March has been showing its leonine face this week. Longer days and a lot of melting have given way to a bombogenesis storm and piles of wet snow along the East coast. I have several family members who spent a very chilly night in their homes last night, power out and days to go before getting back to normal.
For once Vermont was mostly spared. Sure, we got some wind gusts and a skim coat of the white stuff, but in general this storm was just grey and raw and an excuse to stay inside and bake something.
These are the times that send me to the freezer in search of some of the treasure I put by last summer. Wild blueberries grow all around the lake at a summer property I frequent, and I’ve picked many, many gallons of them from my kayak.
My personal recipe bombogenesis came together when my friends at Lodge Cast Iron gifted me with their legacy Fluted Cake Pan.
Baking weather? Check. Lemons on hand? Check. Blueberries in the freezer, waiting for their moment? Check. This gift from a good company from Tennessee made me want to reach for ingredients from the Southern baking canon: cornmeal and buttermilk, with a touch of citrus to show off the berries. I wanted to put together a cake worthy of christening my new pan.
Years ago I went to Knoxville, TN to attend the Southern Food Writing Conference and Biscuit Festival. I made some wonderful friends, and had some mind-blowing food experiences, including a biscuit epiphany at the Loveless Café, and a meal from the hands of one of my former students at Blackberry Farm that’s ensconced in my personal top 5 of all time. I’ve had a deep reverence and affection for Southern cuisine in all its forms ever since. From barbecue to coconut cakes, Cruz dairy products to Benton’s bacon, the riches to be discovered in southern kitchens are legion.
I’ll be going back down to Tennessee in a few weeks to judge the National Cornbread Festival, and I’m looking forward to seeing my friends at Lodge, one of the sponsors of the event.
I like to think this recipe is a fit companion for the craftsmanship of my new pan; in the South the blueberries would more likely be blackberries, but they’d work just as well. This cake is moist and comforting; not overly sweet, and minus the glaze, a fist-sized chunk could would make a satisfying breakfast.
Blueberry Cornmeal Buttermilk Cake
This recipe is on the smallish side for my 9-cup pan. It could also be baked in an 8 1/2" x 4" loaf pan, or as 16 individual cakes if you bake it in a muffin tin. More on batter volume and pan sizes below.
1 1/2 cups (6 3/8 ounces, 181g) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/2 cup (2 1/2 ounces, 70g) cornmeal
3/4 cup (5 1/4 ounces, 149g) sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (6 ounces, 170g) buttermilk
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
3/4 cup (5 1/4 ounces, 149g) vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups (5 ounces, 213g) blueberries
1/2 cup (2 ounces, 52g) confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1 to 2 tablespoons heavy cream
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-cup Bundt® pan, an 8 1/2" x 4" loaf pan, or if you’re lucky like me, your Lodge Legacy Fluted Cake Pan.
For the cake: Whisk together the dry ingredients.
Measure out and whisk together all of the wet ingredients.
Add to the dry ingredients in the bowl and mix until evenly combined. Pour some of the batter into the prepared pan (about an inch deep) before stirring the blueberries into the remaining batter. Pour the rest of the batter into the pan.
Bake the cake for 50 to 55 minutes, until the edges are golden brown and a paring knife inserted in the center comes out clean. You'll see the cake just begin to pull away from the edges. Remove from the oven and place on a rack to cool. Set a timer for 15 minutes.
When the timer goes off, place cooking rack on top of the pan, and holding it securely on top, pick up the pan and flip the cake over onto it. The cake should release and drop down onto the rack.
Carefully lift up the pan and let the cake cool on the rack.
Measure the confectioners' sugar into a bowl and add the lemon zest. Add the lemon zest and juice and whisk in the cream until the glaze is smooth.
Drizzle the glaze over the top of the cake, and let gravity give you lovely drips.
Good things to know: batter and pan sizes
A general rule of thumb for how much batter a pan can hold is to fill any pan 2/3 to 3/4 full. Muffins can be an exception, when the batter is stiff. The 9-cup pan I used here can easily hold up to 6 cups of batter, which is a very standard size. If you choose a different pan size, use the bake times below as a starting point and add more time as needed. You can always bake it more, but you can't bake it less.
6 cups of batter will give you:
a 9" x 5" loaf cake (bake time is usually about the same as for the base recipe)
two 9" cake layers, if baked in a pan that's at least 2" deep (start with 28 minutes bake time and add 5 minute increments as needed)
three 8" cake layers (start with 25 minutes bake time and add as needed)
24 cupcakes, when scooped by the 1/4 cup (set the timer for 23 minutes)
one 9" x 13" cake (bake for 35 minutes and add time as needed)
When developing a recipe, it's a critical step is to measure the volume of the finished batter. Having this bit of information gives you a lot of flexibility down the road if you want to use a different pan.
In the case of this recipe, it's undersized for the pan, but fluted cake pans like this are very forgiving; their shape gives you a lovely cake even if it's on the smaller size. If you want a big, towering version for a crowd, multiply the recipe by 1.5 and bake for 65 to 70 minutes.