Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Rescue Cake

It was my son's 11th birthday this past weekend and to mark the occasion he didn't want a cake, he wanted Grasshopper Pie.  When I bought my copy of Kitchen by Nigella Lawson years ago, he flipped through the pages and found a recipe for this pie.  For years he has asked me to make it and for years I have avoided it.  I can't really say why, it is after all mint and chocolate come together in my favorite desert form.  But you know how there are some recipes that intimidate you?  Well this was one of them.

However, 11 is a big number and really, it was kind of a sweet request.  I mean how many 11 year old boys do you know would ask for Grasshopper pie for their birthday?  So I set out to make it, bought all of the ingredients (more on that later) and had it all organized with the crust chilling in the fridge.  I went to make the filling later that day, following the directions exactly and then the cream started separating into a curdled, disgusting, green mess.  My husband lovingly said, "just whip it a bit more"  but that only made it worse. I painfully had to dump it down the sink.  The thing with this pie is that it has to chill in the fridge overnight and the party was the next day.  It was 4:30 in the afternoon, the dream of this pie was over and I was up s*&it creek without a whisk.  I sat on the stairs in my kitchen, head in hands cursing birthday parties all together wondering what on earth I was going to do now.  I didn't have enough whipping cream to try the filling again and I was in no mood to go to the store...again.  I was just about to go to Dairy Queen and get an ice cream cake but honestly I was too exhausted from the day and too defeated to even do that.

Then I remembered this cake recipe.  I have made it many times before, it is easy to put together and has that nostalgic smell of boxed cake batter without all the garbage that goes into those mixes.  It is that cake of your childhood when you think "Birthday Cake"  It is also the kind of cake that uses basic pantry ingredients so no special shopping required.  I pulled out the milk, eggs, butter and flour and got to work.  This cake comes together so quickly that even my son was amazed.  So from now on I don't call it Yellow Cake, it has been reborn as Rescue Cake.

So the next time you have a birthday party to bake a cake for, I highly recommend this one. It is fool proof, so much better than the boxed batter and very gratifying to make. I did end up making the Grasshopper Pie the day after, I'll post about that later.  But in the meantime, the cake was a delicious hit.

Rescue Cake
Adapted from Wilton Basic Yellow Cake

3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup butter, softened
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups milk, at least 2% don't use skim here

Preheat the oven to 350℉.  Grease 2 8-inch round cake pans and line with parchment paper.  You can also use a rectangular cake pan if you want to make a sheet cake or 12 cupcake liners if you prefer cupcakes. If you do use this recipe for cupcakes you will need to adjust the cooking time as they will bake faster.

Sift flour, baking powder and salt together into a small bowl and set aside.  In your stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  If you don't have a stand mixer use your hand beaters or you can also do this with a wooden spoon and some elbow grease. Add the eggs, one at a time and the vanilla until combined. Now add your flour and milk alternating between the two until everything has come together into a lovely yellow, creamy batter.  Pour into your cake pans and bake for 30 minutes.  Test with a toothpick to make sure it is done and let cool before removing from the pans.  You can make this the night before, just cover with a tea towel and frost the next day if you want to take the pressure off yourself.

The Best Chocolate Frosting Ever. 
Adapted from Chocolate Butter Cream Frosting from Add a Pinch

1 1/2 cups unsalted butter softened
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
3/12-4 cups icing sugar, sifted
1/2 cup milk, at least 2%
1-2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract 

I like to buy butter in sticks to make this easier but you can certainly buy it by the pound. Cut your butter into large cubes and put in a large bowl.  This will make it easier to cream.  Sift the cocoa powder into the bowl (DO NOT skip this step, it will ensure that you don't have lumpy frosting).  Cream the butter and the cocoa together with a wooden spoon.  You can do this with your stand mixer or hand beaters, but I seem to get better results with just a spoon and a bit of effort.  Once combined, add the sifted (again to eliminate lumps) icing sugar one cup at a time, alternating with one tablespoon of milk to the mixture until it comes together into creamy, chocolaty goodness.  I prefer my frosting a little less sweet which is why I have suggested 3 1/2 - 4 cups of sugar.  Taste as you go and see what you like.  Add the vanilla one teaspoon at a time, again to taste.  I guarantee you, this is worlds better than the junk you buy in a can at the store.  

