A few days ago, we were trying to think of a new post for today, and, one of us said, “dessert.” Let’s make a dessert. We haven’t had a dessert post in a while, so why not? We thought about what we had available, looked through our Rolodex, and found that, way back in March of 2013, we were interested in making a blueberry cornmeal cake. We figured, better late than never.
We saw this recipe in The Smitten Kitchen, a cookbook by Deb Perelman, but, rather than copy it, we searched the Internet and found someone else who’d made it, presumably Mrs. Regueiro of Mrs. Regueio’s Plate, so we just set a bookmark and hoped that the post still existed when got around to baking it. It did, and still does; it’s listed as Blueberry Cornmeal Butter Cake. Although, we did change the recipe slightly — it’s all about what’s in the house when we decide to bake.
You can use frozen blueberries; just realize that your cake will take longer to bake, since the blueberries will chill the batter. Everything else is standard ingredients, except the eggs. Those are one of nature’s miracles, and, as such, you should buy the best you can. We always try for eggs from a local rancher who raises his hens on pasture. They’re the best.
Procedure in detail:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Generously butter an 8×8 inch baking pan and line the bottom with a piece of parchment.Butter the parchment. It seems like overkill, but it’ll keep the cake from sticking, and make cleanup easier.
Whisk dry ingredients. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, baking soda, and salt. Make sure to give everything a good whisking so there are no pockets of baking powder anywhere. Set aside for now.
Beat butter. Place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat until smooth and shiny. If your butter is room temperature, this should be almost immediately. If not, let your butter warm for a while and try again.
Add sugar. Once the butter is beaten, slowly pour in the sugar. We like to pour in the sugar at about the same rate it’s incorporated into the butter. We aren’t sure if it makes any difference, but it makes it seem as if we’re doing something. Continue beating on medium until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. We use this time to measure out the buttermilk.
Add eggs. Add the eggs, one at a time, to the butter sugar mixture, beating in completely before adding the next. Naturally, stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the vanilla and beat in (unless you do as we do, and add the vanilla extract to the buttermilk).
Add flour and buttermilk. Just as with the eggs, we add the flour mixture and buttermilk in small additions: 1/3 of the flour mixture, mix in, 1/3 of the buttermilk, mix in, and so on, until everything is added. Make sure to mix just long enough to incorporate the ingredients, about 15 seconds after each addition. Scrape down the bowl as needed.
Fold in blueberries. If you don’t want all your blueberries sinking to the bottom, coat them with about a tablespoon of flour (see our final comments below) by placing them in a bowl with flour and shaking them about. Add the blueberries and fold into the batter.
Fill pan. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth off the top. If you’ve used frozen blueberries, the batter will have thickened a bit, but, do the best you can.
Make streusel. We suggest that you cut the amount of streusel in half. We wish we had (see comments below). But, if you’re all about streusel, whisk together flour, cornmeal, cinnamon, and salt. Add the butter, and, working quickly with your fingers so the butter doesn’t melt, rub the butter into the dry mixture until it resembles coarse sand.
Top. Sprinkle the streusel over the top of the cake. Don’t do as we did and smooth off the top, because it’ll look unnatural.
Bake. Into the oven for about 35-40 minutes (longer if you used frozen blueberries), or until the cake is puffed, the streusel has cracked in places, and, most importantly, a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.
Cool. Let the cake cool in the pan completely before slicing and serving. Serve this like coffee cake, direct from the pan, as there’s too much streusel to remove the cake without making a mess.
This cake is okay, and it would be better with two changes. One, use about half the blueberries. As it is, all the blueberries sank to the bottom of the cake while baking (next time, we’ll try dredging the blueberries in flour), and two, use less streusel. It’s way too much, and the cake would be better with about half the amount. We did like the cornmeal in the cake; it added a nice texture, and corn and blueberries pair well. We’ll say this is a three-star cake, even though it’s one of the easiest to make.