Food Scoop: Blueberry Coffee Cake

Yesterday, I baked blueberry coffee cake for two reasons – I really like coffee cake, and I really love butter.

Butter isn’t trendy. People don’t often write about butter. Seriously, run a Google search on it.
People write about peanut butter, or stabbing people with butter knives, or wondering how people in France manage to eat butter and stay skinny. The phrase “bread and butter” pops up over and over, with two meanings. One, a pair that goes together perfectly. Two, it’s a daily occurrence, commonplace and maybe a little bit boring.

None of these things express the depth of my love for butter. I love the way it melts into hot biscuits, making a combination of steamy baked goodness and that pure butter flavor. Mushrooms sautéed in butter become dark and succulent. I love softening it up in the first step to making cookies. I adore drizzling it over stove-popped popcorn.

Sometimes, I bake things just so I have something to put butter on. This coffee cake falls in that category. I wanted to bake something that was a little rich, a lot sweet and would be delicious with butter when I pulled it out of the oven.

I promise I don’t go around eating sticks of butter. The whole point of butter is pairing it with things. Butter isn’t in itself delicious, although the human propensity for eating fatty things certainly must have some appeal. What butter does is brings out incredible flavors in other foods.
That’s why lobster is served with butter and why butter can be pumped over popcorn at movie theaters.

I live in a house where a pound of butter can disappear in half a day. It’s not just spreading over bread. When I make cookies, I start with soft butter creamed with sugar. If I’m gobbling cornbread fresh out of the oven, the way butter both melts into the crumbly bread and is a cool pat of fatty goodness is highly satisfying. I find mashed potatoes are incomplete without a puddle of butter melted on top. And I happily make coffee cake just for that delicious sweet baked perfection with a touch of butter on top.

Although I choose to bake blueberry coffee cake for the cake-and-butter experience, it’s quite good alone. Rivers of cinnamon streusel run throughout the cake, and the blueberries are a beautiful touch of fruit. The cake itself is luscious, moist and not too heavy.

Waiting for my blueberry coffee cake to come out of the oven takes extreme patience, but the result is exactly what I needed. For me, both the making and the eating of it helps break up the mid-semester stress. My muscles loosen up when I’m stirring the cake together and after a long wait, I am reminded that summer is still to come with the blueberries bursting in each bite. Add to that a bit of butter melting into still-warm cake (because I am too impatient to wait for it to cool) and I couldn’t be much happier.

Blueberry Coffee Cake

Streusel:

¾ cup flour

¾ cup sugar

½ cup dark brown sugar

2 tablespoon cinnamon

2 tablespoon cold unsalted butter

1 cup pecans, chopped

1 cup blueberries

Cake:

2 ¼ cups flour

1 ¼ cup sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

¾ teaspoon baking soda

¾ teaspoon salt

12 tablespoon unsalted butter (1 ½ sticks)

4 eggs

1 ½ cups sour cream or plain yogurt

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 cup blueberries

For streusel: mix together the flour, sugar, brown sugar and cinnamon. Cut the butter into the flour mixture until the butter resembles small crumbs. Add the pecans and blueberries. Set this aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a cake pan. I used a Bundt pan, but a tube pan will bake equally well. A rectangular cake pan can also do the trick.

For cake: mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Cut the stick and a half of butter into the cake. This typically requires cold butter. The result should be very fine-grained bits of butter rather than large chunks.

Make a dip in the center of the mixture. In that dip, mix together the eggs, sour cream, and vanilla extract. This works best if you do it about a third at a time, so maybe combine two eggs and a half cup of sour cream in the dip, then mix it into the flour mixture. Repeat until all ingredients are folded into the cake batter. Note: this recipe is originally a sour cream coffee cake, but I find that plain yogurt makes an excellent substitute. Use whichever you have in your refrigerator.

Once the wet ingredients have been incorporated, add the blueberries.

Layer the cake batter and the streusel in the cake pan, beginning with cake batter. The ending doesn’t seem to matter as much.

Bake for 50 to 60 minutes. You’ll know your cake is done when the edges of the cake pull away from the pan. You can also stick a toothpick in it, but it’s not the best indicator as the streusel might stick.

Let it rest for about half an hour, then tip the cake over. I’m told this is best served cool, but I couldn’t wait that long. Enjoy!


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