mascarpone-filled cake with sherried berries

buttermilk cake with mascarpone frosting and berries

I’m torn whether to write to you about my thoughts on cake or spring. Both are tempting. Both are presently on my mind. Both are worthy of discussion. And both are things I love and can’t get enough of.

pour some sugar on the oven!

I mean, who doesn’t like cake or spring? Especially a well-made cake and spring that arrives after a seemingly endless and bitterly cold winter. Almost overnight flowers are blooming and trees are covered in green fuzz and I’m wearing a sun dress. And I kinda like it. I could easily get used to this. Now, cake… Cake is big in my book. People who don’t like cake, or say they don’t like cake (do they even exist?) – I have to do a double-take because, come on, really? Cake? It’s like saying you hate puppies. Or rainbows.


I think the concept of cake is a marvelous, beautiful thing. It’s the kind of thing that just sounds festive, even if it’s an everyday kind of a cake. In fact, I think the word “cake” should come with a mandatory exclamation point. Like this – cake! There, doesn’t that sound so much more celebratory and decadent? Of course, when you are dealing with things like heavy cream, mascarpone, berries and sherry – decadent is really the only way to describe it. I like to be decadent before a somber mood sets in – like a Sunday supper before Monday morning sets in and it’s business as usual.

buttermilk cake waiting to be frostedgiant dollop of frosting

I’ve been trying to do this Sunday suppers thing with a few friends, and they’re kind of getting used to it and ask what’s on the menu next week. They come over with their kids and we eat and laugh and drink wine and then the kids have a dance-off like you wouldn’t believe. I think it’s partly because they’re so hopped up on sugar and that wee-bit of sherry in the cake, but whatever it is, they have some moves, people! They even try to trash the room like rock stars! does Lev

But cake, dear readers, is a thing either done right or wrong. There’s no such thing as an okay cake. It’s not worth the indulgence unless it really, truly, is fantastic. Either you take a bite and your eyes roll upwards toward the heavens in ecstasy, or you think to yourself, “Eh, cake.” Notice, how lack of the “!” just dampens the whole experience. What you want, what would change everything, of course, is taking that forkful to your mouth and mere seconds later proclaiming, “Mmmm. Cake!

ronya approves of the cake

So many things could make a potentially stunning cake a mediocre one. Either the crumb is too dense, or the frosting too sweet, there’s too much of the frosting on the cake, or something. For me, the danger almost always lies in the amount of sugar that a cake contains. I prefer my cake to be a bit restrained on sweetness. Imagine, if you will, movies that queue dramatic music at particularly poignant parts. That always makes the experience less powerful for me. Letting me figure out that critical moment of heartbreak, without a musical nudge – is where it’s at. Cake and sugar – are sort of equivalent for me analogy-wise.

Which is why I was delighted that this cake had it all – light, moist crumb; delicate and lush frosting; and a tang of berries sweet and full of juice. My friends and their kids loved it as well. And they are very picky dessert people. There was even competition for who gets to lick the mixer whisk – which, in my book, is the highest of praises – no one volunteers for this job if the frosting is bad. In the end, everyone had nothing but praise for cake – even those at the table normally skeptical about dessert. My favorite part – is how simple, unfussy, and unpretentious it is. The cake looks downright messy and that’s part of its charm. I dare anyone not to like it. Especially if flowers are blooming outside. And there are rainbows. And puppies. But even without them – how could you not? After all – it’s not just cake – it’s cake!

buttermilk cake with mascarpone frosting and berries

Mascarpone-Filled Cake with Sherried Berries
Adapted from Gourmet


For cake:
2 cups sifted cake flour (not self-rising; sift before measuring)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 cup well-shaken buttermilk

For berries:
1/2 cup Fino (dry) Sherry
1/2 cup sugar
4 cups mixed berries, cut if large

For cream:
8 ounces mascarpone (1 cup)
1 cup chilled heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar


With a baking rack positioned in the middle, preheat oven to 350°F. While the oven is preheating, butter a 9-inch round cake pan with 2-inch sides and line its bottom with a round of parchment paper. Butter the top of the parchment paper as well.

In a medium bowl, sift together the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

With a mixer, in a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar, beating until the mixture is pale and fluffy. Add vanilla and beat in. Add eggs 1 egg at a time, making sure each is well incorporated after each addition. Turn the mixer speed to low and beat in buttermilk until combined. In 3 batches, add the flour mixture, mixing until just combined. Be careful not to overmix or you will get a dense crumb.

With a spatula, spread batter in cake pan and smooth out the top. Give a few light taps as to eliminate the air bubbles.

Place in the oven and bake fora bout 35-40 minutes, until cake is golden and when tested with a toothpick or a cake tester inserted come out clean.

Cool cake in pan on a rack 10 minutes, after which run a dull butter knife around edge of the pan to loosen the cake. Gently invert cake onto a plate. Remove parchment paper and reinvert cake onto rack to cool completely.

Macerate berries:
If using strawberries, wash, dry and cut them into quarters. Wash and dry berries like raspberries/blueberries, but obviously, don’t cut them. In a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring Sherry and sugar to a boil, stirring until sugar has dissolved. Put berries in a bowl and pour hot syrup over them. Toss gently to coat berries and let stand for about 15 minutes.

Make cream:
You’d be best served with a bowl that’s been hanging out in the freezer for awhile – I just take my mixer bowl and put it in the freezer for about an hour. Beat mascarpone, cream with sugar in this large, chilled bowl using cleaned beaters until mixture just holds stiff peaks. Cold bowl – lovely whipped frosting. Which means, of course, heavenly cake.

