Monday, August 29, 2016

Lemony Blueberry Buckle

Generous with blueberries, this cake is doused with a lemon syrup.

I first baked blueberry buckle when we lived in western Michigan, where blueberries are a significant presence in the local economy. With such berried abundance, I could afford to over-stuff cakes with what many of us believe are the best blueberries to be found anywhere in the world.

Our dear house rabbit Chloe loved blueberries and we dutifully purchased them year-round. The ones from South America were not up to par. Florida’s were OK, but mostly a herald that Michigan berries would be along in a few months.

This summer, we were able to get our hands on about 30 pounds of Michigan blueberries, thanks to a Michigan native-turned-Iowan who ships them in from his kinfolk. We stocked up. Baking a blueberry buckle was an ode to one of several places I call home.

While my go-to recipe has always been from King Arthur (with trusty and reliable results), I stumbled on this version at David Lebovitz’s blog. (The original source is the cookbook Rustic Fruit Desserts.)

This is for those moments when you want to gild the lily. When a buttery cake abundant with fruit and topped with streusel isn’t enough. There should be lots of lemon zest in the batter and you must liberally douse the cake with a warm lemon syrup.

And if you do all these things, you will be glad you did. I baked this cake at least five times this summer—yesterday most recently.

Something else I like about this cake is the soft layer of warmth from nutmeg. There’s just enough to fill in the blanks without overpowering.

I admit to my own lily-gilding by adding chopped pecans to the streusel. Pecans go well with berries and butter and lemons. Pecans are optional, but do not use walnuts for they are too strong.

You can bake this using frozen berries—just keep them in the freezer until ready to fold in the batter, or else thawed berries will get drippy and stain the cake.

Happy baking!

Blueberry Buckle
Adapted from Rustic Fruit Desserts by Cory Schreiber and Julie Richardson
and from David Lebovitz

Note: I’ve played around with this recipe a bit, adjusting type and amounts of sugar. I found the cake did not need the full one cup of sugar and can be reduced by one-third. On occasion, I used half organic granulated sugar and half organic coconut sugar. I also adapted this recipe for a fresh peach cake, minus lemon syrup, here.

Streusel Topping
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold
1/2 cup organic granulated sugar
1/3 cup flour
1/3 cup pecans, chopped (optional)
1 teaspoon cinnamon

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 to 1 cup sugar
zest from 2 lemons (save the lemons for the syrup below)
1 1/2 cups+2 tablespoons white spelt flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly ground if you can
2 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup buttermilk, room temperature
2 to 3 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen

Lemon Syrup
1/3 cup organic granulated sugar
Juice from 2 lemons, about 6 tablespoons

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9-inch square cake pan.

Prepare streusel. Place all ingredients in a small food processor and pulse until the butter is in small pieces and the ingredients are evenly distributed. Remove and put in the refrigerator to stay cold. 

Prepare the cake. With an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition.

Combine dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Add half the flour mixture to the batter and beat gently. Then add half the buttermilk and beat gently. Repeat with remaining flour and buttermilk.

Pour batter into the prepared cake pan. Sprinkle the streusel evenly on top. Place in oven and bake for about 45 minutes, until it is nicely browned on top and springs back when you touch it.

Shortly before the cake is done, prepare the lemon syrup. Put sugar and juice in a small, heavy saucepan and cook on medium high heat until the liquid thickens a bit. Set aside.

Remove cake from oven and spoon over the warm lemon syrup.

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