I think summer berries are my favorite type of fruit, especially local berries. I never knew it growing up, but I was spoiled when it came to fresh berries. My father's family grew tons of berries on their farm in Bow, NH. Strawberries were their specialty, but I also remember picking wild blackberries off the vines that grew under the barn. And even now, you will find high bush blueberries, red raspberries, and those same black raspberries growing throughout the sprawling acreage behind the old white farmhouse. I was raised on deep red strawberries that only exist at a certain time of early summer - just before July 4th. They are red to the core, soft and sweet and juicy. You know them when you see them, because they are smaller than the berries we now often find in the market from California or Mexico, and they are not white and hollow in the center. Likewise, the blueberries I was raised on were the smaller, wild, low bush variety - they are the size of a pea or smaller and have a more intense, sweet flavor than the larger (think dime-size) high bush relative.
It seems many members of my family have stories about berry picking as children. I personally remember driving over to 3A in Bow as a family and hiking up under the power lines to pick wild low bush blueberries. It was the family's secret spot (I don't recall any family members going there for years, so I think they might have died off, or been removed.) My mom has memories of picking wild blackberries in the woods behind her home in Mascena, NY, and being attacked by a hive of wasps. Evidence of the summer berry's significance in my family is still evident at family parties, when we endlessly debate the ingredients for the perfect blueberry pie filling - some argue tapioca powder does the trick, while others insist a runny pie with only sugar and lemon zest are needed!
So I guess it comes as no surprise that one of the favorite recipes that has been passed down generations is my Grammy Lindquist's Blueberry Cake. It is one of those recipes that is great to have in your arsenal, because it's so damn easy and quick to make. The batter is assembled in less than 15 minutes, and the cake takes 30 minutes to bake. During that time, whip up a batch of the sugar glaze, and you're good to go. I recently made this cake with last year's wild blueberries I picked from Gap Mountain up near my parents' cottage (our NEW family spot!). It was a super last minute creation for a friend's birthday brunch. The blueberries are really the star of the show here, and since that's the case it's always good to use fresh local berries, but I found my defrosted berries worked out just fine! And don't be scared that this sugar glaze calls for vinegar - just trust me when I say it is D-I-V-I-N-E, and is a great conversation starter when people comment on how delicious it is!
I hope you give this recipe a try, and tell me what you think!
Grammy Lindquist’s Blueberry Cake with Warm Vinegar Drizzle
½ c. sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1 c. flour
¼ c. milk
3 tbsp. butter, melted
1 c. blueberries, stemmed and washed
Making the Cake:
1. Pre heat oven to 350°F and grease an 8 x 8 inch baking pan.
2. In a mixing bowl, whip the egg, sugar, and baking powder until creamy.
3. Add the flour and milk and continue beating to combine thoroughly.
4. Turn in the melted butter and fold to combine.
5. Fold in the blueberries and spread the batter into the greased pan.
6. Bake for 30 minutes, watching carefully in the last 5 minutes that the top does not brown too much. You want a soft slightly golden topping to allow maximum soakage of the drizzle!
Vinegar Sugar Syrup
¼ c. cold water
2 tbsp. cornstarch
1¾ c. boiling water
1 c. sugar
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. white vinegar
1 – 2 tbsp. butter
Making the Syrup:
1. Mix cornstarch into cold water to make a slurry.
2. Bring 1¾ c. water to a boil and stir in the sugar and salt.
3. Stir to dissolve the sugar.
4. Add the cornstarch slurry and stir constantly to thicken the syrup. The syrup will begin to bubble rapidly - be careful not to let it boil over!
5. When the sauce has thickened, stir in the vanilla and vinegar and continue to stir.
6. Drop the butter into the warm syrup and stir to melt.
7. Cover and keep just warm until ready to serve the cake.
Serve warm cake by drizzling some warm syrup onto the plate, placing a piece of cake on top and drizzling a bit more syrup over the top.