Tiny Precious Berries
Even if we didn’t have the bears, the hillside, and the plink! plank! plunk! of the metal bucket, Blueberries for Sal is a very accurate manual for picking blueberries with a two year old. Amos picked five, ate four. Wandered around looking for Blue berries, not green ones, ate one, two, three. Picked four. Dumped them in my container. Picked and ate. Meanwhile, I was just a little less obsessive than Little Sal’s Mother about picking blueberries to save for winter. I will freeze mine, not can them, but I think I will have to go picking again by myself so we can keep a supply of berries in the freezer.
We eat blueberries by the quart full around here but I managed to save some to make the most amazing blueberry cake. The recipe caught my eye in the beautiful new Seven Spoons cookbook by Tara O’Brady. I couldn’t resist the idea of making a blueberry snacking cake, but I also wondered if that was the best use of these tiny precious berries. What if it was bland or dry or the sweet juicy blueberries got lost in a spongy cake? These are important questions when summer produce is ripe and fleeting. Fortunately, the cake exceeded all of my expectations. The sturdy cake was lemony with hints of vanilla which perfectly highlighted the blueberries, turning each one into a burst of flavor. It is an absolutely worthwhile use of freshly picked summer fruit.
Blueberry Snacking Cake
Adapted from Seven Spoons by Tara O’Brady
The original cake calls for two tablespoons of poppy seeds but I didn’t have any and I was happy without them. This recipe is not fussy, but it takes a bit of time, especially for baking. It is worth every minute.
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar, plus more for sprinkling
4 eggs, at room temperature
Seeds scraped from one vanilla bean or two teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons creme fraiche or sour cream
juice and grates zest of one lemon
1 cup blueberries
Preheat the oven to 300′ Butter an 8 inch round cake pan and line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper. Butter the paper as well. Whisk together the flour and salt.
Using a mixer, cream the butter and sugar for 8 minutes on medium high, scraping down the sides of the bowl regularly. It will turn into a light thick mixture, almost like icing. Decrease to medium speed and add the eggs one at a time, scraping the beater and the bowl and mixing well after each addition. The batter may look curdled at this point, but it will still come together just fine. Add the vanilla. With the mixer on low, add half of the flour. Then add the creme fraiche and lemon juice and finish with the remaining flour until everything is incorporated but not over-mixed. Stir in the blueberries by hand and pour into the prepared pan. Sprinkle the top with sugar.
Bake for 80-90 minutes until a skewer in the middle comes out clean. Allow it to cool for at least 30 minutes before removing it from the pan. It will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for four days, if it lasts that long!