberries. In fact, Julie insisted that it was the marionberries are "what made this dessert fantastic"--and she should know, since she made it twice. Once to get it out of the pan, and once not. Vicki said she "felt like she won the Marionberry lottery" when she found the berries at her local natural foods co-op, and her blog helpfully includes a link to Stahlbush Farms, which will tell you your closest source for frozen marionberries if you type in your ZIP. She didn't make the cakes twice, but she made both whipped cream and whipped creme fraiche--and topped her own piece with both. A woman who knows how to live. Jenn's source was Vitamin Cottage, and she loved the result: "Oh boy oh boy oh boy... This is one of THE BEST cakes from RHC. Light, moist, and tender. The berries added a wealth of flavor - sweet and slightly tangy. I don't know if I'm still giddy from finding frozen marionberries or it's the chambord talking."
But the person who is truly giddy from finding the marionberry, and the FEATURED BAKER this week is Jennifer, whose post title contains two exclamation points!! Because she grabbed the gold ring: fresh marionberries straight from Sauvie Island Farms right smack in the middle of Marion County itself. Spying a lone marionberry at the bottom of the bush, Jennifer's friend Cookie picked it and ate it, which prompted her to insist that if there was one berry left, there must be a bucketful. After an hour of searching, Jennifer and Cookie had a pound of beautiful berries. Jennifer likened the juice-brushed cakes to "kids who got into their mom's lipstick." And, although she loved the cakes, Jennifer said her favorite way to eat the berries is "right out of hand, preferably while still standing in the berry patch, juices staining my fingers and mouth purple with Oregon's summer bounty." Should she be hired by the State of Oregon to do a little promo?
No searches are involved for the next cake, unless you need to search out some high-fat cocoa or some "fine-quality" unsweetened chocolate for the Chocolate Layer Cake with Caramel Ganache. However, noticing that this layer cake requires you to make your own layers by cutting a cake in half, I'm going off in search of the cake slicer/leveler that was recommended to me the last time I complained about my uneven cake layers. I hope I can find it in time, or there will undoubtedly be more complaining.
The following week, we'll be doing gold ingots--the third of three financier recipes in the book, and your last chance to buy the silicone financier pans to make them properly (we've already done the chocolate and peanut butter ingots). But if you don't want financier pans lying around in your kitchen cabinets, people have successfully made these little cakes in many shapes and sizes.