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One of the more baffling mysteries of grocery shopping is how certain ingredients disappear into the ether exactly when I want to cook with them.

Baked cake closer

For weeks and weeks there were punnets of raspberries in the produce section. Velvety little rubies in their clamshell packages. So, of course, I just assumed there would be some there when I decided I actually needed to buy some to make Heidi Swanson’s Salt-kissed Buttermilk Cake. And, of course, there wasn’t.


I waited another couple of days in the hope they would miraculously return. And then I gave up and figured blackberries would work just as well.

And they did.


It should come as no surprise I was attracted to the very idea of this cake. Sweet and salty? Yes, please! I love it when there is a tinge of saltiness to my desserts, in the same way that I love a slight sweet to my savoury dishes. I mean, look at the rosemary cashews, the rosemary-pine nut shortbread…. (Wow, apparently I have a serious thing for rosemary.)


Sea salt

I bought my little cannister of sea salt during a trip to France. I am led to believe it is gathered from the Camargue — a river delta just off the Mediterranean and near the Canal du Midi, which I was barging along at the time I bought the salt. Of course, you can get it here (I just saw it in Safeway the other day), but I like that my little bit of salt traveled around with me during my last week in France. Pulling it from the cupboard reminds me of lazy afternoons on the barge, a glass of rose in hand following lunch and the joy that can come from being away.

As a sea salt, it has a definitive burst of saltiness on the tongue. The slightly larger flake tends not to melt away into food. So, it makes a good counterpart to the large grains of sugar that I sprinkled on top of the cake before putting it in to bake.

I’ve only made some very minor adjustments to the original recipe, mostly around the fact that I just don’t have natural cane sugar lying around the house and, therefore, took her suggestion to use brown sugar instead. While she calls for raspberries, I’m sure almost any berry would do. I quite liked the blackberries actually, but will give raspberries a go the next time I come across them. (Actually, saw golden ones at the farmer’s market on the weekend. Tempted. Very tempted.)

Eggs and buttermilk

Before the oven

Before the oven II

Baked cake

Baked cake overhead

Slice of cake

Heidi says this serves 12. Um, OK. Only if people like dainty slices….

Slice of Cake II

Salt-kissed Buttermilk Cake

  • 2 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled a bit
  • zest of 2 lemons
  • 1 cup of raspberries (blackberries, in my case. And I probably used more than a cup.)
  • 3 tablespoons large grain sugar
  • 1 teaspoon large grain salt (Sea salt works well here.)

Preheat oven to 400. Grease and flour (or line bottom with parchment paper) one 11″ tart pan. (I used a pie dish that I just buttered. It worked fine.)

Combine flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in a large bowl. In a separate smaller bowl whisk eggs and buttermilk, then melted butter and zest. Pour the buttermilk mixture over the flour mixture and stir until just combined. Don’t overmix.

Spoon batter into prepared pan, pushing out to edges. Drop berries across the top. (I squished them in a bit too.) Sprinkle with large grain sugar and then salt. Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes until cake is set and slightly golden.