To frost the cake

Take the cakes out of the pans.  Turn one cake upside down, spread a modest layer of frosting on top.  Now place the second cake right side up on top of the first one.  This way you should have two flat layers against each other with the rounded side up.  Now frost with a palate knife if you have one or a small spatula or even a butter knife.  This frosting recipe makes loads so you will have plenty to generously frost this cake.  Decorate with sprinkles, fruit, whatever you like.  This will make anyone's birthday a happy one. 

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Potato Leek Soup

This can be a crazy time of year.  School is in full swing, everyone seems to be in some kind of after school activity and don't even get me started on how Christmas is around the corner.  We used to be a very low key family and in many ways we still are.  But now that both kids and my husband are in activities and I have taken a part time job, suddenly life has gotten exponentially busier.  There are nights of the week that I need simple recipes that are easy and quick to cook but don't compromise on quality.  Soup is always the winner.   

Back in 1997 I spent the summer living in Smithers BC working on a sheep farm as a nanny, cook and gardener.  The family that I worked for had one of the most beautiful kitchens that I have ever seen complete with a catering fridge.  The mum of the house had been a caterer and was passionate about food.  Being able to cook was part of the job requirement and while I was only 22 years old at the time I was already in love with food and cooking.  That summer I learned how to make all kinds of wonderful things, and I got paid to do it which was the best part.  But of all the things I cooked that summer, it was this potato leek soup that I am most grateful that I learned how to make.  It has always been my fall back when I need something quick and cheap to make; good food doesn't need to cost a fortune.  My kids love it and if you make a bit extra you can put it in their Thermos for lunches the next day.  It is full of flavor and with a green salad and some bread and cheese it is the perfect fall supper.

Potato Leek Soup

1 Tbsp unsalted butter
Drizzle of olive oil
2 Leeks sliced
1 onion diced
1 garlic clove diced
2 carrots peeled diced
2 stalks celery diced
2 potatoes diced
pinch of fresh or dried thyme if you have it
Salt and pepper to taste
1 liter chicken or vegetable stock 
1/4 cup milk

Wash and trim your leeks.  To do this, cut the very end of the leek off as well as the dark green ends.  Split the leek in half and make sure that there isn't any sand in between the layers.  Slice into half-moons.  Dice the onion, garlic and celery.  Heat up a soup pot on medium head and melt the butter and oil. Add the leeks, onions and garlic and saute until soft.  Add the celery and carrots and saute for another 5 minutes.  Finally add the potatoes, thyme, salt and pepper.  Add enough stock so that you cover the vegetables, you don't want this drowning in liquid.  Cook partially covered until the vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes.  Take the pot off the heat and blend with an immersion blender.  If you don't have one of these (please get one, it will save you a lot of grief in the kitchen) transfer in batches to a blender and blend until smooth.  Bring the pot back to a low heat and stir in the milk.  Serve with some crusty bread, cheese and a salad.  

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Delicious Roasted Yam and Ricotta Tart

Fall is by far my favorite season.  It is that time of year when the rain feels like a welcome relief to the beating sun of summer, the salmon start spawning in the river at the end of our street and the yellow leaves of the big leaf maple trees look like little lanterns against the grey sky.  We light the fire, pull out the blankets and make pots of tea.  It is also the time of year for cozy, warming food.

If there is one thing I have learned as a home cook, it is to buy what is in season and to buy it locally, as best you can.  This may sound like Eco-snobbery, but it is no such thing, it is practical.  My dad grew up in Hungary in the 1930's and 40's.  He had wonderful stories to tell about the seasons and how each one brought with it a special treat that they waited for all year long.  Summertime was the time for watermelons, juicy and ripe, perfect on hot days.  Fall was harvest time with grapes, fresh bacon and mushrooms.  He could never understand why we would buy strawberries in January or watermelon in March.  It didn't make sense to him because when he was young having out of season fruits and vegetables was unheard of.  They ate what was grown locally, not shipped from far away lands. 

