Tuesday, June 16, 2009


On Saturday morning, A and I picked over seven pounds of blueberries. Last year when I did this with my friend J, the weather was unbearably hot and sunny and the blueberries were small and relatively picked over. This year, it was cool and cloudy and the blueberries were big, ripe, and plentiful, so I was able to pick nearly a pound more in what felt like half the time—and then come home with double that amount, thanks to A lending an extra pair of intensely blueberry-loving hands. Here is what 7.25 pounds of blueberries looks like, in case you were wondering:

So we have been decadently devouring fresh blueberries by the bowlful, but of course, I wanted to make something special with our bounty. This berry-studded buttermilk cake recipe was published in Gourmet this month and has been making the food blog rounds: I first saw it, looking delectable in its original raspberries, at The Smitten Kitchen, then at Sassy Radish, and then again, with blueberries this time, at The Food Librarian. I’m not much of a cake eater or baker, but these simple single-layer no-frosting “everyday cakes” always look so cozy and charming to me, I couldn’t resist this one—and I’m so glad I didn’t. It was easy and so good—light, moist, not too sweet, with the tang of buttermilk, the irresistible (especially when paired with blueberries) zip of lemon zest, and an addictive crispy-sugared top. It’s the kind of thing you could whip up at the height of summer without breaking a sweat and bring to a picnic or barbeque.

The Food Librarian noted that all her blueberries sank to the bottom, so I dusted mine with flour before setting them gently atop the batter and they didn’t sink quite as uniformly as hers—but they still sank; I guess they were just too plump not to. This wasn’t a problem until I went to flip the cake out of the pan and of course, it wouldn’t release at first, then splatted out onto the cooling rack in a heap. I might have been too impatient, it’s true—maybe I should have let it cool in the pan just a little longer—or maybe that soft, juicy, berry-laden bottom was just destined not to hold up (though I noticed the Food Librarian’s came out just fine, darn it). So my cake was extra “rustic”-looking and I had to work hard to salvage a non-mangled slice for photographic purposes, but it tasted so good, who cares? We ate it for dessert, we ate it for breakfast, I’m going to go home and eat the rest of it right now, and I’m making it again later in the week (still at least 3 pounds of blueberries left!). I’d also love to try it with strawberries.

I’m including the weights for all the ingredients because, thanks to my cute little kitchen scale, I actually used them this time! Precision!

1 cup (130 grams) all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon (2 grams) baking powder
½ teaspoon (2 grams) baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup (56 grams) unsalted butter, softened
⅔ cup (146 grams) plus 1½ tablespoons (22 grams) sugar, divided
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 large (57 grams) egg
½ cup well-shaken buttermilk (you can substitute 1 cup of milk with 1 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice stirred into it, but really, if the word “buttermilk” is in the title of the recipe, don’t you think you should spring for the real stuff?)
1 cup fresh blueberries (about 5 oz) (dust them with a pinch of flour if you’re worried about them sinking)

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees with the rack in middle. Butter and flour a 9-inch round cake pan.

2. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl and set aside. In a larger bowl, beat butter and ⅔ cup (146 grams) sugar with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about two minutes, then beat in vanilla and lemon zest. Add egg and beat well.

3. At low speed, mix in flour mixture in three batches, alternating with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour. Mix until just combined. Spoon batter into cake pan, smoothing top. Scatter blueberries evenly over top and sprinkle with remaining 1½ tablespoons (22 grams) sugar.

4. Bake until cake is golden and a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool in pan 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack and cool to warm, 10 to 15 minutes more. Invert onto a plate.

Yield: 1 9-inch cake
Time: 1 hour
Leftover potential: High, assuming you don’t eat it all in one sitting. I kept it in a covered container in the fridge and found that I really liked eating it slightly chilled. It stayed moist for days.

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