This recipe is inspired by my momma- hi mom!
Let me tell you about my mom. She was born in Sri Lanka- that little teardrop-shaped island off the coast of India. She grew up running on hot gravel with barefeet, and still has the calluses to prove it. Though now, her closet is stocked almost completely full with shoes that she’s gathered over the years, and never seems to throw away.
She moved to the U.S. when she was 14, and the rest of her family trickled in over the years. She majored in English and Communications at U.C. Berkeley, and was the only person (let alone, woman!) in her family, at the time, to pursue a degree. As far as I know, she’s the only one in her family that doesn’t have a Sri Lankan accent; though she does pronounce “ear” like “year.” She’s an avid reader, thinker, and tea-drinker. In the evenings, she used to read me Nancy Drew, and she introduced me to Jane Austen novels before any of my friends or exposure to pop culture had the chance to spoil the ending of Pride and Prejudice for me. She directly influenced my choice to also major in English.
Back to the tea-drinking. Here’s a mini history lesson. Sri Lanka used to be called Ceylon. If you like tea, you probably recognize the name. Tea companies often still print “made in Ceylon” or “Ceylon-style” on their boxes. I did a quick Wikipedia search for y’all to get the exact stats; apparently, Sri Lanka is still the second largest tea exporter in the world.
Sri Lanka was once a British colony (and before that, a Dutch colony), and some of the cultural practices still survive today. For instance, my mom grew up with a regular tea time. And it was a ritual she loved and shared with me as I was growing up.
I don’t remember my first ever afternoon tea, only that my mom and I went out for tea significantly more often than any of my friends ever did. We knew all the good tea spots in town, and in all the surrounding towns, and all the big towns that took hours to drive to. We’d always make a day of it by wearing extravagant hats and pretty clothes and go to tea on Saturday afternoons. We did it so often, I began to unconsciously raise my pinky finger, even while just drinking out of a water bottle at home.
To this day, whenever Jon and I travel, I make a point to book afternoon tea at some fancy hotel, so we can get our scone fix.
I made this cake for a tea party with my friends, which is why I would definitely recommend that you do the same. Bring it to a tea party, or eat the whole thing by yourself with your own cup of tea- no judgement. It turned out very soft and sweet, and the lavender glaze made it extra fancy and aromatic.
I took some advice from Joanne Chang’s book, Flour, and added crème fraîche instead of sour cream or greek yogurt, to give the cake it’s great texture. I also copied her method of combining ingredients: first I creamed the butter and sugar together, then adding in the pre-beaten eggs, crème fraîche, then slowly adding in the dry ingredients. At the very very last minute, I added the blackberries and did not mix them in fully, so that the batter would be lightly “swirled.” I think the first step of smoothing out the sugar and butter really made this dessert amazing and light!