Blackberry Almond & Dark Chocolate cake & Saveur Blog awards nomination…while I am in Paris!

Paris wakes up early. The first light of dawn illuminates that intricate tangle of rooftops and chimneys, bringing a twinkling glow into its still deserted streets.
The morning smells of butter and freshly baked warm bread. I feel at home in this city where the clouds run always fast, I feel happy of that happiness we’d like to always have. A sense of freedom pervades my body with the same intensity and romanticism placed by Eugene Delacroix into the woman with the flag who is leading the people.I feel as if everything would be possible: just over a week ago I had no idea that I would find myself here, and certainly not with a big news to share, already spoiled on the post’s title!
The Freaky Table was nominated for a Saveur Best Food Blog Award in the best photography category!

I am so very honored to receive this nomination as one of the six finalists in this category from a pool of 30,000 submissions, and I am thankful to everyone of you, friends, readers, supporters who have brought me here.
In the Best Photography category I am in the final with Lab Noon, What should I eat for breakfast today, Kraut Kopf, Claudia Gödke and Rozkoszny, to know us better you can read the presentation of our blogs and our bios on Saveur’s site.
So, if you feel like voting for anyone of us, head over to Saveur, at this link, and vote as many times you want! Voting ends September 9th!

I am sincerely honored to appear alongside many talented people who just like me have probably put a lot of effort (as well as an exorbitant amount of time!) to create all the contents on the blogs, and I just want to live this Saveur’s opportunity as a moment of union between people who share the same passions, rather than a competition that categorizes blogs into “best something” or not.
Everyone is the best at something, in his/her own way.
Every single voice deserves to be heard, and it’s a matter of fact that online there are hundreds of blog authors equally worthy of being rewarded. And maybe – I talk from personal experience – in this moment they’re just wondering… why not me? Or, is my work not good enough? I want to answer you: don’t let someone or something make you doubt yourself about your quality. Never! Be your first supporter. Love yourself. Create your contents with devotion and do that for yourself before than for others.
Be a hungry researcher and always try to keep a spirit of investigation about what you are doing – whether it’s photography, writing, cooking or anything else.

Apropos of contents, I know you’ve already seen this cake in some photos on my instagram feed! But you know, for this last-minute blog post that I have quickly written here in Paris between Cafès and Boulangeries just to share and celebrate with you the Saveur happening, I had to draw on already-existing contents in my archive.
Luckily I still hadn’t shared the recipe yet, but considering that I have just copied the recipe from my dirty messy notes basically trying to remember ingredients and procedure by memory, please be clement with me and more importantly, use your intuition if there’s something that doesn’t seem right while you’re making it!
Don’t worry too much about perfection, in any case there are always flowers to make it beautiful later!
On the other hand, here I am in the country of Haute Pâtisserie française, everywhere I turn I just see beautiful storefronts of sweets with an impeccable look! …but you already know me, I am the one who chooses the eclaire with the poured cream, just because it’s different from the others! As a matter of principle.
That’s probably why I also never get tired about this eclectic city as much as its people: unconventionality here is in the air. There is a Paris that survives faraway from the stereotypes that have always characterized it, and it’s incredibly alive. (Here an “alternative” itinarary of the city I wrote some time ago!).
Two years after the day when I put online this website, during which the getaways to Paris have been numerous, I just think that, at the end, I always come back on this blog and on the streets of this city with a huge sense of gratitude for how both of them are able to make me feel simply happy. And free.