Buying in season means that we get our food when it is fresh and at its peak. That is why those strawberries taste so good in June and why the yams in this tart taste so good now in October. Buying in season often means that we can also buy locally which in turn reduces the distance that your food has to travel to get to your plate.  It also supports your local economy and the farmers in your area that are growing the food that you depend on to eat. It is a win-win situation for everyone.

Now that autumn has arrived, this roasted yam tart is perfect for a cold, rainy night.  I have a love affair with tarts for many reasons.  One, they always look impressive thanks to the pan doing all the work for you with its fluted edges (I like having beautiful food to look at).  Two, they are not difficult to make but taste delicious.  And three, the possibilities of what you can put in them is endless.  I discovered this tart from the  Hollyhock Garden to Table cookbook  and it is delicious.  I have used a different crust recipe than suggested because I have another one that I prefer.

This tart is great with a salad for supper, take it to a potluck or have it for brunch.  The kids loved it and it is an easy way to get both protein and vegetables into one dish.  While I won't lie and say that this takes only minutes to make, the extra effort is well worth it.

Roasted Yam, Onion and Ricotta Tart
Adapted from Hollyhock Garden to Table by Moreka Jolar, Heidi Scheifley and the HollyHock Cooks

For the Pastry
Adapted from French Food at Home by Laura Calder
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter
About 4 tablespoons of ice cold water

4 cups onion, sliced into thin half-moons
2 Tbsp Olive oil
2 cups yams (or sweet potatoes if you prefer to call them that), cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 cup milk or cream
3 eggs
1/4 cup chopped mixed chives and parsley
1 Tbsp fresh minced thyme
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 cup ricotta

Preheat the oven to 450℉. Measure the flour into a bowl and add the salt.  Cube the butter and toss it in the flour.  With your fingers crumble the butter into the flour until you get a crumbly texture.  Now add the water, one tablespoon at a time until you get a nice dough that is neither sticky nor dry, it should just come together.  Gather it into a ball and put it onto a floured surface.  Gently roll it out until you get it big enough to fit into your tart pan.  Press it into the pan making sure to cover all surfaces.  Bake in the oven for 10 min until the crust is starting to turn golden.  Many people suggest that you blind bake your crust.  To do this, you would either use pie weights or cover the pastry with parchment and then fill the pan with uncooked beans.  This will ensure that your pastry won't puff up and lose it's shape.  I find that you can get away without blind baking this crust but if you are enthusiastic, then please do.  Remove from the oven and let cool. 

Turn the oven down to 350℉. Toss the yams with 1 Tbsp olive oil and bake on a baking sheet in the hot oven until they are fork tender.  Remove from oven.  In a large skillet, saute the onions in the remaining olive oil until they are tender and caramelized.  The trick is not to cook them too high, you don't want to scorch them.

In a small bowl, whisk the eggs, milk or cream (which ever you choose), fresh herbs, salt and pepper.  Place the cooked onions and yams evenly into the tart shell and then add small scoops of the ricotta over top of the vegetables.  Next pour over the lovely egg and cream mixture, making sure that all the corners are filled.

Bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes or until the tart has set (no longer jiggles when you tap it).  Remove from the oven and let it sit for 5-10 minutes.  To remove from the tart pan, you can either set the bottom on a jar (the bottom will balance on the jar while you remove the outer ring) or you can just put your hand underneath.  This last technique requires a bit of acrobatics as you will have to hold onto the tart and slip the ring off your arm.  You might want some assistance.  Your family will think you are amazing, because well, you are. 

