We made these blueberry, almond and lemon cakes when Yotam Ottolenghi wrote about his relationship with berries in his column “Head Over Heels for Berries” published in the New York Times in July. My daughter and I read the column independently. Somehow, it made a huge impression on both of us. It appeals to us as bakers and blueberries lovers. When she came home this summer, we both decided, without too many words, that making the blueberry, almond and lemon cake was the first order of the day.
Baking along with my daughter, or with a few friends, is among one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve encountered. There is something about the chemistry of the relationships, teamwork or perhaps striving for a common goal, that is brought to bear in a profound manner — amidst mixing of the batter or tasting of the cakes. This was the latest recipe we did together, mother and daughter. Meanwhile, I so look forward to our next bake and beyond.
The changes we’ve made were: using a cupcake tin and replacing all-purpose flour with gluten-free flour, so that we can share these incredible cakes with friends who are gluten intolerant. Otherwise, this very berry recipe is good to go as written.
Learn to do with the fruits what Middle Eastern cooks do with herbs: use them in abundance. Apply it to making the blueberry, almond and lemon cake.
Yes, there are plenty of blueberries (1 1/2 cup or 200g), more than any other ingredients in the recipe. Use with abundance sounds like good advice, especially when it comes to berries. They are nutritious and are a powerful source of antioxidants. Therefore, you can eat them with abundance too, and without guilt.
This is an easy recipe like making most cakes. First, cream the butter and sugar first for a good 3 to 4 minutes at high-speed in the mixer. Add the eggs, followed by the dry ingredients. Then, fold in about three-quarters of the berries by hand. Finally, bake in a 375°F for about 10 minutes. At that point, the batter has expanded a lot and spread over the surface area of the pan. Sprinkle the remaining blueberries on the cupcakes. Bake until golden brown, for an additional 20-25 minutes.
My daughter and I couldn’t help digging into these cakes, which were bursting with a deep purplish red color and rich berry aroma. We had to restrain ourselves as to who’d get to eat the next “muffin” tops, while not leaving all the cakes topless. Then the conversation turned to how to bake these cakes with only the browned crispy crowns. Well, a muffin top pan is likely to be our next acquisition.
On a sad note: Kim, the superb host and accomplished cook at IHCC, just lost her mom to cancer. Her mom was the chief taster and keen supporter of her cooking, among the countless activities you could imagine that carry on between mother and daughter. Invariably, the loss would get to us at many levels. Your guts, your belly, your heart. What could you ever say that’d lessen the indescribable pain of losing a mother, your best friend and your biggest fan? There are no words. Hopefully, in the passage of time, the memories of what you did together will slowly melt the tears of loss and give way to smiles of joy. The joy of remembrance of a life well lived. Kim, we share your deepest loss. Your mom will be fondly remembered, her green thumb and all!
Blueberry, Almond and Lemon CakePrint Recipe
- ½ cup (1 stick) plus 3 tablespoons/150 grams unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for greasing the pan
- 1 scant cup/190 grams granulated or superfine sugar (caster sugar)
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest, plus 1 tablespoon lemon juice (or more juice as needed)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (vanilla essence)
- 3 large eggs, beaten
- ⅔ cup/90 grams all-purpose flour (plain flour), sifted
- 1 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup/110 grams almond flour (ground almonds)
- 1 ½ cups/200 grams fresh blueberries
- ⅔ cup/70 grams confectioners’ sugar (icing sugar)
Heat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit/200 degrees Celsius. Grease a 9- or 8-inch/21-centimeter loaf pan with butter, line it with a parchment paper sling and butter the paper. Set the pan aside.
Place butter, sugar, lemon zest and vanilla extract in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on high speed for 3 to 4 minutes, until light, then lower speed to medium. Add eggs in three additions, scraping down the sides of the bowl a few times as necessary. The mix may split a little but don’t worry: It’ll come back together once you add the dry ingredients.
In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and almond flour. With the stand mixer on low, add the dry ingredients in three additions, mixing just until no white specks remain. Fold in about 3/4 of the blueberries by hand, then scoop batter into the prepared loaf pan.
Bake for 15 minutes, then sprinkle the remaining blueberries over the top of the cake. Return to the oven for another 15 to 20 minutes, until cake is golden brown but still uncooked. Cover loosely with foil and continue to cook for another 25 to 30 minutes (less for a 9-inch pan, more for an 8-inch pan), or until risen and cooked, and a knife inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Remove from oven and set aside in its pan to cool for 10 minutes before removing cake from pan and placing on a wire rack to cool completely.
When cake is cool, make the icing: Add lemon juice and icing sugar to a bowl and whisk together until smooth, adding a bit more juice if necessary, just until the icing moves when you tilt the bowl. Pour over the cake and gently spread out. The blueberries on the top of the cake may bleed into the icing a little, but this will add to the look. Let icing set (about 30 minutes), slice and serve.