Reflections on the End of Summer, Blackberry Pie and a Rhubarb Cake

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It has been really hot and dry here this summer. In fact I think I can count on one hand the number of times it rained here in the last 4 months so I have been out watering my plants a lot more than I usually do this time of year. The grass in our yard was dead, or dormant, all except for the patches growing near my raised beds and the flower beds that get watered regularly by me. Everything else was so dry that I was completely surprised last month to see that the wild blackberries in our area were thriving, so we decided to go berry picking one Friday afternoon with the kids along a bike path not far from our house.

Picking berries along the bike path

We managed to pick so many wild blackberries that in addition to eating them as we picked and saving some for eating at home over the next few days I had enough left over to make a berry pie.

Blackberry Pie

It’s been nine years since I made this pie. Nine years. I can’t believe how long it’s been. I was new to blogging then, new to living in a foreign country and new to being a parent. It’s funny how time makes you reflect on things like that. I now have four kids, have been living away from home for over ten years and have been foraging for wild berries here in Germany almost every summer but have only had enough to make this pie twice. Before I even tasted this pie I could still remember exactly how the first one I had made tasted. I just had a birthday too and with another passing year I find that I am more than ever reflecting on the things that are important to me… my family, my friends, hiking, biking, spending time in the garden, cooking, baking, reading, sewing and knitting… and I just recently started doing yoga again and as a gift to myself for my birthday I signed up to take a Yin Yoga class. I made a rhubarb cake for my birthday this year too. I have lots of rhubarb growing in my front-yard garden right now and it came out really tasty. I have made this cake before with other fruits like strawberries, small German plums (Zwetschgen) and even a combination of chocolate, figs and pears. The plum version is my favorite but rhubarb is what I had on hand, since it is growning abundantly in my garden, and I think the tartness of the rhubarb and the custardlike texture of the cake go very well together. If you make this cake or the pie I hope you’ll enjoy them as much as we did!

Rhubarb Cake

The cake:

adapted from Care By Me‘s Rhubarb Pie recipe

500 g of fresh thinly chopped Rhubarb

3 large Eggs

100 g (½ cup) of Sugar

1 package Dr. Oetker Bourbon Vanilla Extract/
or 1/2 Tbs Vanilla Extract

75 g (2/3 cup) Flour/ or Almond Flour

150 g (6 oz) Marzipan (shredded)

200 g (about 1 cup) Heavy Cream

Crust:
2 cups all purpose Flour (or alternative flour)
4 Tbs Sugar (75g)
1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1/4 tsp Salt
1 stick + 1 Tbs Butter (125g)
1 large Egg
1 tsp Vanilla Extract or 1 packet of Vanilla Sugar

Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl until well combined. Cut tablespoon sized pieces of butter into the flour mixture with a pastry cutter or two butter knives until only small pea sized pieces of butter remain. In a small bowl beat the egg then pour the beaten egg over the butter-flour mixture and with a fork or a large spoon work the egg into the mixture until less crumbly and starts to come together as a dough. Make sure all of the dry flour gets incorporated into the dough and large wet crumbles form, it doesn’t have to come together as one solid dough but should be wet enough to start to stick together. Press into the bottom and sides of a greased pie pan, deep dish tart pan or spring form pan. Cover and let rest in the fridge. Preheat the oven to 180° C (350°F). Separate the eggs and in a large bowl mix the egg yolks with the sugar, and vanilla using a whisk or hand blender, mix until combined. Then blend in the shredded marzipan and the heavy cream. Now add in the flour (or almond flour) and stir to combine. In a separate bowl whip the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Add a third of the whites to the batter and stir them in to lighten the dough. Then gently fold in the rest of the whipped egg whites. Lay out half of the cut up rhubarb on the crust bottom and pour the batter over it. Spread out the other half of the rhubarb evenly over the top of the cake. Bake for 60-75 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. You may have to tent the cake with foil at some point during the baking process so that the top won’t burn. Let the cake cool and serve with freshly whipped cream on top. Store any leftovers in the fridge. This cake tastes equally as good if not better served cold the next day. Enjoy!

Hike to the top of Löwenburg, in the Siebengebirge, Germany

Front Yard Garden

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When we moved into our house in Germany in the Spring of 2017 we were made aware of a provision in the deed that stated we were to use the front yard for the sole purpose of growing a vegetable garden. Since our house was built in 1935 the deed must have been refering to a type of “Victory Garden” which was commonplace in many countries during that time period. These gardens were frequently found in the United States, Canada, the UK, Australia and Germany. People were encouraged by their governments to plant vegetable gardens in their yards, not just to relieve pressure on the food supply by being able to produce their own food but also as a way of boosting morale and helping people feel like they were able to contribute to the war effort right here at home. The notary informed us, somewhat jokingly, that this requirement was indeed just a formality and we didn’t need to adhere to it. However, I have always grown my own vegetables and when I saw how shady our backyard was with a plum tree, a black-walnut tree and two small apple trees I quickly realized I would need to plant my vegetables in the front yard. Just as it was stipulated in the deed I set out to build myself a front yard, Victory Garden. For more details on how to make raised beds from pallets or repurposed wood, go to Theartfulthrifter.

Raised beds made from pallets in the front yard.
We redid the facade on our home, at the end of 2019 right before the pandemic.
Amelie crawling around in the front yard when she was a year old…
helping me pick snap peas.
The driveway is partially lined with a low wall and is a good place to put a container garden and a raised bed that I made from repurposed ikea bed slats.