If you can beat the birds to them, serviceberries are a handsome match for all things pastry; or reduced into a sauce and spooned over grilled meats; or drowned in cream; or tossed directly down the hatch.
Native to this area, serviceberries (Amelanchier) have a low-key profile, looking like a cross between a shrub and a small tree. But, good things come in unsuspecting packages. For only a week or two out of the year, around the 1st of June (right now), the little dangling clusters of berries blush deep red and become sweet and tender, with a flavor reminiscent of plum and cherry. The fruit surrounds tiny soft seeds that taste like almonds. A good combination all around.
From the rose family (Rosaceae), serviceberry fruits can be easily identified by their likeness to rose hips, and by the noisy congregation of gorging songbirds the ripe berries lure.
As a tribute to this seasonal treasure and to Asheville Grit’s launch....presented here: The Serviceberry Skillet Cake (AKA: The Asheville-Grit Cake). Like so many things worth celebrating in this town, this recipe highlights a few--- with a spree of native fruit, the industrial charm of cast iron, and a nod to Asheville’s cherished concentration of savvy, colorfully inked foodies. A marriage of the finer things.
Serviceberry Skillet Cake (A.K.A Asheville-Grit Cake):
*1/8 cup bread crumbs for dusting
*1 cup fine raw cane sugar
*1 stick unsalted butter, room temp
*zest of 1 lime
*1 1/2 cup unbleached organic AP flour
*juice of one lime
*1 cup fresh, very ripe service berries
Preheat oven to 350. Butter a 9 inch cast iron skillet.
Sprinkle with the breadcrumbs to coat bottom of skillet. Beat the sugar and butter at medium high speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes.
Beat in lime zest. Slowly beat in the eggs one at a time. Add the flour and lime juice, alternating between the two until just incorporated. Blend the rest with a rubber spatula.
Pour the batter into the pan. Sprinkle the berries over top, and gently press into the batter.
Bake on center rack for 40 minutes or until surface is golden and a cake tester comes out clean.
Cool slightly before slicing.