A Taste of The North – Blackberry Buns
You rumbled me. There is nothing particularly northern about buns (or, indeed, blackberries). But I am of firm belief that both bun-making and blackberry-picking should play a key part in any British child’s formative years, whether they are growing up in the countryside or in the city, and that this enjoyment should continue well into adulthood. Contrary to what you might think, inner-city Manchester during the late-summer months is as good a place as anywhere to find blackberries, as the bramble bush will grow wherever the wind and birds spread its seeds: next to train tracks and at tram stops; at the edge of building sites or empty plots of land; around the sides of parks; along canal towpaths and riverbanks; and at the bottom of your garden if you are lucky enough to have one.
Note: the term ‘bun’ has gone out of fashion quicker than you can say ‘monstrously oversized muffin’ or ‘overpriced artisan cupcake’, but I am sticking to ‘bun’ as it is how I have always known small cakes (I find the expression ‘fairy cake’ just about acceptable, if a little twee; it brings to mind those fussy little cakes that bear ‘wings’ embedded in butter cream).
I made these blackberry buns for the Shrieking Violet fanzine‘s third birthday party at the start of August, which took place at Atelier[zero], a pop-up alternative Olympic Village at Piccadilly Basin in Manchester city centre featuring, appropriately for a birthday party, a ball pool and rowing boats. A friend of mine commented that the cakes were far lighter than the vegan cake she is used to; I attribute this to chilling the mixture in the fridge, which made it really light and airy.
I picked the blackberries one lunch hour from some bramble bushes at the edge of Angel Meadow, one of the few parks in Manchester city centre, conveniently using my empty lunchbox to store them. Once the site of a plague-pit surrounded by the Manchester slums denounced by Engels in his classic industrial age critique Condition of the Working Class, Angel Meadow is now a gently undulating urban oasis in the shadow of the Co-operative Group’s brand new headquarters.
Shrieking Violet Birthday Buns
110g butter or vegan margarine
2 tsp baking powder
No Egg equivalent to 2 eggs
125g blackberries, washed
In a mixing bowl, cream the butter together with the sugar.
In a smaller bowl, mix the No Egg with water according to the instructions, then stir into the butter and sugar mixture and ensure it’s well mixed in. Stir in the baking powder then sieve in the flour and stir.
Get your willpower ready and place the mixture in the fridge for an hour.
Place bun cases in a bun tin or two (this will help them hold their shape whilst cooking) and put a spoonful of the mixture into each bun case, topping up if there is any left over. Distribute the blackberries evenly between each case.
Bake for 20 minutes at 200 degrees celsius.
If desired, decorate with edible glitter or any other toppings of your choosing. The cookware stall on the Arndale Market in Manchester sells a huge range of coloured, shiny and novelty-patterned bun and muffin cases, plus edible glitter and sugar cake toppings in every shape you can imagine. If skull and cross bones cake cases are your thing, try Oklahoma cafe and gift shop in Manchester’s Northern Quarter.
Eat warm or cold.