Nigel Slater is a culinary genius. His very fast nectarine and blackberry cake was one of the easiest, most delicious cakes I have ever made. The base is a simple butter cake, topped with chopped up fruit. Nigel suggests pears and blackberries - I used blackberries and some rapidly-ripening nectarines from my fruit bowl.
It comes from the May chapter of his wonderful book, The Kitchen Diaries. I received the book as a gift many, many months ago, but never got around to reading it, let alone cooking from it. Which is a shame, because it is as fantastic as you would expect any book from Nigel to be! When I finally did open it, I couldn't put it down. I love Nigel's writing. I daresay I prefer his writing style to Nigella's, although I do find her recipes a lot more approachable.
Nigel writes that he made the cake as an "emergency cake": a cake made quickly, without a recipe, for unexpected visitors dropping in. It is 'the classic 'equal butter to sugar to flour' base". Before this recipe, I wasn't familiar with this base, but it's quite easy to remember. Basically (hah!) you cream together equal weights of butter and caster sugar, add beaten egg (1 egg per 65g of butter), then fold in sifted flour and baking powder (1/2 teaspoon per 65g of butter). Easy peasy.
Nigel's recipe calls for 2 pears and a handful of blackberries. So, I chopped up 2 nectarines and got out a handful of blackberries (Frozen, of course). I found that half this amount totally covered the batter, and I didn't want the cake to be soggy, I didn't use all the fruit at first. After 10 minutes of baking, however, I noticed that the batter swelled a lot, whilst the fruit on top had shrunk. So I went the whole hog and threw the rest of the fruit on. (And I decided to add another nectarine for good measure). This base is great! It can take a lot of fruit, so don't be timid. It's a great way to use up fruit that is past its best.
As for the cake, it was absolutely brilliant! I took it, still in its tin, when we went afternoon-tea visiting, and it was a total hit. It was so simple, yet so incredibly good. Tender, buttery cake, topped with sweet and tart juicy fruit. Fabulous. I am totally, utterly convinced by this recipe, and know that I will make it time and time again.