Monday, 2 June 2014

Lemony Lentil Soup

Now that spring is here and summer is peeking around the corner, I find that I am craving lighter, vegetable rich foods.  Don't get me wrong, I still love a comforting bowl of pasta or a good Shepard's Pie once in a while.  But with all the beautiful vegetables finally waking up in the gardens and farmer's markets, I love seeing the colors of spring reflected in my supper.  Rich yellows, deep greens and the taste of earthy and satisfying lentils. The first time I had this soup, a mentor of mine, who also happened to be the mother of the Hollyhock chef who wrote the book, made it for me on a cloudy west coast afternoon.  I loved the combinations of the earthy lentils with the bright lemon and the satisfying greens.

This soup is super easy to make, delicious and kid approved.  It calls for a vegetable stock and I find that is this preferable to chicken.  If you have the time to make your own, I have also included the recipe below.  The thing I love about vegetable stock is how quick it is to make and that it will taste a thousand times better than the stuff in the store. 

 Lemony Lentil Soup
Adapted from Hollyhock Cooks by Linda Solomon and Moreka Jolar

3 Tbsp Olive oil
2 cups onion, diced
2 Tbsp garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups (about 4) carrots, diced
1 cup potato, diced
2 bay leaves, fresh or dried
1 cup red lentils
1 cup celery, diced
6 cups vegetable stock
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
2 Tbs fresh dill, chopped
two good handfuls of chopped kale
salt and pepper to taste

 In a large soup pot with the olive oil, saute the onion, garlic, carrots, potatoes and bay leaves until onion is translucent and potato softens.

Rinse the lentils and add to the pot with the celery and the stock to cover.  Cook until lentils have softened, about 15-20 minutes.  Add the lemon juice, dill, salt and pepper. Stir in the kale and serve!  This is a wonderful meal with a good salad and crusty bread.

Easy Vegetable Stock

2 carrots, chopped
2 onions, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, whole
10 pepper corns
2-3 springs thyme
5  parsley stalks
2 bay leaves

Put all the ingredients into a large stock pot and cover with water.  Bring to a boil and then turn down and simmer for 1 hour.  Strain and put into containers for later use.  Easy!

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Homemade Ice Cream Sandwiches

Life is a funny thing.  Just when you think you think things can't get any harder, they sometimes do.  Last summer my husband lost his job and had to reinvent himself in short order.  As we were dealing with that my dad went on his annual fishing trip with his best friend.  Just after they cast off, the boat tipped and they fell in the cold water.  My dad had a sudden heart attack and died.  He was 84 years old, living on his own, doing all the things he loved, there was no sign or warning that he was going to go anytime soon.  The beautiful thing in his death is that he was doing what he loved to do, right to the very last second.  While that doesn't make me miss him any less, is it inspiring.  Wouldn't we all love to depart from this physical world like that?  Needless to say, keeping my blog going has been low on the priority list as I sift though this foreign land of grief.  It has been so touching though how many of you have asked if I am going to keep this food loving blog going.  I love hearing your stories about how you try the recipes and love them. So now that summer is here, or just about, it seems like it is time to start returning to the things I love, including writing.  My dad's passing over reminds me that we need to savor every moment of every day.  Cliche I know, but it is true.  The beauty and essence of life is made up of small, wonderful, magical moments.  Seeing the thousand shades of green in the spring leaves, the sun sparkling on the river, the sound of a child laughing until their stomach hurts, these are the things that make life so precious and worth celebrating.  I am learning to start looking up from all the troubles and really allow these beautiful moments to absorb into my being.  Food is a part of that beauty and ice cream sandwiches are no exception.

When I was a kid, this was my go-to treat.  I used to walk to the corner store with my friends, change jingling in my pocket to get one of these beauties.  We would sit on the curb eating them in the hot sun, licking the melting ice cream as it dripped down our arms.  That was summer.  Then I discovered how to make my own and I never looked back.  These take a small amount of effort, but it is worth it, believe me.  I recommend that you let them sit out for a minute after you pull them out of the freezer so that everything gets a bit soft.  They are best eaten outside with a good friend, on a back step, savoring every beautiful moment. 

