Uncanny Fruits, Autumn Foraging & Chocolate Bundt Cake

From quince, medlar to barberry, I love to forage for the odd fruits which abound this time of year. The following recipe for this intensely moist almost pudding-like bundt, however,  is filled with two fruits I’ve not cooked much with before. It’s adapted from the Chocolate Cherry Samhain Bundt I just posted on Gather Patreon and as it’s filled with the same foraged fruits I lifted most of the original Patreon post and reshared it here. So for any patrons out there reading it again, I apologize for the redundancy. That said, this Bundt recipe is new – so new that hubby and I finished the last two pieces last night.  This means I need to extend a warning, it was a last-minute inspiration and I didn’t measure everything exactly -so proceed with baking commonsense. However, the cake turned out so exquisitely I wanted to share it while the fruit is in season!

Here in Victoria our unusually warm autumn weather yielded a bumper crop of two very odd-looking fruits indeed, Kousa Dogwood (Cornus kousa) berries and Chinese/Japanese lantern berries (Alkekengi officinarum). Both are popular landscaping/ornamentals and are abundant in parks, neighborhoods, and home gardens across temperate regions of the world. Kousa Dogwood berry is fleshy, creamy, and mild, and Lantern berries are piquant tart, and juicy -and both have a decidedly dramatic appearance. 

I also tossed in a few citrusy Cape Town Gooseberries, another odd fruit that makes its annual appearance in our supermarkets this time of the year. (More on that later.)

I  cooked all these together to make a sauce which I added right into the batter – along with rosehip powder and a splash of Quince Liqueur. It not only yielded the most incredibly moist bundt ever, but it also intensified the deeply chocolatey flavor of the cake itself. Delicious. And nutritious!

While these fruits may seem unusual to modern western appetites, like medlar, quince, and barberry, they have been consumed for many thousands of years. Both plants originally grew wild in the forests of China, Japan, Korea, and other regions of Asia.

There are many species of Dogwood, fascinatingly many from Europe are associated with ancestor veneration, and some in North America with the “little people”. While most feature edible berries, some do not. So please make sure you confirm your local dogwood’s edibility status before you consume. At any rate, the Kousa Dogwood berry most certainly is edible and right now in Victoria, the Kousa Dogwood trees planted in this common ground garden are absolutely laden with bright red berries!  

While they look like a knobby evil cross between a strawberry and cherry, beneath their gritty skin is a soft custardy flesh with a slightly tropical fruity flavor. They can be anywhere from 1 inch to 2 inches in diameter and the skin is a vivid red when ripe, soft & squishy when pressed. Normally it’s recommended to remove the skin as it can be bitter and grainy and berries also contain a few small seeds which should be removed. It should also be mentioned that the Kousa Dogwood berry has a short shelf and should be consumed immediately, otherwise, it just turns to mush and begins to ferment. This probably explains why in Asia, the fruits are often fermented into wines and liqueurs.

Odd fruit # 2 is Alkekengi officinarum, whose Halloween-coloured lanterns have begun to glow everywhere in my neighborhood. Their inflated calyx (the plant’s seedpod) becomes a deep orange-red in early autumn and makes a striking display in many home gardens. But inside the pod,  invisible to us, grows a plump bright orange berry. It is about the same size as a blueberry and considered ripe when the surrounding calyx dissolves away revealing the tart, very juicy berry inside. Please note unripe berries are considered toxic so wait for them to reveal themselves before picking.

The Lantern Berry to the bottom right is ready for harvesting. Note the papery orange seed pod has almost completely dissolved away leaving behind a fine latticework that gives this plant another of its common names, “love in a cage.” The pods will also break open and fall off leaving the fruit ready for plucking. The berry also contains several seeds best discarded before use.

In Japan, these lantern-shaped pods play an important part in the late summer/ early autumn Bon Festival as offerings intended to help guide the souls of the dead. Today many Japanese families still hang lanterns outside of their houses as a light to guide spirits, and gravesites are cleaned and adorned with Japanese Lantern flowers as gifts to ancestors.

