I’ve just returned from a vacation so absolutely wonderful that it seems like a dream, did I really just see a truffle pig??? But while I was away, I was often thinking of raspberries; I was worried that the season, always a short one would be over before I got back.

In the 1830’s Susanna Moodie wrote, “A second growth of timber had grown up in this spot, which was also covered with raspberry bushes-several hundred acres being entirely over grown with this delicious berry.  It was here annually that we used to come in large picnic parties to collect this valuable fruit for our winter preserves, in defiance of black flies, mosquitoes, snakes, and even bears; all of which have been encountered by berry-pickers upon this spot, as busy and as active as themselves, gathering an ample repast from Nature’s bounteous lap.”

Her sister Catherine Parr Traill in her book, The Canadian Emigrant Housekeeper’s Guide, writes of raspberries as being “most abundant in Canada where a clearing has once been made. The birds sow the seeds. The raspberry seems to follow the steps of the settler, and spring up in his path as if to supply the fruit which is so needful to his health and comfort…a dish of raspberries and milk, with sugar or a pie gives many an emigrant family a supper.”

Raspberries were used for jams, pies, preserves, and vinegar, which was used with the addition of cold water as “an excellent fever drink; {as} it is very refreshing in hot weather.”

Fortunately for me, raspberries are still in season and will be for another few weeks, and luckily, I didn’t have to battle  black flies, mosquitoes, snakes (yuck) or bears, just a short drive out of town to Turners Farm Market on highway # 2 where there many boxes of the recently picked ruby hued berries, and at blueberries too. A  heavy flat later and I’m on my way home to start cooking. The first thing that I always bake is Madame Benoit’s appropriately titled First Raspberries Coffee Cake. It’s easy and quick,and gets me primed for the raspberry work that lies ahead; jam, a pie or two. preserves for sure, and of course the vinegar, a staple of my pantry and of pioneer life in Canada, as good things should never change.

“When the first raspberries ripen in the garden, we eat a large plateful topped with maple sugar and yogurt, to taste. The next day comes the coffee cake, light, tender, perfect with tea. When the raspberries are finished, repeat both treats with blackberries,” Madame Benoit.

First Raspberries Coffee Cake

1/4 cup soft butter

1/3 cup sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

1/4 tsp. grated lemon peel

1 egg, beaten

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1 cup ripe raspberries

Cream together until light and fluffy, the butter, sugar, vanilla, and lemon peel. Beat in the egg.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add to creamed mixture, alternately with the milk.

Spread evenly into a well-buttered 8-inch round cake pan. Sprinkle the raspberries on top.

Mix together 2 tablespoons each of butter and brown sugar, 1/4 cup flour, 1/4 teaspoon of cardamon or coriander, until crumbly.

Sprinkle over the raspberries. Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven, 25 to 30 minutes or until cake is done. Cut into wedges and serve warm or tepid, with or without cream.


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