Hedgerow Sponge - British Food Fortnight 2014

British Food Fortnight draws to a close this Sunday 5th October. Its been a brilliant couple of weeks, not least because I've managed to forage crab apples, sloe and blackberries, so am currently feeling very impressed with myself. If any of you are yet to be inspired to grow, forage or buy some great British produce, there is just enough time for one more extra special recipe that may yet motivate you!

My friend Isaac, a baker at the Leeds Bread Co Op, was kind enough to suggest this gorgeous sponge. Soaked in elderflower cordial, spread generously with home-made elder and blackberry jam and filled with fresh blackberries, it really utilizes some of Autumns best produce.

Making your own jam is easier than you would think, but if you don't fancy making it, pick up a jar of good quality British blackberry jam as a substitute. Elderberries are the fruit of the Elder tree. Not always the easiest berry to come by, why not send an Elder tree to a loved one so they can have a supply of both berries and flower in years to come. Who knows, they might even let you pinch a few!

Elder Tree Elderberries ripening on the tree


For the Elder and Blackberry Jam

  • 1kg elderberries
  • 1kg blackberries
  • 1 -2 kg jam sugar (you can usually buy this in a larger supermarket)
  • 3 -4 tbsp lemon juice


For the Sponge

  • 230g softened butter
  • 230g sugar
  • 190g self raising flour
  • 40g ground almonds
  • 4 free range eggs
  • ½ tsp baking powder


For the Meringue Buttercream (a Dan Lepard recipe)

  • 3 free range egg whites
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 500g butter
  • 1tsp vanilla extract


To Serve

  • fresh blackberries
  • 70ml elderflower cordial, warm
  • icing sugar (optional)



For the Elder and Blackberry Jam

  1. Wash berries well and cook on a low heat until they turn to a soft pulp. You can press the berries as they cook to help extract as much juice as possible, or even whizz in a blender if they really need a helping hand.
  2. If you would like seedless jam, remember to rub your berries through a sieve
  3. Measure how much fruit you are left with. For every 600 ml of juice, add 450g of jam sugar and 1 tbsp of lemon juice
  4. Heat the mixture until all the sugar is dissolved, then turn the heat up high and boil your jam until it reaches setting point*.
  5. Ladle into sterilized jars.

* To test if your jam is at setting point, put a spoonful onto very very cold plate (ideally a plate that has been in the freezer for 10-15 minutes). Run a spoon through it. If your jam wrinkles and does not refill the gap, you're there)


For the Sponge

  1. Grease or line two 18cm cake tins
  2. Cream together the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl (you can use a whisk to save on the elbow grease!)
  3. Add the eggs in one by one, mixing in between each addition so the mixture doesn't curdle
  4. Sift in the self raising flour and baking powder before adding the ground almonds, and mix so the whole lot is well combined
  5. Split the cake mixture between the two tins and bake for around 25-30mins (you can check the cakes after 20mins but please dont open the oven door before then).
  6. To check if the cakes are done, insert a clean skewer or knife into the middle of the cake. When it comes out clean, the cakes are ready
  7. Remove the cakes from their tins and prick all over with a skewer. Spoon the warm elderflower cordial over the sponges and allow them to cool


For the Meringue Buttercream

  1. Heat egg whites and sugar in a saucepan over a low heat until all the sugar has dissolved.
  2. In a mixing bowl, beat the mixture with an electric whisk until very thick and cool.
  3. Gradually add cubes of the softened butter until the whole lot is incorporated, then add the vanilla


To Serve

  1. You may need to level one cake off with a serrated bread knife so the second sponge can be stacked on top. Put this cake cut side down on your serving plate
  2. Spoon some of your beautiful jam over the bottom sponge. Dot with a few fresh blackberries before scooping on most of your meringue buttercream. Stack the second sponge on top.
  3. If you fancy a final flourish, swirl your leftover buttercream in the centre of the top sponge and top with fresh blackberries, then dust some icing sugar over the entire cake
  4. Eat!


Hedgerow Sponge Cake Ready to Eat!