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Summer, swallowed whole

the last of august

I do believe that summer may have left us.

Despite the weekend's warmth of a sun that seemed especially golden, the rustle of leaves this morning speaks in murmurs of autumn. The sky looks a painterly depiction of the layers of a feathers on a dove's wing. 

I wore jeans the other day, and a shirt with long sleeves. What's worse is that I didn't mind. I may have even cast a longing glance at a pair of wool socks.

And then there's school. Yesterday was the the first for our First, Benjamin's first day at school. Backpack and new shoes, a fresh haircut and the whole nine yards. September is forever changed in what it means to him. And to us, as we zipped up that backpack and mussed up that hair and thought to ourselves, "my, how time does fly."

Not to dwell too long, or next thing you know I'll be humming The Byrds and we'll all be lost. 

Let's rewind. Back to summer. And back to this pie - it's Blackberry Cream Pie, in case you're wondering. And it was the way we said goodbye to our August, with a send off and a salute. 

If you ask me, there's no doubt, blackberries are the end of summer, swallowed whole. I feel like their sourness differs from that of strawberries and raspberries. It seems to hit further back on the tongue, at the back of the jaw and tannic. Like their looks, they taste darker, of fruit that should grow among brambles, of wildness and things overgrown.

And to me, this pie, is all that is an August afternoon, transfixed.

Inspired by a pie from Sweet Fine Day, this version has a golden shortbread crust beneath a filling of whole berries bound by a soft-set blackberry purée. It's voluptuous and beguiling like jelly without the wobble.The whole fruit, those ebony clustered bubbles bursting upon biting, are full of all of August's heat and humidity. 

There's patches of pink where the filling seeps into the pale cream, but mostly the fruit just shines duskily, jet and juicy.

The wind is picking up now, with the curtains at my side puffing in and out with the breath of September. The start of something new is upon us, but this summer, and it was a good one, is still on my mind. 


Blackberry Cream Pie
Adapted from the Fresh Strawberry Pie from Sweet Fine Day. Most packets of powdered gelatin contain 1 tablespoon, or 3 teaspoons - this recipe will use an entire packet, with 2 teaspoons for the filling and 1 teaspoon reserved for the topping.

Ingredients for the crust
2 cups shortbread cookie crumbs
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Ingredients for the filling
6 cups blackberries, divided
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 teaspoons powdered gelatin

Ingredients for the topping
1 1/2 cups heavy, whipping cream
2 tablespoons caster sugar
Seeds scraped from half a vanilla bean
2 tablespoons sour cream
1 teaspoon powdered gelatin
2 tablespoons milk


To make the crust, preheat an oven to 325°F (160°C). In a large bowl, stir together the cookie crumbs and salt. While stirring, start to drizzle in the butter. Only use enough butter to dampen the crumbs - depending on the cookies used it might be as little as 1 tablespoon or as much as 3. If you compress the crumbs with the back of a spoon they should pack like sand at the beach, but not appear sodden.

Press the crumbs into a 10-inch springform pan, forming an even layer across the bottom and a 3-inch crust up the sides. Bake in the preheated oven until lightly golden and set, around 8-10 minutes. Set aside to cool completely.

To make the filling, take 3 cups of the berries and put them in a medium saucepan with the sugar and the of the salt. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce to a simmer. Cook, stirring, until the fruit becomes soft and the juices begin to thicken, around 7-10 minutes.

Carefully remove the blackberries to a blender (or use an immersion blender), and process until smooth. Push the puréed sauce through a sieve, back into the saucepan. Return to the heat and bring again to a simmer, stirring often. Cook the sauce until it becomes thick, with a clear, glossy look, around 5-7 minutes. You should have around 1 cup of purée.

Off the heat, stir in the lemon zest, followed by the soaked gelatin, stirring quickly to dissolve.

Tumble in the reserved berries, give them a few turns in the pan to coat, then pour into the cooled crust. Refrigerate for 10 minutes to start to firm up.

To make the topping, pour the whipping cream into a bowl along with the sugar and scraped contents of the vanilla bean. Beat the cream to firm peaks, then fold in the sour cream. 

In a small saucepan, soak the gelatin in the milk. Once soaked, heat the gelatin gently over low heat until it melts and the mixture is smooth. Working quickly but gently, fold the gelatin into the whipped cream. Spread the topping over the blackberry filling, return the pie to the fridge and chill until set, around 2 hours. 

To serve, remove from the pan and cut with a warm knife, wiping the blade clean between slices. 

Makes a 10-inch pie.