Assemble cake:
Halve cake horizontally with a long serrated knife. Carefully remove top half and set it aside. Put bottom half on a plate, then spread evenly with all of cream and replace top half. Serve with berries on top.


  • Amber

    This looks delicious, and I echo every single thing you’ve said about cake, *cough* I mean, cake above. I would love to have a slice of this right now. And I’ve been thinking about it all afternoon since you mentioned it on twitter. You ARE a bad influence.

  • Sharmila

    Unfortunately though, there are such things as ok cakes littered all over the foodscape. *Sigh* I totally agree with what you say about cake needing to be amazing to be worth the indulgence. Which is why many a mediocre bite of cake has been discreetly expelled into a paper napkin and not eaten. My calories need to be worth it. I also feel as strongly about chocolate.
    This cake looks divine. I love the involvement of fruit in cake. Can’t wait to try it!

  • Jess

    First of all, that is my kind of cake. And second of all, “sherried berries.” That’s the loveliest word pairing I’ve heard in a long time.

  • Jackie

    I rarely bookmark cake recipes because I’m one of those people that likes cake, but doesn’t always LOVE it. (Ironic, since I decorate cakes for fun…) BUT you convinced me. Particularly in (1) saying it wasn’t super sweet and (2) topping it with fat-ass mascarpone and cream. WOW. I’m sold. Gotta try this cake very, very soon.


  • grace

    folks who say they don’t like cake are lying to the world or lying to themselves, yes? i LOVE cake and am always happy to take care of pieces that are “too big” or “too sweet” or “too rich” for my fellow diners. :)

  • Radish

    Anne – it’s such a small amount, not sure it was even affecting their taste. They just gobbled up the berries on their plate.

  • kamran siddiqi

    OMG! I need to be one of these friends!

    This cake…. I love how simple and unpretentious it is. Best of all- it’s something that I can make with my eyes closed because of how rustic it is! My kind of cake on a busy day!

    Olga, as always- great post. Only bad thing- I can’t take the cake out of the first photo in this post. Darn. Too bad I don’t have those magical powers! I guess I’ll have to make yet another one of your masterpieces, instead of having it from one of the cake masters! :D

  • Radish

    Stephane – listen, anytime you want cake, buddy, you just let me know. i’ve eaten enough of your celestial macarons to owe you a couple of these babies!

    DC Sarah – you know – you just hit the nail on the head – it’s like a strawberry shortcake tiramisu thingie. brilliant! please make this soon. it’s quite lovely.

  • Pia

    I agree that a cake is not worth eating unless it’s a “cake!” It looks like all of your eager tasters heartily agree. Do you think you could make a cupcake-version of this for individual portions?

  • Radish

    Pia – i think you could try, though I am not sure how long you’d bake them for and how many you’d get?

  • Katie @ Cozydelicious

    Can you believe that for many, many years I thought I just didn’t like cake? Of course that was just because I had never had a really great cake. I now know that fabulous cake is truly awesome and worth every little calorie. And your cake here looks yummy (as do your little ones!) and creamy and crumbly and perfect. I can’t wait for srawbery picking season. I will be filing this recipe away for another few weeks. Thank you!

  • Radish

    Katie – let me know what you think. And also the little ones aren’t mine ;-) though I do adore them to pieces.

  • Dana

    Mmm, I can’t wait until the strawberry patch starts growing, so I could make this with home strawberries instead of store bought. They’re just so much better.

    Hurray for cake inspired dance parties!

  • molly

    perfect timing. i happen to need a fabulous (!!) cake for two sweet brothers in my home, and this looks like just the thing. off for some buttermilk…

  • Stephen Jones

    When you thought you’ve seen it all as far as food. Berrygood I bet.


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  • Melissa

    LOVED, Loved loved this recipe! Made it on Sunday for a small get together and everyone agreed it was wonderful. The filling is what makes it standout. My husband, who does not eat sweets, had 3 pieces. Instead of using Sherry, I used Liquor 43.

  • Christine

    This cake is ten kinds of gorgeous. Like the perfect thing. Oh yum.

    Which is nice because I just had a slight cheesecake fail. I used Deb of Smitten’s NY recipe, and I guess it was a combination of (new to me) high temp then very low temp cooking plus never actually having made (or at least it being at least ten years) a regular method cheesecake, but delicious as it was, it was too squishy in the center and dark on top. Next time, lower initial temp, longer cook time.

    OR really, next time: this. I’ve been feeling like baking more, which is a problem when I also feel like I should be eating less. But one small slice for me and the husband, and the rest for the coworkers sounds like the perfect compromise.

  • Radish

    Christine – that’s too bad. Deb’s recipes are fantastic and sometimes different ovens, newness of a recipe can get in the way. I hope you give that cheesecake another go and next time, I’m sure it’ll be a success. Sharing with coworkers is a great way to get baking AND not add to the waistline :)

  • Christine

    Oh no blame to Deb at all, she warned of wonky ovens and had some issues herself. I was in a bad place between undercooking and overcooking. I went the under cooked route, which was fine by me, it was a self-sauced cheesecake :) Still plenty tasty.

    And I’m all over this one. Seriously. You really do have one of my favorite food blogs. I’m so glad to see you posting up a storm here!

  • Radish

    Christine – thank you! I do wish I posted more, but work’s been treating me to 14-15 hour days so not much going on in that Sassy Radish kitchen, save a few cups of coffee.

  • Nimble

    Just made it — delicious and fancy. Mine fell in the middle but no one complained. I used plain yogurt instead of buttermilk. Will look up why cakes fall to see if I need to adjust something. Thank you for the recipe!

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