|John Barricelli, Chef and
author of “The Seasonal Baker”
It’s blueberry season but I’ll take any excuse for making this combination of a vanilla cake with fresh blueberries and a chunky brown sugar crumb topping. And since it can be eaten straight from the oven as a breakfast pastry or saved for an afternoon snack or a dessert with dinner, it’s ideal to have on hand over a weekend. It’s another one of Baker John Barricelli’s triumphs from his South Norwalk CT SoNo Bakery. You’ll find it in his latest book “The Seasonal Baker” (Clarkson Potter 2012) which we’ve raved about most recently for its French Lemon Tart. What we loved about the tart—the concentrated lemon curd flavor of the filling—is mirrored in the intense blueberry flavor in this cake. There’s even a juicy quality to the blueberries hidden under the topping.
The blueberry itself is North America’s gift to the rest of the world. It is a native plant that didn’t even get to Europe until the 1930s. The blueberry plant varies wildly in size ranging from just under 4 inches tall to the “highbush” which can grow to 13 feet tall.
The lower growing species are synonymous with ‘wild blueberries’ and both low and high varieties are commercially cultivated. Blueberries typically bear fruit in the middle of the growing season which is right about now on Long Island but may be later in states particularly known for their blueberries like Maine. In fact, Maine produces 25 percent of the countries low bush berries and the Wild blueberry is the official fruit of Maine. But the crown for blueberry growing goes to Michigan where highbush production produces over 220,000 tons of blueberries, which is 32% of all the berries eaten in the United States. But wherever your blueberries come from, put them to great use in this wonderful breakfast, lunch or dinner treat. In the recipe there’s a request for an odd-sized baking dish (12 1/4 x 8 1/4 x 1 1/4 inches). Andrew who takes directions very seriously was thrilled to find we had one the right length and width if not height. I think the point here is to find something approximately that size remembering that the height of the crumb cake should be 1 1/4 inches. Here’s the recipe:
Recipe for Blueberry Crumb Cake from John Barricelli’s “The Seasonal Baker”. Makes 12- 3 inch squares. Prep Time 30 minutes. Total Time 1 1/2 hours including 10 minutes cooling time.
For the Crumb Topping:
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon Kosher Salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
For the Cake:
1 ½ cups plus 1 tbsp. all purpose flour
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
½ cup whole milk
½ cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 tbsp. pure vanilla extract
1 pint (2 cups) fresh blueberries
1 to 2 tbsp. confectioners’ sugar
Set the oven rack in the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 12 1/4 by 8 1/4 by 1 1/4 inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Coat with flour and tap out the excess.
To make the crumb topping: In a large bowl, sift the flour with the brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Melt the butter in a small saucepan; let cool for 2 minutes. Pour the melted butter over the
our mixture. Work the mixture with your fingertips to press into nice large crumbs; set aside.
To make the cake: In a large bowl, stir together 1½ cups of the flour, the baking powder, and salt; set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk, granulated sugar, oil, egg, and vanilla and add to the flour mixture. Stir until the flour is absorbed.
Using a small offset spatula, spread the batter
over the prepared pan.
In a medium bowl, toss the blueberries with the remaining 1 tablespoon of flour.
Sprinkle the blueberries evenly over the cake batter.
Scatter the crumb topping over the top; it will completely cover the berries.
Bake, rotating the pan about two-thirds of the way through the baking time, until the topping is golden brown, the blueberries are bubbling, and a cake tester inserted in the center of the cake
comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Remove to a cooling rack and allow to cool for 10 minutes.
Sift confectioner’s sugar over the top.
Cut into twelve 3 inch squares to serve.