Homemade Ice Cream Sandwiches
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen Classic Ice Cream Sandwiches

First, the Cookies

2 2/3 cups of all-purpose flour
2/3 cup plus 1/4 cup Dutch-process unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/4 cups unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 tsp sea salt
2 large egg yolks
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract

Preheat your oven to 350℉ and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.  Sift the flour and cocoa together in a small bowl and set aside.  Do not skip this step otherwise you will have lumps of cocoa in your dough.

In the bowl of a standing mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, sugar and salt until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the yolks one at a time along with the vanilla and mix until combined.  Scrape the sides down if necessary and beat again.  Add the flour mixture in thirds until everything is combined into a lovely chocolatey dough.

Transfer your cookie dough onto a lightly floured surface and divide into two pieces.  If the dough is too soft to handle, wrap it in cling film and put it in the fridge for a few minutes to harden up.  Roll each batch into a rectangle.  This is when you pull out your cookie cutter of choice.  I used a biscuit cutter and the bottom of my cheese grater.  The cheese grater will give you the traditional rectangle shape and the biscuit cutter shape is what you see in the picture.  Cut out as may equal pieces as you can get.  Keep re-rolling and cutting until you have used up all of your dough. Now transfer to your cookie sheet with about an inch between them. With the end of a chop stick you can put little holes in your cookies to make them look just like store-bought.  Bake one sheet at a time for 16-18 minutes or until they are firm when touched in the center. Let cool on the sheet for 5 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Now the good stuff...Ice Cream!

To make this step as simple as possible, I bought a box of ice cream.  You know, the kind that comes in a rectangle cardboard box that you can just open up on all sides? I used vanilla, but you could use any flavor you want.  I think chocolate chip mint would be yummy too.  Get out your cookie cutter that you used for the cookies.  Cut one slice of ice cream at a time and then with your cookie cutter, cut out your ice cream and place on the first cookie, it will match perfectly.  Then add the second cookie on top and Viola! You have an ice cream sandwich.  Continue doing this until all of your cookies are used up.  Wrap them in cling film or parchment and store them in the freezer.  I do highly recommend that you eat one right away though : )

Note: The cookie in this recipe is a bit crunchy, unlike the corner store variety that sticks to the roof of your mouth.  But I have to say that it is a wonderful combination with the ice cream.  My kids actually like them better.


Monday, 30 September 2013

Chicken Pot Pie, Only Better

We have had a lot going on over here for the past couple of months and unfortunately this blog of mine has suffered for it.  But I'm back now and I thought that since autumn is officially upon us, it was time for some cozy meals.

When I had my first child, one of my go to meals was chicken pot pie.  I never made it myself, I would go down to the very expensive natural food store and buy one to take home and heat up.  It was a perfect combination of new mother exhaustion and not feeling confident enough to make it myself.  That all changed a couple of years ago when I had the revelation that you didn't need to make a full pastry to make a good pot pie.  I also realized that this classic dish was a perfect way to use up left over chicken.  Now I have  few versions of this meal that I make, but this latest one with biscuits on top has to be my favorite.  It may look like a lot of work, but it really isn't and once you sit down to a steaming bowl of it on a cold autumn day you will realize that it was worth the effort and then some.  This is also a perfect meal if you are watching your pennies.  It falls into my "something out of nothing" repertoire, hopefully it will become part of yours too.

Roasted Chicken and Vegetable Cobbler
Adapted from Back in the Day Bakery by Cheryl and Griffin Day

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup finely diced yellow onion
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
5 cups chicken broth
3 peeled carrots cut into 1 inch cubes
3 celery ribs chopped into 1 inch pieces
1 tsp fine sea salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
5 cups leftover chicken or you can get one of the roasted ones from the grocery store
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup frozen corn
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp fresh sage
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

Boarding House Biscuits
Adapted from Back to the Table by Art Smith

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 stick unsalted butter cut into 1/2 inch cubes
3/4 cup buttermilk as needed

Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl.  Using a pastry blender or your fingers, cut the butter into the mixture until you get a pea meal consistency.  Stir in enough buttermilk to make a soft and sticky dough.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and roll it out until the dough is about about 1/2 inch thick.  Be careful not to overwork the dough.  Using a biscuit cutter, cut out the rounds and put to the side until you are ready to place on top of the pie insides (uncooked).