  • I used an oatmeal shortbread cookie to make the crumbs for the crust, but a plain shortbread or graham crackers will work beautifully. In the case of the latter, you will need to use extra melted butter for the crumbs to hold together properly.
  • Earlier this summer I made this pie with raspberries and a graham cracker crust. If they're the berry for you, don't hesitate to do the same. 

Reader Comments (37)

I gasped out loud when I saw the image of this pie. It looks divine. And I love your words portraying the subtle shift from summer to fall, my favorite time of year. Thank you, Tara, for sharing.

September 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea [bella eats]

Lovely words. A touch melancholy. I can hear backpacks and freshly-sharpened pencil crayons in your voice. Packed-lunches and memories of what Labour Day used to mean flood my brain. Benjamin is excited, I'm sure, though I bet he'll miss the hot lunches and afternoons with Mom.

September 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJason | These Roving Eyes |

Thanks for the beautiful post. The picture is gorgeous.

That thick cream topping looks delicious - especially against the black berries.

September 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGrant @ Grampa's Honey

What a fabulous (and beautiful!) send-off to summer. Hello, apple-picking!

September 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAshley

Oh, I desperately need an excuse to make this, before summer is really over. I'll bookmark and start thinking.

September 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRachel (heart of light)

this looks like the perfect salute to summer. a great way to end. i hope your little one has been enjoying his time at school, with his new backpack, shoes, and all that. :)

I love the recipe. It looks wonderful.

September 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJoy

I am still wondering where summer has gone, but you make fall sound more appealing than it already is. The pie looks just wonderful.

September 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNicole

Oatmeal shortbread crust? Oh yes please. Blackberries are one of my favorite fruits...especially so because I can pick them for free in my 'hood. Nicely nicely done.

September 8, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterkickpleat

It really is amazing how time flies. I wore a sweater for the first time yesterday and it was sad. But I was strangely okay with it.

Blackberries definitely have a bit more spunk and sass than their berry peers. And this pie definitely captures that, showcasing it.

September 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJoanne

gorgeous photograph and mouthwatering recipe. i hope there are still berries at the farmer's market so i can make one of my own.

also, i am so glad i recently found your blog. your writing is just lovely, and i've enjoyed every single post so far. thank you!

September 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie

I saw this photo on Foodgawker and though, "That looks like Seven Spoons!" Sure enough. These colors take my breath away. Goodbye summer!

September 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterThe Leftoverist

What a perfect summer send-off! I am not sure I am quite ready yet, but if I have to go, a berry cream pie seems like the perfect way!

September 9, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterfresh365

summer has left :(
I have my first fall outfit on today, and it includes riding boots!
I also have made a stew or two already!!
I do look forward to pie in the fall!! mmm!
such comfort food!

September 9, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterceline

Wow. This looks super delicious! That crust almost has me crying with wanting it in my mouth. And blackberries + lemon zest = sold.

September 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAngharad

OMG. These pictures are if I could just pluck that sweet pie from the page and devour it! It looks divine and what a marvelous farewell to summer. Fabulous.

September 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKaty (Blue-Eyed Bakers)

Amazing idea and amazing pictures, I wished we had blueberries here but sadly we dont ):
Summer is leaving...but fall treats are much more comforting! thanks as always for the beautiful post and isnpiration.

September 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAmalia

You had me at pie! I love pie. I have never tried a blackberry cream pie. So this recipe will definitely be going on my list of things to make. Thanks for sharing.

September 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterColleen

Good bye summer - hello blackberry cream pie! Thanks for the beautiful blog!

September 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCari

i think today, i may just make pie.
and mr. benjamin, happy first week of school to you. puff.

September 10, 2010 | Unregistered Commenternikole

Your pie looks incredible. I love the way you described the end of summer...perfect, sad in part, but looking forward to the coming autumn and winter. I do so love all of the seasons, each of them for different reasons. Thanks for sharing both this pie and your thoughts with us.

September 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJessica

As much as I love summer, Fall is my favorite season, with September being the month I most enjoy. Here, the light is clear and strong, and yes, I can see those curtains wafting in air that is often warmer than in June. The blackberries and cream in that pie are perfect for right now.

September 11, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterkelly

just because it's not summer doesn't mean you should stop creating deliciousness like this pie. i wonder if the berries make the crust soggy at all?

September 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLimeCake

Happy first to your dear First! A deep breath moment, if ever there was one.

We adored an almost identical pie, filled with straw not blackberries, early on in summer. I daresay we might be due for an encore...

September 13, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermolly

i may not be the biggest fan of pie, but this looks incredible. (:

September 13, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterhannah {thepastrykook}

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