One of the first things I did when we returned from our travels a couple of weeks ago was to look around for blueberry farms that would allow us to come and pick our own. We’ve been blueberry picking every summer for almost two decades! There were several that popped up, but most of them did not seem appealing for one reason or another except for one that happened to be rather close to our house. Well, close meaning it was a 25 minute drive, which is how far we are from just about everything. Anyway, we jumped into the car and drove over there and the whole time I was thinking that if it was a bust, at least it wasn’t that far away. Happily, it was a fantastic little farm and we were there on the opening day of blueberry picking, so the blueberries were very plentiful.
We were there for less than an hour and picked all this, including the raspberries.
I can”t tell you what a relief and joy it was that we were able to find this farm. After a long first year here with countless moments of homesickness, this was a couple of hours when we all felt actually really happy and glad to be here. Don’t get me wrong, none of us regret moving (well, maybe a little), but living in a place where everything is new and nothing is familiar just wears on a person.
It was nice to enjoy a familiar activity. In fact, we enjoyed it so much we went back the next week and did it again. And I am hoping they will still be open for another week so we can get some more because, unbelievably, we have gone through 12 quarts of blueberries in two weeks. There were a couple of tarts and batches of jam. Three or four of those quarts went into the freezer for the long winter. And, of course, there were pies and breads and smoothies. And recently, with the last quart of berries facing me, I also made a lovely loaf cake dotted with blueberries, flavored with zingy lemon, and enhanced by the subtle crunch of cornmeal.
Best of all, the cake is super easy to mix together. The hardest task is zesting the lemons. Everything else can be done with a whisk. These are my favorite kinds of recipes. Simple. Tasty. Unfussy.
When the loaf comes out of the oven, it gets a sugar and lemon juice glaze.
Then, once it has cooled, it gets a drizzle of icing. You may be tempted to skip the icing and it would be ok without it. However, the cake itself has less sugar than most, so the icing really enhances the cake instead of just adding to the sweetness. Plus, it makes it really pretty.
Lemon Blueberry Cornmeal Quick Bread
makes one 9 by 5 inch loaf (I used a 11.5 by 3.5 inch pan that I got from Ikea, but the 9 by 5 is about the same volume. If you don’t have that, an 8 by 8 pan would work, but it would be shorter and probably need to bake for a shorter period of time.)
1 1/4 cups (6.25 ounces) all purpose flour
1/2 cup (2.5 ounces) fine cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (3.5 ounces) granulated sugar
zest of one lemon
1 cup (8 ounces) buttermilk
2 large eggs
8 Tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup plus 1/4 cup fresh blueberries
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
3/4 cup (3 ounces) powdered sugar
zest of half a lemon
1-2 Tablespoons lemon juice
To make the cake:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9 by 5 inch loaf pan with nonstick spray and line the bottom with a piece of parchment.
In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together until mixed.
In a large bowl, whisk the sugar, eggs, buttermilk, and lemon zest together. Add the dry ingredients and whisk until almost fully mixed. Add the melted butter and whisk until smooth. Switch to a rubber spatula and fold in 1 cup of blueberries. Scrape the batter into your loaf pan and sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup of blueberries on top.
Bake for 40-50 minutes or until nicely golden on top and a tester comes out clean. Meanwhile, mix together the 2 Tablespoons of lemon juice and sugar for the glaze. As soon as you remove the cake from the oven brush the glaze over the top of the cake while it is still in the pan. After 15 minutes, remove the cake from the pan and let cool completely on a rack.
Mix together the ingredients for the icing. Begin with a tablespoon of lemon juice. Whisk the powdered sugar, lemon zest, and juice together in a bowl, adding additional juice until the icing drops smoothly from a spoon or whisk. Drizzle the icing decoratively over the top of the cake. Transfer to a serving plate and serve at room temperature. The cake will keep well, covered for a day or two.
Winter is a great time for baking. What better way to warm up when it is cold outside than to turn on the oven and bake something? Lately, I have been trying to use the oven as much as possible, which means that almost everything we eat these days is either baked or roasted. This is partly to make up for the fact that not all the burners work very well on our range, so cooking is sometimes a challenge and other times it is downright frustrating. A full kitchen renovation is in the works, but until the ball gets rolling, I am baking and roasting away. Thankfully, there is nothing wrong with the oven other than the fact that I could use another one because I often want to make two things at once that don’t require the same temperature.
In the last couple of weeks in particular, I have been focusing on cakes for the sweet part of the oven work. I made these little blueberry cakes using the last of some jarred blueberry pie filling that I had canned a long long time ago. It was a good thing the filling was sweet because I forgot to add the sugar to the cake batter. I blame the computer for that mistake because I was unable to print out the recipe. I have not made the switch over to using a device in the kitchen, mostly because those devices are expensive and I do not want to risk spilling something on them! So, I had to shuttle back and forth between the computer in the family room and the kitchen. Somewhere in there the sugar got left out. The filling saved the day and it ended up tasting more like a blueberry cobbler, which was fine with everyone here.
After that fiasco, the next sweet bake was a gorgeous Lemon Cake.
This is Maida Heatter’s East 62nd Street Lemon Cake with a simple powdered sugar icing over half of it. Why only half? Well, not everyone in this house likes icing and I was trying to make it appealing to everyone. It is a fabulous cake that I urge you to try making. Don’t be tempted to leave out the breadcrumbs in the pan. I am pretty sure I had made this years ago, but bread crumbs was not a standard pantry item for me, so I know I left it out. Trust me, the crust on this cake, not to mention the wonderful way it releases from the pan, relies on those bread crumbs. I used panko bread crumbs, which is the only kind I have and it was fabulous.
I think I had two slices a day until it was all gone, which was in less than 48 hours. It’s perfect with tea. There might have been some clamoring over the last slice; iced or not, it did not matter at that point. The lemon adds some brightness to these dreary winter days, which we need desperately now that the temps are mostly below freezing and Jack Frost is a regular visitor.
This cake renewed by love for cake in general and the act of baking cakes. There will certainly be more cake in the future. Maybe not every day, but at hopefully every week, And this lemon cake will return for sure.
Do you have a favorite cake? Tell me about it because if I haven’t had, I will want to try it!
This week’s TWD recipe is possibly the easiest cake recipe you will ever make. It takes less than ten minutes from start to finish to get this cake in the oven. Then, all you have to do is wait for it to bake and cool. Waiting to eat it is probably the hardest part. I have made this recipe countless of times over the years and, usually, I double it. They freeze wonderfully and it is nice to have something on hand when one is pressed for time.
Lemon Loaf Cake
Because this recipe is so easy, it invites all kinds of tinkering.
Orange loaf cake. It’s easy to substitute one citrus for another. This one also has a little whole wheat pastry flour in it because I ran out of cake flour and had to make up the difference.
Or leave out the citrus and add a couple teaspoons of vanilla extract for a “plainer” flavor.
Or add some chocolate because chocolate can’t be bad, right?
Chocolate Speckled with a Hint of Orange.
Do you have 10-15 minutes? You have time to make this cake. Don’t have a mixer? No problem. All you need is a zester, a whisk, a spatula and a bowl. Go get the recipe here or here and make one or two or five. You won’t regret it.