Today: Blueberries achieve their life's mission -- the snack cake.
Get in as many good summer fruit cakes as you can.
It's as much a necessity of the season as standing by the side of the road elbow-deep in blackberry brambles, or lumbering away from a farmers market eating blueberries by the palmful.
As perfect as ripe, naked berries and stone fruits can be, when they stew and burst inside a cake, they achieve their life's mission. You might think their mission was to go forth and create more fruit trees and bushes, but that's only half of it.
They were born to become cakes. Sugar-crusted, toasty, juice-strewn cakes. Cobblers, crumbles, buckles, betties are other worthwhile ways to meet your summer quota.
What all of these cakes and cake-adjacents have in common -- and what they lord over even the most straight-shooting pie -- is their unimpeachable ease.
They don't expect a frosting. They make their own syrup without dirtying a saucepan. They require only a modestly stocked pantry and very little lead time, and a stash of willing fruit.
To the constellation already well-loved on FOOD52 -- an airy nectarine slump, a nubby almond peach cake, a lemony plum-capped one -- I submit a new star: Brooke Dojny's Blueberry Snack Cake with Toasted Pecan Topping.
"When I was developing The New England Cookbook, I gathered lots of community cookbooks and virtually all of them seemed to have a recipe of that ilk -- but I found the standard formula to be somewhat boring." Dojny recently told me.
So she added more butter, a sprinkling of crunchy pecans, and a little bit of cornmeal. "I like that slightly gritty texture that cornmeal contributes and, since it's always been a staple New England ingredient, felt that it was legitimate."
Her additions make the cake, which is a study in textures. There's just enough cornmeal to give it structure and a yellow tint, without weighing down the batter. It bakes up lofty and tender, with a crackly sheen on top dotted with pecans.
Merrill has been making this cake for years using wild Maine blueberries -- almost a religious choice, as much as an ingredient-driven one -- and she finds that they're tiny enough to stay suspended in the cake, like a blueberry muffin.
The larger cultivated blueberries available to most of us tend to sink to the bottom and meld into a blueberry pudding topped with cake and crunchy pecans. Both are good, you'll see.
Adapted very slightly from The New England Cookbook (Harvard Common Press, 1999)
Makes 8 servings
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar, divided use
1/3 cup whole or lowfat milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 cups blueberries
1 cup chopped pecans (or walnuts)
Got a genius recipe to share -- from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected].
Photos by James Ransom