Elderberry & Poppy Seed Bundt Cake

"Workdays" as of late have been pretty perfect I must say.  The beauty of a freelance job around a holiday is that it often means an extended break.  For those of you rolling your eyes at this while desperately trying to reach inbox zero status, don't worry.   I'll get mine.  These kinds of breaks generally result in delayed mayhem but in the meantime I've been working from my kitchen table, mostly in my underwear, with a bottomless cup of something hot and not taking a single second for granted.  July mornings in SF bring a thick layer of freezing fog that lasts until the afternoon.  It creates the most beautifully diffused light and the perfect shooting setup.  Write for a bit, shoot for a bit, write a little more.  Not bad, right?  I've been given the precious time and space to work on making a new thing and I've been so grateful for it.  

This morning the pour-over was extra dark though.  I think it was a subconscious thing.  Yesterday was a total bust in terms of productivity. Between meet-ups and phone calls and an absolutely necessary for the sake of sanity gym run, by the time I actually sat down to get something done it was 6pm.  When the phone rang at 7pm I officially raised the white flag of defeat. Different days call for different measures I suppose but when it doesn't go down at all like you planned it can certainly heap up extra pressure on the following one. 

Today the fog is back, all email threads for upcoming jobs have been settled and responded to, the coffee has kicked in, and there's a tray of herb-laden focaccia toasting in the oven for an upcoming panzanella recipe post.  It smells like a Tuscan Italian dream in this apartment right now.  So far so good, Tuesday.   We're well on our way to crossing the wrap-up of this post off of the to-do list so let's talk about this cake.  These are some of the first pics I took with my new camera set up.  Months or years from now I'll likely find them so amateur but for now I absolutely love them.

 I know what you're probably thinking.  What the %!#$@ is an elderberry and where exactly am I supposed to find one?  Let alone two pounds of them?  I'm sorry.  I know we just talked about this too.  But I happened upon a two pound bag at the farmer's market one Saturday and was lucky enough to snatch them up before any one of the reputable chefs wandering about got to them.  They're so beautiful, aren't they?  I had to do something with them.  I tried a few after staring at them for awhile and then, like we do with all of life's perplexities, I went to Google.  First things first, turns out you're not supposed to eat them raw.  Some people have adverse reactions.  Awesome.  Feel like maybe Dave at the market stand should've given me a warning or something.  Then again all those chefs were probably privy to the poison-factor already.  Thankfully in the end I wasn't one of those adverse reaction people.

Fruit Puree

1 lb fruit, fresh or frozen (black, blue, rasp, or strawberries)
2 cups water
1/2 cup sugar

Bring the fruit and water to boil.  Reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes.  Puree, strain, and return
juice to the pot with sugar.  Bring to boil.  Reduce heat and simmer until slightly thickened, 25-35 minutes.  

This recipe is a sweet combination of a new ingredient and an old favorite.  Elderberries are a new find obviously but the bundt cake recipe has been a go-to for years.  Variations on it have made appearances at parties, holiday events, and Tuesdays alike and it's always met with the same enthusiasm.  Years after making a trio of them for our first big Easter brunch people still specifically remember the bundt cake.  So here you go.  Now you can create your own edible legend.  In my opinion it's at it's peak two to three days later.  The flavor intensifies and the texture is more dense and moist than if you were to tear into it right out of the oven (although it's obviously still delicious on day one.)  A few days after baking and shooting this my best friend (who is also in side-hustle mode) and I sat at my kitchen table working and bouncing ideas off of each other with two forks in hand and cake between us, nibbling away at our fear and anxiety over having no idea what we were doing but having all kinds of enthusiasm for it regardless.  We polished off a solid half before hiding it.

favorite gluten-free flour blend

3 cups sorghum flour
1 cup tapioca flour (aka starch, same thing)
1 cup potato starch (not flour, two different things)

*courtesy of Let Us All Eat Cake

I wish I could claim credit for the recipe but, like so many other gems, it came via a cookbook food styling job while I was still assisting.  Plowing through 50 recipes in a week is one surefire way to learn the ins and outs of anything.  As a former pastry cook that had gone entirely gluten-free just months before the project was pretty much a God-send.  I don't generally eat the things I bake (usually whatever it is will end up at an event or with a neighbor or at Sunday Supper) but it's nice to be able to at least have a taste before it gets passed off.  The book has lived on my kitchen counter since it's publication and I've given it several times as a gift over the years as the gluten-free-whatever-you-want-to-call-it moves from less of a fad to more of a lasting lifestyle change for so many.  

I acknowledge that you're not likely to find elderberries.  It'll be a long time before I find them again.  But isn't it nice to see something a little different?  Something you didn't know was out there?  I kind of thought so.  We can easily make this going forward with blackberries or blueberries using the recipe for puree above.  If you're able to get your hands on huckleberries (which are still a stretch unless you live in certain places but for sure more common) those will work beautifully too.

Elderberry & Poppy Seed Bundt Cake

This recipe is very minimally modified (and one of my absolute favorites) from a darling little book called Let Us All Eat Cake.  I'd recommend mixing your own GF flour using the blend above (it's cheaper by a quite a bit to do so) but if you are using a store bought flour blend and it already has xanthan gum in it, omit the amount called for below.


To make the syrup

In a large non-reactive pot (i.e. not aluminum) bring the berries and water to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.  Pour through a strainer set over a large bowl, pressing on the berries to extract all the juice.  Transfer liquid back to the pot, add the sugar, and return to medium-high heat.  Stir to dissolve the sugar and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer until syrup begins to thicken and easily coats the back of a spoon, about 30 minutes.  Cool completely. 

To make the coffee cake

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Brush a 10-inch Bundt pan with butter, sprinkle with flour, and lightly mist with cooking spray.  In a medium-sized bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, xanthan gum, and sea salt.  In the bowl of a stand mixer cream the butter and sugars together on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes, scraping down the sides on occasion.  Reduce speed to medium-low and add the eggs one at a time beating until fully incorporated and scraping down the sides between additions.  Add the buttermilk and mix for 15 seconds on medium-low and then for an additional 30 seconds on medium-high until mostly combined.  Scrape down the sides and with the mixer on low add the flour one cup at a time, scraping down the bowl between the second and third additions.  Scrape down the bowl one final time and beat on medium speed for 30 seconds to thoroughly combine.  Pour syrup and poppy seeds into the batter and mix on low for 5-10 seconds or until just swirled into the batter.  Scrape into prepared bundt pan and bake for 45 minutes to an hour or until a tester comes out clean.  Cool 10 minutes in the pan before inverting onto a wire rack to cool completely.  

To make the glaze

Whisk together the powdered sugar and the syrup in a small bowl.  Pour over the cake.


For the syrup

2 lbs elderberrys
4 cups water
1 cup sugar

For the cake

3 cups gluten-free flour blend
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons xanthan gum
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup (two sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 eggs at room temperature
1 cup buttermilk at room temperature
1/3 cup elderberry syrup
1/4 cup poppy seeds

For the glaze

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1/3 cup elderberry syrup