High Country Baking: Blueberry poppy seed cake
High altitudes make cookies spread in the pan, cakes fall and few baked goods turn out as they do at sea level. This twice-monthly column presents recipes and tips that make baking in the mountains successful.
This cake is baking royalty…Grand Prize winner at the 34th Pillsbury Bake-Off, then Marian Burros, a famous cookbook author and food columnist, published it in The New York Times, where a multitude of bakers have awarded it five stars, the highest ranking possible. With endorsements like that, I had to give it a try. And, after making alterations for high attitude, a few other minor changes, and adding more detail to the instructions, I pass it on to you.
“Cake” is almost a misnomer for this beauty. To make it, cake batter is used to create a soft bowl-shaped crust that holds sweetened blueberries, so it’s as much a pie or galette as it is a cake. Whatever it is, it’s easy to prepare. There’s just one thing to keep in mind: to create the container that holds the berries, you’ll push some of the cake batter up the sides of the pan. When you do, make sure the wall of batter that you form isn’t thicker than ¼ -inch or the crust could lose its pleasing texture and be dry and dense.
Blueberry Poppy Seed Cake
Adjusted for altitudes of 7,000 feet and above
Make in a 9.5-inch, shiny, metal springform pan
- 1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour, spoon and level
- 3 tablespoons poppy seeds
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup granulated sugar, preferably superfine
- ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
- 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
- 1 large egg
- ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon sour cream
- 2 cups fresh blueberries
- ¼ – ½ cup granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons flour
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice, optional
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg, optional
- ¼ cup confectioners’ sugar
- 1 to 2 teaspoons whole milk or lemon juice
Preparation: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with a rack in the center position. Unlock the sides of your springform pan, remove the bottom and flip it over so the lip faces down, and then re-lock it in place. This will make it easier to cut and/or remove the baked cake from the pan. Grease the pan with a baking spray that contains flour and set it aside.
Make the cake batter: Add the flour, poppy seeds, baking soda and salt to a bowl and whisk to combine them well, set it aside. In mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the sugar and butter until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides as needed. Add the lemon zest and egg and beat 2 minutes at medium speed. Beating at a low speed, add the flour mixture alternately with sour cream (3 additions flour, 2 sour cream) until a thick batter forms. Spread the batter over bottom and 1 inch up the sides of the prepared pan, making the batter on sides ¼ of an inch thick.
Make the filling: Test the sweetness of your blueberries, if they’re sweet, use the smaller amount of sugar. In a medium bowl, combine all the filling ingredients and toss/stir with your clean hands or a silicone spatula, until all the berries are coated with the sugar and flour and the berries have softened and broken down a little. Spoon the filling over the batter in the pan’s center, covering it completely.
4. Bake the cake: Place the pan in the oven and bakeuntil the crust has risen and is a light golden color and the berries are cooked and soft, start checking at 30 minutes, though it may take longer. Don’t overbake or the cake gets dry.
Cool and Serve: Place the cake on a rack, cool for 15-20 minutes, until warm but no longer hot to the touch, remove the sides of pan, and then cool completely. Top with a handful of fresh blueberries, if desired. If glazing it, whisk the milk/lemon juice and slowly add enough confectioners’ sugar until the mixture thickens and is smooth but still slides easily off a spoon. Drizzle it over top of the cake but don’t put much on the berries or the center of the cake will get soggy. Serve warm or at room temperature. Store, covered, in the ‘fridge.
This recipe is a variation of one published on NYTCooking website.
Vera Dawson’s column “High Country Baking” publishes biweekly in the Summit Daily News. Dawson is a high-elevation baking instructor and author of three high-altitude cookbooks. Her recipes have been tested in her kitchen in Frisco, where she’s lived since 1991, and altered until they work at elevation. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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