Delicious & Easy

Blackberry Sage Upside Down Cake

When it comes to sage advice in the kitchen, we often think of traditional poultry preparations, sauces, or gravies, but I’m here to share a few applications in the baking department for using one of the most aromatic and most delicious of all the herbs—sage. This perennial herb grows happily in San Diego, with many varietals found native to our region. Salvia apiana, also known as white sage or bee sage, grows in the hills behind my East County home and I love using it as a secret ingredient in baking. Its grassy, herbaceous notes are a wonderful foil to tart fruit, and balance the sweetness just right in my recipe for a Blackberry Sage Upside Down Cake.

Ingredients for

Blackberry Sage Upside Down Cake

  • Olive oil, plus 3 tablespoons olive oil, separated
  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted
  • ⅔ cup brown sugar 
  • 12 ounces fresh blackberries (1 pint)
  • 1 ½ sticks butter, softened
  • ⅔ cup granulated sugar 
  • 3 eggs 
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract  
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour 
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder 
  • 2 teaspoons sage, chopped 
  • ½ teaspoon salt 
  • ¾ cup buttermilk

MAKES 1 9-inch round cake

Instructions for

Blackberry Sage Upside Down Cake

  1. Preheat oven to 350°. 
  2. Prepare a 9-inch round cake pan or 9-inch deep-dish pie plate by greasing it with olive oil. Add melted butter and brown sugar to the pan and stir to disperse. Add blackberries evenly to the bottom of the pan, and set aside. 
  3. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light yellow in color and airy in texture. Feel free to do this by hand with a wooden spoon for about 5 to 6 minutes. If using a stand mixer, expect it to take 3 to 4 minutes. 
  4. Add your eggs 1 at a time to the creamed butter and sugar, making sure to mix well to combine before adding the next egg. Beat in olive oil and vanilla extract. 
  5. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, chopped sage, and salt. Add ½ of the dry ingredient mixture to the liquid ingredients. Mix and then add in ½ of the buttermilk. Add remainder of dry ingredients, mix, and then add remaining buttermilk. 
  6. Distribute batter into your pan over the berries, smoothing it across as even as possible. Bake the cake for 35 to 40 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the middle. Allow cake to cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then invert onto a serving platter. 

Frequently asked

Questions About This Recipe

This cake baked for about 57 minutes, but should have gone the whole hour. Still delicious, super moist, not too sweet, and the flavor of sage keeps you craving the next bite.

Can you make substitutions in this cake recipe? 

Use late-season stone fruits or even frozen berries to substitute when if fresh blackberries are hard to find or out of season. Common sage or white sage will work as well.


Notes & Thoughts

Unless it’s growing in your garden, or a family member or friend is growing it in their garden, white sage might be hard to come by. In recent years, the popularized practice of smudging has incentivized illegal white sage harvesting and endangers the plant which grows in Southern California and Baja California’s coastal sage scrub habitat. Should you decide to forage for white sage, it is important to note two things:

  1. It is illegal to harvest white sage from public land for commercial sale.
  2. Make sure to harvest white sage correctly so as not to damage the roots and ensure the perennial shrub can continue growing for years to come.