Julia Child would call this a master recipe. I say this because while my weapon of choice in this go-around was frozen blueberries, you could use whatever fruit you want. Apricots? Yes. Strawberries? Absolutely. Banana AND strawberries? Why not? You could even turn this recipe into one of my all-time favorite desserts: apple cake. Add a little lemon zest to the batter and add apple slices that have been sprinkled with a little sugar – perhaps even brown sugar for a deeper flavor – and you’re all set with a fabulous and light after-dinner treat.
This recipe is a slight adaptation from a Martha Stewart fruit cake. The amount of sugar in the original recipe, one whole cup, seemed suspiciously high for my Italian sensibilities (European desserts are usually considerable less sweet than typical American ones and having grown up in Italy…well, you know how that goes.) So the first time I made it, I cut it to ¾ of a cup. It tasted delicious, clearly, but I still found it just a tad too sweet. The second time I made it I added a half a cup of sugar and then filled up a ¼ cup measuring cup halfway and added that as well. With the sweetness of the fruit and the extra 2 tablespoons of sugar sprinkled on top just prior to placing it in the oven, it was perrrrrfect.
I hope you enjoy it as much as we have.
making blueberry cake
Whisk 1 ½ cups of flour, 1 ½ teaspoons of baking powder and ½ teaspoon of salt together in a small bowl.
Doing this, by the way, is a way to avoid sifting the flour. I feel silly admitting this, but I really don’t like using the sifter. It takes a long time. It kicks up flour in my face and makes me sneeze. It makes me feel like I’d rather be making a pasta dish or browning some chicken.
And yet, we really do need to aerate the flour. Regardless of how you do it, whether you use a sifter, a fine-meshed strainer, or a whisk, it’s an important step in baking because it reinserts air back into the flour after it’s been packed down into a bag for storage and shipping. It changes the volume of the flour and therefore also lightens it. Without this step, you could actually use more flour than what you need for what you’re baking, even though you might have carefully measured it. And since baking is a little more finicky than other forms of cooking, it’s best to try to use the correct amount of flour.
So since I need to do it, I whisk. Now granted, whisking does not eliminate the risk of finding lumps in the flour. Somehow I’ve manage to survive thus far. But if you love your sifter, go to town. As it stands, whisking the flour, salt and baking powder takes me all of 15-20 seconds or so and does the job. I’m sure I’ve just turned off some dedicated and meticulous bakers out there…I’m sorry.
In another bowl, beat 6 tablespoons of butter and 3/4 cup of sugar (or a little less if you don’t like your desserts too sweet) until pale and fluffy with an stand mixer (like a KitchenAid) or an electric mixer for about 4 minutes. The mixture should look like this at this point.
In a Pyrex measuring cup, gently beat 1 large egg and then add ½ cup of whole or 2% milk and 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract. Mix once or twice with a fork to integrate.
Add the wet mixture to the creamed butter and mix again until just combined. This will be very unattractive batter.
It almost looks as though you’re trying to make ricotta whey curds instead of a cake. Persevere.
Add the dry mixture gradually, mixing until just smooth. The batter will be rather stiff. Pour into a greased 9 inch cake pan.
Even the batter throughout the pan with a spatula.
Place 8 oz. of blueberries (drained if frozen) in a bowl and add 1 tablespoon of unbleached flour. Mix well with a spoon until they are all lightly coated with the flour. This prevents them from sinking to the bottom. It won’t matter as much with this particular cake because the batter if pretty thick and the blueberries can’t sink as easily. It’s just a practice I’ve gotten into with blueberries because I’ve eaten too many blueberry cakes and bread that were all purply on the bottom.
Arrange blueberries on top of the batter. Whatever you do, the fruit you use needs to always be arranged in a single layer. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of sugar on top of the blueberries.
Bake cake for 45 minutes at 350°F and then start checking it for color and consistency. Once a tester comes out clean (around 50 minutes or so), take the cake out of the oven. Allow to cool for 30 minutes. Serving by itself or with fresh whipped cream. Makes 8 servings.