Monday, June 6, 2011

Blueberry Lemon Crumb Cake

No one is asking, but just for the record my philosophy on nutritious food versus junk food could be summed up like this: Enjoy what you eat, so long as it doesn't get in the way of the truly important things in your life. By that I mean, be educated but don't agonize over every tiny thing you put in your mouth. Savor that chocolate cake but don't eat the whole thing or you'll find yourself with little energy for pursuing life's other joys and more active pursuits.

This philosophy applies when I'm baking. I used to try all kinds of healthy ways to doctor up baked goods, but found the results going to waste. No one wanted to eat them, not even me. At first I felt guilty for returning to my first loves--butter, sugar and eggs--but then I embraced sweets for what they are, a treat. I get my kids in the kitchen to help me, invite some friends over for coffee, give them to visiting neighborhood kids and even to the guy looking for a handout on the side of the road. Suddenly cookies are more than cookies. They're an event and something that, I hope, makes life a little more enjoyable and special for everyone.

I still make some concessions for nutrition in my baking, but only so long as it enhances or doesn't interfere with the flavor. For example, I use kefir instead of buttermilk, because I always have it on hand. I also cut my all-purpose flour with half whole-wheat flour, because honestly I like the results better. When I'm making something like apple cake I use applesauce in place of oil. And I have a soft spot for recipes like this one I found on that uses sensible, simple tricks to cut out the fat and calories. The original recipe, from Cooking Light magazine, reduces the amount of sugar (something that can be done with almost any recipe) and butter and makes use of an egg white. Simple. Easy. Better for you. But it still results in a dense, moist cake studded with fresh blueberries and lemon zest and capped off with a buttery crumb topping. 

Lemon Blueberry Crumb Cake
(Modified from recipe)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I use equal parts white and whole wheat)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
  6 Tb butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 large egg white
1 1/3 cups low-fat buttermilk or kefir
2 cups fresh blueberries
  the zest of one lemon

Crumb topping:
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup white sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
2 Tb butter, chilled

1.) Preheat oven to 350'. Grease and flour a 9" springform pan. Set aside.
2.) In a medium bowl, mix together the dry ingredients: flour through salt. Set aside.
3.) In a large mixing bowl, blend vanilla, butter and sugar until smooth. (There are 8 Tbs of butter in a stick. Use 6 Tbs, softened, for the cake and set the remaining 2 Tbs aside in the fridge for the crumb topping.)
4.) Add eggs.
5.) Add the flour and kefir/buttermilk, alternating. Start with the flour and end with the flour.
6.) Gently fold in the blueberries and lemon zest with a large wooden spoon, being careful not to break up the blueberries. This is a thin batter, so fresh blueberries are best. The Web site recommends using less buttermilk/kefir for peak-season berries. Reviews of the Cooking Light version of this recipe said that the blueberries tend to sink (about half of mine did). To avoid this you can either toss the blueberries in some of the flour mixture before folding them in or reduce the buttermilk by 1/3 cup. I would say the same holds true for using frozen berries, as they'll add a lot of moisture to the batter. If you use frozen berries, don't thaw them first or you'll end up with a purple cake.
7.) Pour the batter into the springform cake pan.
8.) Meanwhile place the crumb topping ingredients in a separate bowl (I just used the one I mixed the dry ingredients in earlier). Use a fork to mash the butter into the flour mixture until you get rough crumbs. You can also work this with your hands if you prefer. I know I did.

 9.) Sprinkle the crumb topping over the top of the batter in the springform pan and pop it in the oven. OK, gently slide it into the oven.
 10.) Bake until nicely browned on top and the cake springs back to the touch in the center, about 45-50 minutes.
11.) Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for at least a 1/2 hour. Remove from the springform pan and serve. The trick I used for getting the cake out of the springform pan so that you don't have the metal piece underneath is to let it cool all the way, gently place a large dinner plate over the crumb topping and flip the cake upside down. Slowly peel off the metal plate on the bottom of the cake then transfer the cake, right-side-up to your serving platter. If you loose some of that yummy crumble in the process, just sprinkle it back on top. Trust me, no one is going to notice while they're gobbling this down.


  1. I think that you should be my personal chef..what do you think?!?!

    BTW - great mom e-mail today!

  2. How much are you paying? :-) Thanks! I just saw it tonight. Glad to see someone's reading those. :-) Hope you're well!

  3. This looks so delicious!

    I would love if you would come by and link it up to our blog hop since this weeks theme is Berries!!!



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