Marionberry Shortcakes!!

This week's Heavenly Cake is the Marionberry Shortcake. Marionberries, unlike myself, are an Oregonian native which is probably why I like them so much. It gives me street cred amongst the natives.

gleaning the marionberries

The Marionberry is is named after Marion county, which encompasses our state capital (and the first place I lived in Oregon) and according to the official Marion County website, " the largest producer of agriculture among Oregon's 36 counties." Woo! Go Oregon!

(warning: this post is mostly about the berry)

August 18, 2010
Name of cakes: We Are Awesome! Shortcakes
Occasion: HCB
Constituents: individual genoise shortcake cups syruped with marionberry syrup and filled with marions, served with whipped cream

marionberry shortcakes

I can still remember as clear as yesterday the first time I ate a marionberry. Sadly, although I've lived in Oregon pretty much since 1991 it was only a couple of summers ago. I had poured myself a bowl of Heritage Flakes with rice milk and sprinkled marionberries over the top. The first spoonful was delicious, sweet cereal grains, but the second spoonful! The marionberry exploded in my mouth with such brilliant juicy purply flavor, it seemed like they should always be spelled in purple bold all-caps, with a period for badassness: MARIONBERRY.

It was awesome.

gleaning the marionberries

Apparently they are called the cabernet of berries, because of their complex flavors.  Its true; they are sweet and tart and sort of like the best most ripe Chester Blackberry ever, but different.  They taste like a plush purple silk velvet pillow feels. Also, they have a short season of just July, and when are they are around Oregonians are a little frenzied for them. I could have sworn their season extended into August, but when I started looking for marions at the end of July I discovered that it was the last week of the season! And most places didn't have any! And the farmer's markets sold out in the first few hours! And then I found a produce stand which had a few last flats and I snatched one up! And hooray! And then I left for Toronto and then for California, and then I looked at my marions stashed in the refrigerator and oh no! Moldy berries!

I was so sad. However, frozen marions are just as great as Rose says they are, and I resigned myself to using frozen berries. I just felt that since the darn berries actually grow within driving distance from my apartment, I really ought to use the fresh ones. But oh well.

Today Cookie and I ventured out to Sauvie Island Farms for more blueberries, and as we walked past their marionberry patch, I stopped to take a few photos for the blog. Cookie noticed a few ripe berries still hanging on the nearest vine and sampled one for herself. One berry was enough for her to suggest we spend our afternoon gleaning marions for the cake. Which we did. It only took an hour to get a pound.

2010 08 18

And there was great rejoicing.

And so....on to the cake.

A couple of months ago I found one of those individual Mary Ann shortcake specialty pans for only 8 bucks, so I decided to give in and just get it. You know I am not a specialty pan fan, but...8 bucks.

The little genoise shortcakes are actually pretty quick and easy to make. There was a time when genoise sounded tedious and stressful, and never came out properly, and I am glad that for the most part that time is over. The fun part of making genoise batter is when you beat the warmed eggs and sugar for 5+ minutes on high in the KA. That part is fun for two reasons: the egg mixture becomes fluffy and gorgeous, and you can do 5 min of cleanup in the meantime.

marionberry shortcakes

Once the eggs have had their 5 minute transformation, about a half cup is whisked into the warmed beurre noisette and vanilla extract. The wondra flour is then folded into the remaining eggs in two parts, followed by the beurre noisette mixture. The batter is scraped into the pan and baked for 15 minutes.

marionberry shortcakes

The cakes are turned out of the pans as soon as they are finished baking and left to cool.

marionberry shortcakes

I have a public service annoucement:
If there were any need to prove that making sure the amount of batter per cup is important take a gander at this next photo.

marionberry shortcakes

See how the cake in the back left is already finished baking, but the two giant ones in the front are not? Yeah, that's why it is important to make sure the same amount of batter goes into each cup. Cakes were overbaked by the time those behemoths finished baking.

In the meantime, the gorgeous MARIONBERRIES. have been macerating to pull out the juices. It broke my heart a little bit to dump all that sugar on the marions, I mean they're straight off the vine delicious, but I knew the juice was going to good use.

marionberry shortcakes

I got a little confused by Rose's directions about making the marion syrup. The recipe says to macerate the berries until they release 1/2 cup (4 fl oz) of syrup. The syrup is then reduced to 1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp if using the additional 2 tbsp of Chambord. If omitting the Chambord, the recipe says to reduce the syrup to 1/2 cup (2.4 fl oz). Do you see the math problems and typos? When omitting the Chambord, it should be 1/4 cup instead of a 1/2 cup, but it really should be the 1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp and when using the Chambord you should reduce to 1/4 cup (the 2 tbsp will come when you add the Chambord).

Did that make sense? I got tired just typing it all out.

Since these marions were fresh, after many hours of macerating they released only 1/4 cup of juice. In the notes below the recipe Rose says that if subbing with other berries, use fresh berries and you'll get about 1/4 cup of juice. So I went with that.

The juice/syrup is painted on the shortcakes to flavor and moisten. I was nervous this wouldn't be enough juice to thoroughly moisten all the cakes. What could I do? I could have made a sugar syrup to dilute the juice, but I didn't want to dilute the flavor. So I left them as is, and hoped an overnight rest would help moisten the whole cake.

Look how cute they looked today--like little kids who got into their mom's lipstick.

marionberry shortcakes

Next up, the berries are spooned into each cup and left to rest for no more than an hour while the whipped topping is made. There were two choices for the topping: whipped creme fraiche or whipped cream. In a cheap moment I chose the whipped cream, but in hindsight the creme fraiche would have been much better.

marionberry shortcakes

The heavy cream is whipped with sugar and vanilla until it mounds softly when dropped from a spoon. And now....time to eat marionberry shortcake!!

marionberry shortcakes

marionberry shortcakes

marionberry shortcakes

So how were the marionberry shortcakes?

