Friday, September 23, 2011

Feasts and Festivals: Harvest Home

Harvest Home falls on the first day of autumn every year. To celebrate, I made a seasonal treat--Blackberry and Apple Tray Bake. It's baked in a 9"x13" pan, until the apples and blackberries are soft and juicy and the dough is just set but still a bit gooey. What better way to celebrate the bounty of the earth?

In pre-industrial Britain, Harvest Home celebrated the end of the cereal harvest (wheat, oats, barley or rye). This harvest was the most concentrated period of labor for agricultural workers* and, in a pre-industrial society, almost everyone had deep-rooted ties to the land, from peasants to tenant-farmers, to great landlords. It was a society tuned in to the minute details of seasonality.

If you're in the mood for a bit of poetry with your cake, Robert Herrick wrote "The Hock Cart, or Harvest Home" in 1660. Like in "Corinna's Going a-Maying," Herrick elevates country pleasures to high art. Thanks to Google Books, I can clip the poem from a public domain book and I don't have to copy the entire thing out of my Norton Anthology. Yeah, it's a little wonky, but it's a time saver! :-)

*"Harvest Home" in Ronald Hutton, The Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), 332.

Blackberry and Apple Tray Bake

1 ¼ lbs Granny Smith apples, or other firm, tart apple
1 lemon
¾ cup unsalted butter (6 ounces)
1 ¼ cups organic half-n-half
1 ½ cups + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 eggs
2 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
10 ounces blackberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and flour a 9”x13” Pyrex baking dish. Set aside.

Peel, core, halve and thinly slice the apples. Toss with the juice from the lemon and set aside.

Cut the butter into chunks and put it, along with the half-n-half, in a small saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil then set aside. Meanwhile, in a very large mixing bowl, whisk together 1 ½ cups of the sugar and eggs for 3 minutes.

Add the hot butter mixture to the egg mixture a little bit (about 2 tablespoons) at a time, whisking well after each addition. Be sure to add the hot butter mixture slowly to prevent curdling. Add in the flour and whisk vigorously until any lumps are gone. Pour batter into prepared dish.

Top cake batter with the thinly-sliced apples then scatter the blackberries over the top. If you’re using frozen blackberries, don’t bother to defrost them. Sprinkle the 2 tablespoons of sugar over the top of the cake and bake in the middle of the oven for about an hour and fifteen minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.

Serves 8 to 12

Adapted from “Bramley & Blackberry Tray Cake” from the GoodFood Cakes iPhone app.

Download and print

Other Apple Recipes:
Apple Dumplings
Beetroot and Apple Salad
Blackberry-and-Apple Pie
Christmas Pudding
Heg Peg Dump
Honey Toffee Apples
Kerry Apple Cake
Lammas Lample Pie
Queen Elizabeth Date Cake

Like what you're reading? Sign up for free updates:


  1. oh that looks so delicious!


  2. ooooooh! this looks incredibly yummy! <3 thanks for sharing and making me crave it!!! I am enjoying school so far! It's so busy but I like it that way. No time to be lazy :)

    love, polly

  3. A wonderful post and covering a subject close to my heart.....the recipe is perfect too ~ I have all the ingredients!
    Karen @ Lavender and Lovage

  4. Oh Lauren, you really must stop doing these posts. This looks way too delicious for me to handle. My mouth is watering and sadly cafeteria food will just not cut it.

  5. Loved reading the poem - glad you included it. Those blackberries are beautiful!

  6. i love your new blog format! its very nice and clean :) that cake? bake? looks so fantasticly delicious! :D

  7. This looks great. Is it just a sweet dish?

  8. It looks good.
    Wow, you have changed the design of your blog... good job! I like the previous one too but this one is nice.

  9. What a gorgeous tray bake - the colour is sublime and I am sure that the flavours would match.

  10. Kat- Yeah it's pretty much like a right-side-up upside-down cake.

    Aki- It's sweet, but not too sweet. :-)

  11. Oooh, what a scrumptious fall dessert! And it's lovely paired with the poem...I'm glad you shared it.

    I like your new blog look! :)

  12. I came over from Ren's, and this looks delicious! Really perfect for autumn too! I'm glad I came over, I really enjoyed your writing style and the poetry!


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.