Blackberries, A Snake and An Upside Down (Gluten Free) Cake

Fresh Blackberries Please

I will bet most of you do not think of Blackberries and immediately think of Snakes…yes real live Snakes! Let me just say I am pretty crazy about freshly picked Blackberries, but not so crazy about snakes (sorry snake lovers). Why, you might ask, do I think of these two things simultaneously? Let me tell share with you a very short vignette….

….West Tennessee on a dry, dusty, hotter-than-Hades kind of day…lots of years ago when I was around 9 or 10…

I loved doing anything with my Grandmother (Granny) no matter if it was work or play.  I always wanted to tag along. The wild blackberries hung heavy & ripe all around so it was time to go berry-picking, the wild kind not the kind of blackberries planted in neat rows.  We were cautioned to wear “real shoes” &  to take care when blackberry picking as snakes liked berry patches.  This caution, along with many others doled out on such occasions, was met with a certain nonchalance on my part. Before this particular day, not after, nor since.

The sun was relentless as we began to pick around the outer edge of the very dense berry patch. At first reaching what was easy. But so very many large juicy black berries were just out of my reach a few feet into the patch. I wanted those berries. I boldly stepped forward with one foot lifted off the ground when I “felt” something move liquid smooth, quietly, directly beneath where I was about to plant my foot. I froze, foot midair.  Looking down I saw the snake slithering, very large & fat right underneath my berries & my foot. I am convinced to this day that I did levitate, backwards, out of the berry patch. There is something very Biblical about levitation isn’t there? And Fruit? And Snakes?

I did not pick anymore berries that summer.  I have picked since, I have bought many berries that others have picked, I am still pretty crazy about blackberries, but still not so much about snakes.

Here is a really easy not-so-sweet upside down cake that I made last Sunday using fresh local Blackberries picked by others, along with a few Pluots.


Here is what you will need to make this very dense moist gluten-free cake:

Ingredients for Upside Down Cake

1/2 stick Butter, 1 pint of Blackberries, 2 Pluots (or plums or peaches), 1 cup Raw Sugar/Turbinado, 2 cups Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Cornbread Mix, 1 cup Almond Meal Flour, the zest of 1 Lemon, 3 eggs, 2 cups Buttermilk, Sliced Almonds

Here is how you make it:

Skillet with Browned Butter

1. Place a 10-12 inch cast iron skillet with the 1/2 stick of butter over medium high heat until the butter is browned. Remove skillet from heat & set aside to cool somewhat. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Let me take a moment to say that if you do not have an iron skillet get one. A good seasoned cast iron skillet is just the best thing to use for all sorts of cooking. Lodge pre-seasoned cast iron skillets can be purchased very affordably on-line. I have many of their skillets in various sizes that I use daily.  For this recipe I am using my Great Grandmother’s iron skillet which is amazing well seasoned and is one of the reasons this cake will slip right out of the pan after it is cooked with no sticking.

Blackberries & Pluots in Iron Skillet

2. Slice Pluots & arrange in the bottom of the iron skillet over the browned butter. Sprinkle the Blackberries to cover bottom of skillet between & around Pluot slices.

Batter for Upside Down Cake

3. In a large mixing bowl whisk together the cornmeal, almond flour & sugar.  Add eggs & buttermilk & lemon zest.  Blend until batter is smooth. Spread batter over fruit in the skillet. Sprinkle with a generous handful of sliced almonds.

Upside down cake batterUpside down cake batter over fruit

Batter in skilletSliced Almonds over Upside Down Cake Batter

4. Bake in 375 degree oven for about 30-40 minutes until golden brown &  bubbly around the edges & set in the center. Let cake cool in the skillet for about 10 minutes.

Upside Down Cake Baked

5. The “reveal” of an upside down cake is always the fun part. Place a plate or platter larger than the skillet face down over the skillet & then quickly & carefully invert plate & skillet right side up.


See how easy that was?

Blackberry Upside Down Cake

The crunch of the cornmeal combined with the browned butter, lemon zest & almond flavors & not too much sugar meld to make a very satisfying breakfast cake. Dust with a bit of powdered sugar if desired.


Have you ever picked wild berries? Have you ever almost stepped on a snake? Do you connect foods you eat to events  from your past?

After I posted this my friend Diane Stopford, a Dubliner, left me a comment and a link to a poem by Seamus Heaney “Blackberry Picking” which I wanted to share with you. Thanks Diane.

Eat more Cake.

34 thoughts on “Blackberries, A Snake and An Upside Down (Gluten Free) Cake

  1. Blackberries are my favorite fruit. Last week I was invited to friend’s farm to pick them (thornless bushes), but I stayed in the mule and let everyone else do it because I was so scared to see a snake. I heard one was there a few days earlier and I’m just petrified. Your dessert looks amazing!

    1. Oh my it is so great to hear from you. Thanks for sharing the poem with me. And the name of blackberries in Irish. How are you?I talk to Nancy D. every now and then and she told me you have a new job…If I remember correctly it is with a company who has something yummy to eat or drink? Thinking of you.

  2. I associate blackberries with not only snakes, but also chiggers. I’ve encountered both picking blackberries and don’t like either one–but I do love blackberries. Your story brought back memories of my childhood and blackberry cobbler still warm from my Granny’s oven.

  3. Oh yeah I forgot all about the chiggers. You are so right…blackberries, snakes & chiggers…itsn’t it amazing we all love berries so much after what we have to go through to pick them? Thanks so much for your share.

  4. I grew up in Idaho and our blackberries and huckleberries came with bears!!!! Have run for the car more than once!!! That cake looks fantastic!!!!

    1. Terry I finally made a treat just as you arrived…we did eat a few pieces warm out of the oven, but that did not seem to help our brains while puzzling out the NYTimes Sunday edition did it?

  5. I know I shouldn’t hate snakes, but I do. I also hate chiggers, slugs, mosquitos, stinkbugs and every other critter that makes blackberry picking horrible. But the wild ones are worth every bit of it. 🙂

    1. Nance you are so right! I still shudder and laugh when I tell that particular snake story…which had nothing to do with Blackberries at all. You are probably on of the few folks in my life who remember that very dramatic day in my life that had to do with a snake & deconstructing part of my house to get the snake out!!

  6. Happy 2017 and the best to you and all your readers. This one I am making today. No fresh peaches, but baking today for a daughter who could use a hug after surgery. Thanks!

  7. Anything containing blackberries must be good and they are always a reminder of my childhood when freshly gathered wild blackberries were used to make blackberry and apple pie; no snakes though I am glad to say!

  8. I am so sorry Dorothy…..I made this so long ago! I usually add my liquid bit by bit when making most baked things and when the batter seems right I quit or add more. Sorry for the inconvenience. T

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