For the Pie Insides

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 450℉.

To make the pie insides, melt 4 Tbsp of the butter in a large pot over medium heat.  Add the onion and garlic and saute until tender.  Add the carrots, celery, salt, pepper and broth.  Partially cover the pot, reduce to a simmer, stirring often.

Stir in the cream, raise the heat to medium and cook, covered until the veg is tender. 

While that is cooking, mix your remaining butter with the flour to create a paste.  Once the veg is tender, add the flour and butter mixture to the pot, slowly whisking it in.  This is going to make the pie insides super creamy and thick.  Next add the herbs and cayenne and then the corn and peas to heat through. Transfer to a baking dish and top with the biscuits that have been brushed with buttermilk.  If you forget this step as I did, don't fret, they will still be yummy.  Bake for 15 minutes until the biscuits are golden and the filling is bubbling.  Let this sit for 5 minutes at least before you ladle it out into your waiting bowls.  I love fall.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Blackberry Tart

I used to love making pies.  When I was 16, I decided that I would learn how to make a good crust and from that point on for many years, apple pie with the flakiest crust was my thing.  Then Christmas 1999 came along, mixed with a few family politics and a great deal of stress, I lost it.  I made three crusts and none of them turned out, then I burnt my arm taking the pie out of the oven and that was it.  I never made pie again.  Which was tragic because honestly, I love pie.

Then I came across this recipe for a tart.  As terrified I was of pastry, I couldn't stay away any longer. The time had come to reclaim my love of pie, well, in this case, tart.  What I LOVE about this recipie is you don't need to have everything ice cold, you don't even need to roll out the dough.  You just mix it together in a bowl and tumble it into the tart pan and press it into place.  The tart shell does all the work to make it look like you have been slaving for hours.

So when my husband asked for a fresh fruit tart for his birthday, I knew this would be it.  Blackberries are in season right now and free.  All you need to do is go and find yourself a dripping bush and fill your bowl.  This tart is light, creamy with a lovely crisp crust which is lovely against the creamy filling.  You need not be a french pastry chef to make this, but you sure will look like one.  If only I had known about this method sooner, there would have been no need for such a long pie drought.  Yes, I know this isn't exactly the same, but once you get your confidence with one thing, you build it up for others, that is the beauty of cooking.

For the crust:
adapted from French Taste by Laura Calder

1/2 cup softened butter
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour

Heat oven to 400℉ Cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl with a wooden spoon until light and creamy.  Stir in the vanilla.  Mix in the flour to make a dough.  Tumble into an 8 inch tart pan and press into place.  Line with parchment paper and fill with dried beans up to the top.  Bake for 15 minutes.  This is called blind baking and helps the crust not to puff up.  Take out of the oven, remove the paper and beans and put the tart shell back in the oven at 325℉ for 20 minutes.  Remove and let cool completely.

Vanilla Cream
adapted from French Taste by Laura Calder

1 cup milk
1/2 vanilla bean cut lengthwise
3 egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
2 Tbsp flour
1/4 cup heavy cream, whipped

Put the milk in a saucepan with the split and scraped vanilla bean and heat just before it comes to a simmer.  Turn off the heat, remove and cover for 10 minutes.

In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar until light and creamy.  Once the milk is ready, gradually whisk it into the egg mixture.

Pour this back into the sauce pan, add the flour.  While you are bringing this to the boil, keep stirring so that it doesn't scald.  If that does happen, don't panic!  You are going to thin this with whipped cream later anyways.  Once this is nice and thick, remove from heat and let cool completely.  Once it is cooled, add 1/4 cup whipped cream and fold in. This will make a lovely, light and fluffy cream that you could eat with a spoon. 

To assemble:

Remove tart shell from the pan and place on a cake plate or other serving dish.  Pour in the vanilla cream.  Lovingly add your blackberries starting from the outer edge and winding into the center.  You can either serve this straightaway or put it in the fridge to chill.  While not as conventional as a cake, this really is wonderful for a birthday.