For the past few years, my friend Tracy has volunteered through the YWCA to put together a number of Easter baskets for children in the foster care system. She prices the baskets out, asks us all how many we’d like to donate, orders all of the baskets and goodies, and then hosts a brunch where we can all get together and put the baskets together over gossip and mimosas. Isn’t that one of the best ideas you’ve ever heard? While it was pretty hard for me to get out of bed yesterday morning (since after the Zags’ loss on Saturday night my will to live was close to non-existent), once I did this coffee cake was easy to put together and bring to brunch (along with my heavy heart). And after coffee and two mimosas, I even started to feel just a tiny bit better.
As you may already know from earlier posts, Smitten Kitchen is one of my very favorite food blogs, and when Deb released her cookbook last fall I was SO excited to see what it held in store for me. While I haven’t yet had the chance to make as many of the recipes as I’d like, those that I have tried (pancetta-white bean-chard pot pies and pumpkin-gingersnap-cheesecake tart, to name a couple of my favorites) have been pretty amazing. This “coffee cake” was no exception. I’m calling it a coffee cake, although Deb calls it a “butter cake” (whatever that means), and even goes so far as to include it in her cake chapter rather than her breakfast chapter, so that there’s no mistake. I happen to think the presence of blueberries automatically puts this in the breakfast category, so I’m sticking with coffee cake.
If you’re in need of new ideas for your Easter brunch menu next week, I would really recommend that you try this. I was able to whip it up in about 15 minutes, and the 35-50 minutes it needs in the oven is plenty of time to shower, or set your Easter table, or in my case, go back to bed and squeeze your eyes shut and pray that somehow last night was just a bad dream. I should add that it’s not only easy, but delicious as well. It’s not too sweet (although I do think you could dial back the sugar in the topping if you wanted to), and the cornmeal is enough to make it interesting, and a little crunchy – but not so much as to make it cornbread-y. It’s pretty much a brilliant combination of a coffee cake, a blueberry muffin, and a light cornbread – and I suppose I can kind of understand why Deb calls it a butter cake, because it is pretty buttery (in the best sense of the word). It received rave reviews from all the girls at brunch, even the ones that wouldn’t normally eat cake for breakfast, blueberries or not.
Blueberry Cornmeal Butter Cake, from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook
For the Cake:
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for the pan
1 cup all-purpose flour, plus extra for the pan
1/2 cup cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon lemon zest, freshly grated
1/3 cup sour cream
2 cups fresh blueberries, rinsed and patted dry
For the Streusel:
1/2 cup granulated sugar
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornmeal
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottom of a 8×8 square pan with parchment paper. Butter and flour the pan or coat with cooking spray. Whisk the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt in medium bowl and set aside. With an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar in a large bowl until pale and fluffy, for at least 2 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl in between additions, then add the vanilla and zest. Add a third of the flour mixture, all of the sour cream, and another third of the flour, beating until just blended after each addition. Scrape down sides of bowl. Mix the remaining third of the flour mixture with the blueberries. Fold the blueberry-flour mixture gently into the cake batter. Spread the cake batter in the prepared cake pan. Use your original dry-ingredients bowl to combine the dry topping ingredients with a fork. Mash in the butter with a fork, your fingertips, or a pastry blender. Scatter the topping over the batter. Bake the cake until the top is golden brown and a tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 35 minutes (mine took 45 and the middle was still a bit undercooked). Cool the cake in the pan on a rack for 5 minutes. Run the spatula around the edges of the cake to loosen it, then flip out onto the cooling rack.
Yield: 16 2-inch squares