Sundays with Dorie: Blueberry crumb cake

We’ve got a winner this week, folks. Dorie’s blueberry crumb cake was an all-round hit – with me, with Edward, and with my office. First of all, for a humble coffee cake it’s a stunner. Baked in an 8-inch pan, it cooks up so high and fluffy and light. And that crumble topping studded with the odd blue fleck poking out is pretty darn cute, no?

One thing I do need to address is the behaviour of the topping while it bakes. See the fault lines forming a misshapen square in the centre of my cake? (They’re kinda hard to miss.) When I opened the oven midway through baking I thought we were headed for disaster – there was a pool of melted butter sinking into the cake, forming a sort of island in the middle. I checked with the Tuesdays with Dorie crew, who baked this cake earlier in the year, and many of them had experienced the same problem. Perhaps there’s too much butter in the topping, or too much topping on the cake, and it’s weighing down the batter before it’s had a chance to set? Place your bets now. At any rate, the butter pool disappeared and the fault lines add a certain charm, I think. Next time I might experiment with the crumble to see if this can be fixed, but it was no great problem.

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Maybe the best thing about this cake is that it can undoubtedly be eaten for breakfast. There’s a definite muffin-like consistency to the crumb, and it’s got fruit and nuts in it. Seeing as it’s got all the elements of a classic morning cake, I had a ginormous piece for my own Monday morning breakfast. And that means you can, too.

Blueberry Crumb Cake
From Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

You can use almost any type of berry or other soft fruit in this cake. You may want to vary the nuts and spices you use accordingly.

5 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/3 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/3 cup all purpose (plain) flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

2 cups blueberries
2 cups plus 2 tsp all purpose (plain) flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
2/3 cup sugar
zest of 1/2 lemon
6 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 large eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk or plain yogurt

Preheat the oven to 350F / 175C. Grease an 8-inch square baking pan.

To make the crumb topping: Put all the ingredients except the nuts in a food processor and pulse just until the mixture forms clumps and holds together when pressed. Scrape the topping into a bowl and stir in the nuts. Set aside until needed, or cover and refrigerate for up to three days.

To make the cake: Using your fingers, toss the blueberries and 2 tsp of flour together in a small bowl just to coat the berries; set aside. In a medium bowl whisk together the remaining 2 cups flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a 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 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. 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, beginning and ending 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 pan and smooth the top gently with the spatula. With your fingertips, break the crumb mixture into pieces and scatter over the top of the cake, pressing them down sightly. Don’t worry about making the crumbs uniform in size – lumps and bumps on top of the cake add to its appeal.

Bake for 55 to 65 minutes, or until the crumbs are golden and a knife inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the cake to a rack and cool until lukewarm before unmoulding or slicing in.