This cake is included in my book, Seasonal Recipes from the Garden. It’s a modified version of my grandmother Margie Hanes Smith’s recipe. I believe this recipe came to her from her mother, my great-grandmother Hanes, who used blackberry jam as a way to sweeten the cake. Back then sugar was scarce, so jam and sorghum molasses were often used as sweeteners.

This cake can be served with or without Ma Smith’s caramel sauce.


  • 2 cups blackberry jam, room temperature
  • 1 cup salted butter, softened
  • 1 cup black walnuts, chopped
  • 2 cups dark brown sugar, packed
  • 6 eggs, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 4 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups buttermilk, room temperature


  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Butter and flower a large tube pan, or use a flour-based baking spray such as Baker's Joy. Set the pan aside.
  2. Separate the eggs, putting the yolks and whites in different mixing bowls. I another large bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. In a small bowl, mix 1/2 cup of the flour mixture with the black walnuts and raisins.
  3. Add the brown sugar, butter, and blackberry jam to the egg yolks, and stir together thoroughly. Stir in the buttermilk. Add the flour mixture.
  4. Beat the egg whites until they turn white but are loose and runny, not too "airy." Fold the egg whites into the batter. Then mix the nuts and raisins, blending only enough so that they are equally distributed in the batter.
  5. Pour the batter into the tube pan and bake for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. When a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, it's done.
  6. Remove the pan from the oven and let the cake cool for about 10 minutes in the pan. Then loosen the cake from the sides of the pan by running a knife around the edge. Invert a cake plate over the pan, and invert the two together. Lift off the tube pan.
  7. Slice and serve.