Spicebush berries have one of my favorite flavors of the wild because their complex flavor really holds its own when used in baked goods. This brilliant red berry adds the unmistakable zing of fresh orange peel, along with notes of cinnamon, allspice, and even a hint of nutmeg! When baking with spicebush, I tend to use the spicebush berries (aka spiceberries) as the only flavoring because they have such a pleasant and complex flavor.
My favorite way of working with spiceberries is to dehydrate them after the fall harvest, then store them in a jar in my freezer to prevent rancidity. Once dehydrated and frozen, they make a lovely spicebush berry powder when run through a coffee grinder or spice mill. Some people like to separate the flesh and the seed of the berry before dehydrating to use in separate applications, but I find that I enjoy the complex flavor of the whole berries. Plus, I have no desire to sit around skinning spiceberries!
Unfortunately this year I wasn’t able to dehydrate many spiceberries, but I did have some fresh-frozen berries stashed in the freezer. This led me to experiment with a wet ground paste, which I was initially hesitant about because I like the uniformity of the dehydrated powder. However, I found that the wet ground paste works well in a cake batter, particularly when whisked together with the sugar and eggs.
After testing this recipe with just the wet spicebush berry paste, my biggest critique was that the apples didn’t taste enough like spicebush berry! Luckily, sprinkling some powder from the dehydrated berries onto the freshly cut apples seemed to do the trick. If you don’t have any dehydrated spiceberries, feel free to leave this step out, as the plain apples do provide a nice counterpoint to the spicebush berry-perfumed batter.
A light autumnal cake that is equally at home as a snack or a light dessert. This recipe is adapted from Clotilde Dusoulier's Gateau de Mamy.
I like to use Jonathan or Jonagold apples in this cake, if available, although any tart baking apple will work.
Wet ground spicebush berry paste. My favorite way to make a wet ground spicebush berry paste is to start with whole frozen spicebush berries then process them in a coffee grinder or spice mill till they form a smooth paste. A mortar and pestle would work nicely as well. Once the paste has formed, just make sure that there aren’t any large chunks lurking amongst the paste. If you find one, you can mash it with a spoon, or just remove it from the paste.
Spicebush berry powder. To make a finely ground spicebush berry powder, I like to take frozen dehydrated berries and pop them into a coffee grinder, then process till they’re finely ground. The reason I used frozen berries is because I store my dehydrated berries in the freezer to prevent rancidity. I imagine that room temp dehydrated berries would work as well. Once powdered in the coffee grinder or spice mill, I pass the powder through a fine mesh sieve to break up any clumps.
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