01 January 2011

Half a cabbage and a cake

With a small batch of soup today, the leftovers from last week's Thanksgiving dinner (I can't think of turkey & fixings as anything but "Thanksgiving Dinner," no matter what the date) are confined to 4 quarts of stock and a pint of turkey bits in the freezer for more soup later this winter.

The past week has been filled with sleeping in late, afternoon walks, reruns of The West Wing, and an utterly boring menu of oatmeal with spiced apple butter, turkey sandwiches, and whatever could be thrown together from the fridge and pantry.

with spiced apple butter

The fresh vegetables in my house have dwindled to half a cabbage, two onions, a couple carrots and one head of garlic—I don't begrudge my one-family grocer their vacation, but I can't wait to roast a big head of cauliflower, braise countless bulbs of fennel, or perhaps make some spiced sweet-potato fries in my brand new deep fryer.

In the meantime, I decided to take advantage of the only good deal I found at the Tuesday Farmers Market: fat, juicy Meyer lemons at 25 cents a pop.

I am thankful to whatever capricious deity that put lemons in their prime four months after blueberries have disappeared for also making blueberries so eminently freezable. I have a bag still in the freezer from my blueberry picking adventures back at home this summer, from which I have carefully meted out a half-cup for a tiny batch of pancake syrup here, a few tablespoons for a bowl of yoghurt there. For weeks now, though, I have been dreaming of cake: a simple, rustic cornmeal cake, flavored with lemon and studded with purple-blue orbs of blueberries.

lemon cornmeal cake with blueberries

Back again, then, is the gâteau au yaourt. As I said in that post, the yoghurt cake recipe can be bent to your needs: add or subtract fruit; swap half a cup of flour for nuts or, in this case, cornmeal; change zest and other flavorings to your taste.

lemon and blueberry cornmeal cake

The resulting cake is near perfection. The cornmeal adds texture, fullness, and lovely golden color; the crumb is dense and intensely moist; the zest permeates the cake and the glaze soaks in for intense, lemony flavor; the blueberries stud the cake with little fireworks of indigo.

There really is nothing like wild, hand-picked blueberries, but if you aren't lucky enough to have them, buy the best you can find. Small wild berries from Maine are quite good and much more flavorful than the almost golf ball-sized commercial ones that can be found from time to time.

Happy New Year—may it be filled with safe and happy adventures, in the kitchen and outside of it.

with whipped crème fraiche

Meyer Lemon-Blueberry Cornmeal Cake
While standard Eureka lemons will work in this recipe in a pinch, they have a much stronger, more acidic flavor; you may want to increase the sugar in the glaze by one or two tablespoons, or to taste, to avoid a harsh flavor. Use the best blueberries you can find.

While I generally bring my eggs to room temperature before baking, I use cold eggs and yoghurt so that the blueberries melt as little as possible—this ensures a lovely yellow crumb without purple streaks.

1 cup granulated sugar
2-3 teaspoons Meyer lemon zest (from one large or two small Meyer lemons)
3 large eggs
½ cup yoghurt (I prefer whole milk yoghurt, but nonfat will work)
1 cup unbleached flour
½ cup cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup flavorless oil, such as canola
1 cup frozen or fresh blueberries (do not thaw if frozen)

For the glaze:
juice of two Meyer lemons (about 6 tablespoons)
4-6 tablespoons confectioners' sugar

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Butter a nine inch cake pan and set aside.

Zest the lemons into a large bowl and add the sugar. If desired, rub the zest into the sugar with your fingers until very fragrant and moist. Add the eggs and yoghurt and whisk together until well combined. Add the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt; whisk lightly until just combined. Add the oil and mix with a spatula until you get a homogeneous mixture (it will start out gloppy and gross).

When you are ready to bake the cake, remove the blueberries from the freezer. Mix into the batter very quickly, just stirring three or four times to distribute. Scrape the mixture into the pan. Bake 40-50 minutes, until a tester comes out clean and the cake springs back in the middle. Cool in the pan on a rack for about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the glaze: juice the lemons into a small bowl; remove any seeds or large chunks of pulp. Add 4 tablespoons confectioners' sugar and mix well to make a thin, sweet-tart glaze. If you like, add one or two tablespoons more sugar.

Run a knife around the edge of the cake, invert to remove from pan and invert again onto a rack (so the cake is right-side up on the rack). While still warm, use a basting brush or spoon to distribute the glaze over top and sides of the cake—you may wish to place the rack over a large plate or piece of waxed paper to catch drips. When the cake has absorbed glaze all over the top, let cool completely.

Serve with a simple blueberry sauce, softly whipped cream, or nothing at all.

Serves 8-12


  1. I think you'd mentioned a while ago that you were looking for hot-food lunch containers? There's a post on Just Bento today about a few that seem worth looking into: http://justbento.com/handbook/bento-basics/looking-thermal-bento-sets-and-lunch-jars?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+justbento+%28Just+Bento+-+meal+in+a+box%29

  2. Thanks for that link - I think I found Just Bento through you, but I haven't checked it regularly. Those items all look pretty fantastic - if not as cute as a tiffin or traditional bento.

    The price you pay for hot food, I guess!

  3. Anonymous4/1/11 21:49

    Would it be wrong to make this for breakfast? Truly, I'm salivating just looking at your pictures.

  4. There's nothing wrong with cake for breakfast ... especially when it's cake made with fruit and yoghurt!