Blackberry Almond & Dark Chocolate cake
*This cake should be high enough to be cut into two layers. I’ve used a 16 cm/ 6,5 inch diameter pan with high edges.
For the Cake:
  • 250 g cake flour
  • 100 g ground almond / almond flour
  • 50 g unsweetened cacao powder
  • 80 g dark chocolate
  • 2 big eggs
  • 200 ml almond milk
  • 200 g caster sugar
  • 5 tbsp organic sunflower oil
  • 15g [2 + ½ tsp] baking powder
For the filling:
  • 3 tbsp of blackberry jam
For the frosting:
  • 150 g fresh blackberries
  • 200 g mascarpone
  • 3 tbsp icing sugar
  • 40 g butter + a little piece to grease the baking pan
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C and grease and line the base of the pan with non-stick baking paper.
  2. In a big bowl whip the 2 eggs with 200g of sugar and 5 tablespoons of sunflower oil till well mixed and smooth.
  3. Add 200 ml of fresh almond milk, stir well to get a liquid mixture.
  4. Crush the chocolate into pieces and melt it in a water bath or in the microwave. Then add it to the liquid mixture stirring with the whisk.
  5. Sift the cocoa powder into the liquid stirring until you have a perfect and fluid dark cream.
  6. Sift into the dark mixture the 250 g cake flour, 100 g almond flour and the baking powder and stir well till well mixed. If the mixture should be too dense you can just add a bit of extra almond milk.
  7. Pour the mixture into the baking pan and bake it in the oven at 180 C° for 30 minutes.
  8. Let the cake chill in the oven before taking it out and cutting it into two parts.
  9. Proceed by making the frosting. The first step is to wash and dry your blackberries. Keep apart half of the blackberries (around 70 gr of them) to garnish the cake later on. Use the remaining half to make a purée, simply by blending them in the food processor.
  10. In a clean bowl, cream the butter at room temperature adding the icing sugar a little at a time and stirring very well using an electric whisk. Then add the mascarpone and the blackberry purée by stirring well continuously with the electric whisk to avoid lumps till you get a purple smooth cream.
  11. Cover the bowl with the mascarpone cream with the plastic wrap and put it into the fridge to thicken for at least 30 minutes.
  12. Place a generous dollop of the mascarpone cream in a piping bag fitted with a large (1.5cm) plain nozzle; pipe a ring of the buttercream just inside the edge of the low layer of the cut cake, thus forming a dam to prevent the jam from leaking out.
  13. Fill the gap in the middle of the ring with abundant blackberry jam, then place the second half of the cake on top, press down gently.
  14. Spread a thick layer of mascarpone cream over the whole cake, using a spatula or plastic dough scraper to get it smooth, but don't worry too much about getting it absolutely perfect... freaky is better! The color of the cake will be a kind of blue/gray - purple, don't worry it’s normal... This cake has no artificial colorants and the blackberry purée oxidizes with the air.
  15. Place the cake in the fridge for at least 20 minutes and garnish its top with the remaining fresh blackberries and with fresh flowers and leafs to make it beautiful before serving.


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  • Avatar
    Reply betty 10/08/2017 at 1:21

    I’m so so SOOOOO happy for you Zaira. I can’t imagine who deserves this more – and you’re so right, every voice does deserve to be heard. In this creative world I think it can be tough, and very easy to do the comparison game (I fall into this trap so often) – I love the message you have here, being your own #1 supporter, loving yourself – thank you for sharing this <3. so voting for you my dear.

  • Avatar
    Reply Dee 10/08/2017 at 22:04

    Congrats on the nomination. It’s so well deserved!

  • Avatar
    Reply James | Thyme to Mango 11/08/2017 at 8:03

    Congratulations on the nomination Zaira – I “found” Freaky Table by scrolling through the nominations on Saveur’s website, and I can see why you’ve been nominated because your photos are truly amazing.

    But your humble and uplifting words of this post are just as amazing; it certainly inspired me on an afternoon where I wasn’t quite feeling the creative/ food blogging vibes – so thanks for that!

  • Avatar
    Reply Christina 05/09/2017 at 1:07

    Well dang! I just came across your blog and can see why you’re a Saveur finalist for best food photography! Your photos are stunning, absolutely stunning! Plus, that cake looks crazy amazing! Great job and congratulations!

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