wild blueberry cake with cardamom

Our little adventure down South threw me way off my game: in the first week back, I managed to burn that super-easy tomato sauce that you all liked so well (I’m still not sure how that happened) and transfer a much-needed cake directly from the oven to the kitchen floor.  It was not a banner cooking week.

But there were wild blueberries in the market, and they’re delicious, but kind of a pain to eat out of hand.  In fact, they are the perfect baking blueberry, so I set out to find a recipe worthy of them.  The one I settled on was a cake – part coffee-cake, part-dessert, and perfect to bring to a Tupperware-esque party my sister was having.  It looked easy, which, apparently, was the speed I was working at last week.   But, being one of those rediscovered recipes from the 1950s that Cook’s Country loves, it had a ridiculous name – “Blueberry Boy Bait” (what would Mount Holyoke think?!) and seemed oddly lacking in complementary flavors, except for a scant quarter teaspoon of cinnamon.  I had a starting point, but the recipe needed some oomph. 

I could have gone with lemon; I usually do, and it is a natural companion for blueberry.  But the week had been cold and rainy, and I wanted something warmer, something that would make you say, “What is that?”  I remember back when I was fresh out of college, we would go to a local breakfast joint whose proprietors rivaled Seinfeld’s Soup Nazi in their “patron flow management.”  But the breakfasts were worth the abuse, and their grilled blueberry muffins were nothing short of terrific.  And their spice of choice was cardamom, so I thought I’d pull out the spice jar that only ever gets used for my grandmother’s bread and the rare Indian braise.

I think the update worked – the bright tang of the blueberries provided a nice contrast to the warm, somewhat elusive sweetness of the cardamom.  The cake itself is very moist, and it kept well – in fact, it got moister the longer it sat.  I’d say it’s more breakfast than dessert, but someone with a less pronounced sweet tooth would say it’s a perfect dessert. In any case, it used up the wild blueberries to lovely effect, and I didn’t burn it, drop it, or forget to add the blueberries – so maybe I’m back in the game.

Blueberry Cake with Cardamom
(Adapted from Cook’s Country; Serves 12)

For the cake
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus 1 teaspoon
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
16 tablespoons unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup blueberries , fresh or frozen (do not thaw frozen berries)

For the topping
1/2 cup blueberries , preferably wild (fresh or frozen)
1/4 cup sugar

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350-degrees F. Grease and flour a 13 by 9-inch baking pan.

Whisk 2 cups flour, baking powder, salt and cardamom together in medium bowl and set aside. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugars until fluffy with an electric mixer. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition until just incorporated. Reduce mixer speed and beat in one-third of flour mixture until incorporated; beat in half of milk. Beat in half of remaining flour mixture, then remaining milk, and finally remaining flour mixture. Toss blueberries with remaining 1 teaspoon flour and gently fold in the blueberries with a rubber spatula. Spread batter into prepared pan.

For the topping, scatter remaining blueberries over top of batter, then sprinkle the sugar over the top. Bake until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool in pan at least 20 minutes.

Serve warm or at room temperature; the cake can be stored in airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days.

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