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Merrill's daughter Clara has quite the appetite -- and it's all Merrill can do to keep up. Armed with her greenmarket bag, a wooden spoon and a minimal amount of fuss, she steps into the fray.
Today: A blueberry lemon cake for the last of summer's bounty.
As I may have mentioned before, I'm not much of a baker. (I tend to leave the beautiful tarts and lofty layer cakes to Amanda, who has a way with such things.) Because of my feelings of inadequacy in this department, whenever a great, simple baking recipe comes my way, I seize the moment.
One such moment happened towards the end of the summer, when we were visiting my parents in Maine. We invited some family friends out for a sail one day (Clara's first sea voyage of more than an hour) and brought a picnic lunch to eat onboard. I made BLTs and packed some good potato chips, and for dessert our friend Betsy presented a blueberry lemon cake that she'd been tinkering with over the past few weeks, using the wild Maine blueberries that take over every local roadside stand and supermarket each August.
As everyone, including Clara, devoured crumbly, sweet-tart mouthfuls of the blueberry-studded cake, my first and only thought was, "I have to get this recipe!" Betsy dictated the ingredient list from memory (she's one of those rare instinctual bakers with no professional training, who can pull a great cake recipe out of thin air), and I tapped it into my phone along with a few cursory instructions.
A week later, down in New Jersey, I used the local highbush berries (fatter and juicier than the wild Maine berries, and a little less tart) for my virgin attempt. Betsy's instructions didn't disappoint: the cake was tender and light, with a spongy, almost puddinglike center (if you want to achieve this marvelous texture, Betsy insisted, you MUST NOT overbake this cake), fragrant from the zest and juice of a whole lemon, and bursting with purple berries.
I gave a piece to Clara for dessert that evening, and then another for breakfast the next morning. I didn't grow up eating pie for breakfast, but in my book a cake you can serve both morning and night is a keeper.
Serves 8 to 10
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 pinch kosher salt
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 lemon, finely grated zest and juice
2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Photos by Mark Weinberg