Once again, blueberries were on sale at the local grocery store, so we picked up a couple of dry pints without the slightest clue about how we were going to use them. Oh, we knew we were going to use them, possibly in blueberry muffins, or blueberry pancakes, or something. But, before we headed down the road of making one of those choices, we searched the stacks in the Scratchin’ Central library. Right there, among all the listings was Blue-Ribbon Blueberry Cake. We assumed, perhaps correctly, that this particular cake was good enough to win a blue ribbon somewhere and at sometime. Plus, it looked easy. Combined, it was enough for us to try it. This recipe comes from Heirloom Baking with the Brass Sisters, by Marilynn Brass and Sheila Brass, who have made it their mission to search out and find those nearly lost gems of baking and cooking.
Cake flour: you might as well splurge and use it. After all, an entire pint of blueberries is headed into this cake and you should make it the best you can. Did you notice the cream of tartar in the recipe? That, along with the baking soda, is the recipe for a homemade version of baking powder. We think that if you don’t have cream of tartar, just use 1 1/2 tablespoons of baking powder in the flour and omit the baking soda. Vanilla extract must be pure. 100% pure; accept no substitutes. Eggs, from those free-range hens down the street if you can get them.
Procedure in detail:
Mise en place. Baking a cake is the ideal chance to practice mise en place, or putting everything in place before beginning. It will change your life. For the better, of course, since it will make baking fun and easy. So, let’s do it now. Sift together the flour and cream of tartar into a small bowl (if you’re not weighing the flour, sift it before measuring). Set aside. In a measuring cup, mix together the milk and baking soda. Set aside. Measure the sugar and butter into the bowl of a stand mixer. Set aside. Wash those blueberries. Take out the vanilla so you don’t forget it. And, finally, take an egg out of the refrigerator. Let every thing warm to room temperature, about an hour or two. Feel the power of having done all this prep work; now your cake will go together like a dream, making you feel like a professional. Yes, the pros practice mise en place. It’s the only way they can do their jobs.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Generously butter an 8×8-inch baking pan. Center a rack in the oven. Cakes always do best when they’re the at center of attention (and the oven).
Cream butter and sugar. Place the bowl on the mixer — the one with the premeasured butter and sugar — fitted with the paddle attachment and cream the butter and sugar together on medium, until light and fluffy, as long as 5 minutes.
Add vanilla. Turn off the mixer and add the vanilla. Turn the mixer to low and mix until incorporated, about 15 seconds. Scrape down sides of bowl.
Add egg. Add the egg and mix on medium-low until uniform and you have a smooth batter, about 60 seconds.
Add flour and milk. No, not all at once. Add one-third of the flour mixture. Mix on low until incorporated. Add one-third of the milk mixture, and mix on low until incorporated. Repeat this two more times: flour, mix, milk, mix, flour, mix, milk, mix. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, and mix for about 15 seconds. There, you’ve made the cake batter, and you can remove the bowl from the mixer.
Add blueberries. We’re going to add about half of the blueberries to the batter, but we don’t want to mash them, so sprinkle the blueberries on top of the batter, and use a spoon or spatula to fold them in.
Fill pan. Do this in stages, too. Really. Scrape about half of the batter into the prepared pan and smooth with a spatula. Now sprinkle the remaining blueberries on top (You didn’t eat them did you?), lightly press them in, then pour the remaining batter over the top, smoothing with the spatula.
Sugarize. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of sugar over the top of the batter.
Bake. Slide into the oven and bake for about 35 minutes, or until the top is golden and a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
Cool. Place on a rack and cool completely before serving.
A very nice cake. Would we give it a blue ribbon? Perhaps not, but it does result in a tender, light cake that’s full of blueberries and really easy to make. All told, we took probably 20 minutes to make the batter; with the 35 minutes of baking, we had our cake cooling in about an hour. Not bad, although it did take about an hour for it to cool before we could try it. The flavor and texture were very much like that of the cake in the pineapple upside-down cake that we made a few weeks back, and, with many of the blueberries settling to the bottom while baking, we thought that maybe it should have been called the blueberry right-side-up cake. We’ll say four in the worth-it category.