Berry memories: It was my birthday, a dozen or so years ago. A sudden thunderstorm passed quickly, leaving the country road steaming in the sun. The kids and I ran in the sodden air up the road to a patch of blackberries. We picked and laughed until a second storm drove us back down the hill toward home.
Late last summer, Bob and I went apple picking and discovered a section of Ochs Orchard that rightly should be named “Blueberry Heaven.” It took a long time, but we picked a quart. I put them in my yogurt. Bob had them on my homemade ice cream. I made a sauce for duck…
The other night, after work, we took a “mulberry walk.” There’s a tree down on the old prison land; if you stand on the concrete wall, a world of soft, sweet juiciness is within reach. I imagine the people driving past are intrigued. And then jealous. We came home with blue hands and mouths, too full for supper.
Berries are, to me, the essence of summer. I love to toss them into salads, make a pie or crisp. Shortcakes are hard to beat. The finest berries deserve to be appreciated soon after they are picked, and relatively unadorned.
Tiny wild or local blueberries are quite different from the big ones you find at the supermarket. I’ve never been a huge fan of those large cultivated blues; they tend to be a little mushy. But there they were this week and I couldn’t resist. I like them better cooked. And I was hoping my new oven might arrive…
The oven and fridge have been installed. The new kitchen is still unfinished, but I can bake!!! So, I did something I haven’t done for 6 months. I baked a cake!
Blueberry Almond Cake
This is a small cake, 6 servings or so. Perfect for breakfast, snacking, or dessert. The sweetness is tempered by the tartness of the berries. The crumb is moist and soft. Toasted almonds highlight the flavor of the berries and add a welcome crunch.
1 cup all purpose flour (I use organic)
¾ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
¼ cup butter, melted and cooled
¾ cup sugar (I like organic cane)
½ cup plain yogurt (you may use buttermilk or sour cream)
1 egg, room temperature
1 tsp. almond extract**
¼ cup sliced almonds
¾ cup blueberries, washed and dried*
baking spray (I use organic coconut oil spray)
* If you want to prevent the berries from sinking to the bottom of the cake, toss them with a couple of tablespoons of the flour before you add them to the cake. I don’t mind sunken berries, so I don’t bother with this step.
**If you don’t like almond extract or you don’t like the flavor, substitute vanilla.
Preheat your oven to 375°. Prepare a 6 inch baking dish with baking spray.
Set aside 1 tablespoon of the almonds and 1 tablespoon of the sugar.
Mix all the dry ingredients in a small bowl. Combine the yogurt and butter in a big bowl. Add the egg and almond extract. Mix well. Now add the dry ingredients and stir gently to combine. Be really careful not to overmix. If you want a nice, tender cake, you’re better off leaving a few streaks of flour then mixing too hard.
Very gently fold in the berries and almonds. Spread the batter into the baking dish. Sprinkle with the extra almonds and sugar.
Bake for 40-45 minutes, until the cake is nicely browned and the center is just set when you press lightly. Let cool at least 15 minutes before serving.
This cake is great plain, but even better with a scoop of Caramel Almond Ice Cream.