Gail Simmons’ lemony cake is the perfect canvas for “bumbleberry,” a mix of at least three kinds of summer berries.

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Bumbleberry Buttermilk Upside-Down Cake
Credit: Victor Protasio

It's almost impossible for me not to associate the onset of summer with bumbleberries, a fantastical term, common in my homeland of Canada, referring to a jumble of in-season berries (usually a minimum of three types: blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries). They are tossed together and cooked into a pie, jam, or other juicy concoction. The theory is that the magically complex combination of berries provides a depth of flavor and a distinct vibrancy that just can’t be achieved using one berry alone.

To this day, the word “bumbleberry” conjures memories of my childhood-favorite pies and tarts, discovered at county fairs or small-town markets and “pick-your-own” farms that lined the highway between my home and what we call “cottage country.” And so each June, I find myself drawn back into the kitchen, berries in hand, to create recipe variations galore, adding bumbleberries to everything from cocktails to ice cream sundaes and buckwheat pancakes to crumbles and crisps.

This fruit-laden upside-down cake is a direct product of my long-standing obsession. Loaded with a fresh mix of berries and a healthy spoonful of lemon zest, swirled with buttermilk for extra moisture and just a hint of tartness, it just may be my greatest bumbleberry triumph to date! Its simple beauty lies not only in the satisfaction of inverting the golden vanilla cake and seeing the berries transformed into a blanket of warm, sweet magenta, but also in the knowledge that if bumbleberries abound, summer is most certainly here.

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Bumbleberry Buttermilk Upside-Down Cake