I’m very happy that the rain didn’t arrive until today. I was able to enjoy a few days of fabulous cycling weather, hopefully getting me closer to being able to ride a century in the wine country in July. This particular ride is an annual cycling event organized by the town of Healdsburg with a route running through the Alexander, Dry Creek and Russian River Valleys. The Healdsburg Harvest Century maps a moderately challenging route and offers its participants a 23, 37 or 60 mile course. I’ll be riding the 60-mile course but don’t be impressed. If this year’s route is anything like the one I’ve ridden before, it would be manageable by most. There are no serious hills on this ride–the main draw will be the scenery, the food and the camaraderie with my fellow riding enthusiasts.
That said, I doubt if the last three days of riding have justified devouring unreasonable amounts of this cake. I just made it this afternoon and half of it is gone. This crumb cake is light, spongy almost, with a high fruit to cake ratio. At least this is what I keep telling myself. It also isn’t cloyingly sweet. Have you ever tried a cake that, upon biting into it, all you taste is the sugar? Not so with this one. This cake is pleasantly fruity–the blueberries and lemon zest ensure this–and is perfectly balanced by the mild sweetness of the crunchy walnut crumble. If you choose to make this, I wouldn’t blame you if you decide not to share it with anyone.
Blueberry Crumb Cake
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking From My Home to Yours
For the Crumbs
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup (packed) light brown sugar (I used 1/4 cup dark brown sugar)
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
For the Cake
- 1 pint (2 cups) blueberries (preferably fresh, or frozen, not thawed)
- 2 cups plus 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 2/3 cup sugar
- Grated zest of 1/2 lemon or 1/4 orange (I used slightly more)
- 3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup buttermilk (I didn’t have any so I made my own by combining 1/2 cup of milk with just under 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice and letting it sit for a few minutes)
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350º F. Butter an 8-inch square pan (the book recommends Pyrex and it works great) and put it on a baking sheet.
To make the crumbs: Put all the ingredients except the nuts in a food processor and pulse just until the mixture forms clumps and curds and holds together when pressed. Scrape the topping into a bowl, stir in the nuts and press a piece of plastic against the surface. Refrigerate until needed. Covered well, the crumb mix can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.
To make the cake: Using your fingertips, toss the blueberries and 2 teaspoons of the flour together in a small bowl just to coat the berries; set aside. Whisk together the remaining 2 cups flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.
Working in the bowl of a stand mixer or in another large bowl, rub the sugar and zest together with your fingertips until the sugar is moist and aromatic. Add the butter and, with the paddle or whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer, beat the sugar with the butter at medium speed until light, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs one by one, beating for about 1 minute after each addition, then beat in the vanilla extract. Don’t be concerned if the batter looks curdled–it will soon smooth out. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour mixture and the buttermilk alternately, the flour in 3 parts and the buttermilk in 2 (begin and end with the dry ingredients). You will have a thick, creamy batter. With a rubber spatula, gently stir in the berries.
Scrape the batter into the buttered pan and smooth the top gently with the spatula. Pull the crumb mix from the refrigerator and, with your fingertips, break it into pieces. Scatter the crumbs over the batter and slightly press down.
Bake for 55 to 65 minutes, or until the crumbs are golden and a thin knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the cake to a rack and cool just until it is warm or until it reaches room temperature.