The cake with a thousand faces

Fruit and more can star in this quick dessert

Blackberry Cake

At the Fancy Food Show in San Francisco a few months ago, I trudged through the North and South halls of the huge Moscone Convention Center until I was exhausted and almost stupefied by the endless conveniences offered. There must be a baking mix for every occasion.

So why bother to bake from scratch? Believe it or not, sometimes it's easier. Certainly, this versatile, tender, one-layer cake is for me ― I always have the basics: butter, flour, sugar, baking powder, and a couple of eggs. And it's oven-ready in 10 minutes or less.

If I bake the cake plain, I can finish it with frosting, ice cream, or sauce.

Or, for additional nuances, I can flavor the batter with vanilla, a liqueur, orange or lemon peel, or a spice.

But the best part is that I can top the batter with fruit. The fruit makes a beautiful pattern as it sinks in during baking, and the cake is never soggy.

With each variation, I have a brand-new dessert. Now that's convenience.

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