Well, the cakes were a little drier that I would have preferred for genoise. That is due to the overbaking, but it will be interesting to see how the leftovers are tomorrow. So far, I have found my genoise cakes even better 36-48 hours after being syruped.

The berries are still as bright and complex as they were straight from the vine, and macerating in sugar didn't leave them too sweet. I certainly enjoyed these shortcakes, and I am glad I found fresh berries. However my favorite way to eat marions remains right out of hand, preferably while still standing in the berry patch, juices staining my fingers and mouth purple with Oregon's summer bounty.


  1. I'm jealous! I have never had a successful trip to the marionberry patch. Every time I go, there are hardly any on the vines, and whatever I do pick just not very sweet--even though I'm very choosy about which ones I pick. Boo. It must not be a very good patch out there at Rowell farms, or else I manage to hit it every year at the wrong time. Anyway, I'm glad your venture was more successful! Marionberry shortcake sounds divine!

  2. Jennifer, thank you for sharing pictures of the beautiful farm and the marionberry trees! They look lovely!

    Your cake looks grand. I love the pan and your description of the cake looking like little kids with lipstick.

  3. You make me want to spend next summer in OR!

  4. I love fresh Oregon Marionberries, too! That was good luck finding some ready to pick for your cakes. Brilliant!
    I had a good laugh at the maths bit.
    I was confused and fuddled but it still kind of made sense or perhaps I just wanted it to!
    Your little Marionberry cakes look like the perfect summer treat.

  5. Thanks for clarifying how to reduce the syrup. I read it over and over and couldn't figure out what it was supposed to be. I enjoyed your reminiscing and info about the berries. Looks like your cakes turned out great.

  6. WOW! You get to pick your own berries! How fun is that! I didn't know marionberries look like that..but now i know.. Thanks for sharing the photos! They look like blackberries to me acutally. LOL!

  7. Those little cakes are adorable! I enjoy a good berry!! And you are right about the purple lettering, I love it!!


  8. Loved this post, so happy to learn about Marion berries. Your pics of the disappearing cake made me crave these! Beautiful job.

  9. ב''ה

    Great post! Thanks for clarifying about the reducing. It was confusing. It was the reason I used strawberries, since I could figure out from the instructions that you did not have to reduce them.

  10. Beautiful! You are so lucky to have found some berries still on the vines. I tried to glean my mom's marionberry canes this weekend and all I found were sad little dried-up marionfossils. However, I enjoyed many of her berries in July in the form of smoothies, and will continue to enjoy them year-round in the form of the Best. Jam. Ever.

    So Rose's recipe actually called for Marionberries? That is cool!

    P.S. I miss Oregon. Am feeling nostalgic this week.

  11. Amanda, really? what a bummer! i have found that the best time for u-pick is in the middle of the week, to give the vines some time to ripen after the weekend u-pick attack. maybe that will help? marionberry anything is divine!

    jenn, thank you! i felt like i should take up the marionberry ambassador for you guys.

    lois, i think you would enjoy an oregon sumer! come on out :)

    vicki, thanks!

    melinda, yes, very good luck and a good persistent friend to goad me into the patch. i wish you were here for these!!

    jkcurtis, thanks! it took me several readings until i finally reasoned it out. i figured there were probably others in the same boat so i decided to share.

    faithy, marions are a cross between a blackberry and a raspberry, and sometimes in the sotres it is hard to discern which ones are marions and which are the balckberries! marions tend to be more of a maroon-purple color and are much more delicious :)

    joelf, thanks homes. i love that you commented on my blog when i was prob sitting across the room from you!

    julie, thank you!

    mendy, yeah, some serious typos in the reducing paragraph! oh well.

    raiuchka, bummer, only marionfossils :( you are lucky you get fresh marions for free! yum!! i would LOVE to make marionberry jam next summer. i guess i could buy some frozen berries, but it is much more satisfying to jam berries you picked yourself. do you have a favorite marionberry jam recipe?

    yeah, rose loves the marionberries! go oregon! and come visit! even if for a day, i would love it.

  12. Love the little cake cups. And, thanks for letting me choose the cake this 'free' week. I knew you were skipping that cake!


  13. After reading this and looking at the wonderful pictures I need to truly convince Tom to leave the hot, humid, melting florida weather behind and move to Oregon...

    Beautiful little cakes!

  14. Congrats on being Featured Baker of the Week. You definitely deserve it. Not only for the beautiful pictures and wonderful descriptions (berries and all), but also for the "kids with mom's lipstick" comment which made me LOL!!! Thanks to Vicki I found a place about 5 miles from my house that sells frozen marionberries. Can't wait to do a 'rewind' on this recipe!

  15. Anonymous28/8/10 15:53

    OMG! You just reminded me how much I love marionberries, like seriously LOVE them. I hadn't tasted them until my last year in Oregon, what a waste of time. Last year, I got tons of them and froze them. OHSU farmers market always had plenty of them during the season, I guess I was lucky. your little cakes are adorable.


  16. joelf, you must really like the little cups as you commented twice about them! your cake is being made as we speak...

    monica, Oregon has that magical pull that entices many to move here (including myself). come for a visit!

    hanaa, thank you! are you thinking about doing this for free cake week?

    annamaria, yeas, i remember your plans to bake a marionberry pie last summer. i hear you about wasting time not eating these. i really dropped the ball this year, too. redemption awaits in 2011!


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