While many local lantern berries aren’t ripe yet (their lanterns are still a bright orange) I managed to find a few.  As I didn’t have many, I decided to up the flavor ante with the juicy plump yellow Cape Town Gooseberries. This berry is a little uncanny in appearance as well, featuring a similar papery lantern-shaped calyx. It is native to Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru and is related to Alkekengi officinarum, as both are in the nightshade family Solanaceae along with petunias, tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, and potatoes.

Autumn seems to be the time weird fruits abound, so I hope you can find a few for this dense Chocolate Bundt. I topped it off with a luscious chocolate ganache – and I hate to say it but I didn’t allow it cool before I took pictures. I just cut right in. The cake aroma was so enticing I just had to have a bite!  The ganache glaze does harden up to a more fudgy consistency when completely cooled. Save a bit extra on the side to dollop over each slice of cake – but warm it up first!

Uncanny Fruit Chocolate Bundt 

 Fruit Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1  ½ cups of dogwood berry flesh (pitted and skinned)
  • 1 ½ cups of Chinese Lantern Berries or Cape Gooseberries, pitted
  • 1 ½  teaspoon xanthan, or guar gum (or ½ tablespoon cornstarch) 
  • ¼ cup water
  • ½ cup brown sugar 

Directions 

Place dogwood berries, and Chinese Lantern berries into a small saucepan. Add xanthan gum or ½ tablespoon of cornstarch, sugar, water and mix until completely incorporated. Cook on low heat until the mixture thickens and fruit dissolves.  It should have an applesauce consistency. Once cooled, use a large sieve to strain. Press the sauce through the sieve leaving seeds and rough bits behind.  You should have about 2 cups of fruit sauce. 

Cake

Ingredients

  • 2 cups gluten-free flour blend 
  • ¼ cup cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons ground rosehip powder * see below (or freeze-dried fruit powder)
  • 1 ¼ cups sugar
  • 1 ½  tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • ½ tsp cinnamon or allspice
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ cup melted butter 
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups fruit sauce
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3 tablespoons of Quince Liqueur (or spirit of your choice, dark rum is nice)

Directions

Preheat oven to 340. Grease and dust a small bundt pan (10 cup)

In a large mixing bowl, sift together all dry ingredients for the cake. Mix well.  Little at a time add fruit sauce, butter eggs, oil, vanilla, and Quince Liqueur. Beat until all ingredients are well incorporated. 

Pour into prepared bundt pan. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes clean. Allow the cake to cool completely before removing it from the pan.

Chocolate Ganache Glaze

Ingredients

  • 9 ounces bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon Quince Liqueur or other similar fruity spirits

Directions

Place chocolate in a medium mixing bowl.

In a small saucepan heat cream over medium heat. As soon as the cream comes to a boil, pour it over the chocolate in the mixing bowl. Stir until melted, then whisk until the mixture is smooth, then stir in your spirits. Allow the ganache to cool for 10 minutes or so before pouring the glaze over the cake. 

* Note:  Whether small or large, all rose hips wear a crown at the bottom of the berry – and all are edible. I used my homemade dried rose hip powder but you can find it in most herbal stores or you can order online.  I love to add it to baking and sauces for extra nutrition and flavor.   It is time-consuming to make as seeds need to be cut out and inner itchy hairs need to be removed before drying. Once dried they are ground and carefully sieved to remove any stray seeds and hairs.  Just google “making rose hip powder” and you’ll find more info. Gather Patreons can find all kinds of rose hip recipes in the Winter Holiday E-Cookbook.

Final Important Note: If you are not 110% sure of the identity of any wild fruit or strange berries – do not consume!

Liked it? Take a second to support Gather Victoria on Patreon!

Posted by

Whether its through wildcrafting, plant medicine, kitchen witchery or seasonal celebrations, I believe we can enhance personal, community and planetary well-being by connecting with mother nature!

Leave a Reply