Summer is simply the best time of year to rediscover the true flavors of so many fruits and vegetables. Corn is sweet and succulent, green beans and cucumbers taste almost like the earth they are grown in, peaches are juicy and the flavor of local berries is infinitely superior to that of the winter imposters found in grocery stores.
Summer may be my favorite fruit and vegetable season of them all, although talk to me in October and I’ll probably be waxing poetic about butternut squash and apples.
I am not a huge sweet eater, but I do have a fondness for anything made with blueberries. My mother used to make lots of pies in the summer and fall with her signature pastry crust that I regret never learning to make with her technique (old school, pastry cutter, hands, a lot of love). In the summer, she would make the most beautiful and luscious blueberry pies that were just sweet enough, holding on to just a bit of blueberry’s signature tart flavor. Plated with a scoop of ice cream, preferably coffee, it was one of my absolute favorite summer desserts.
My friend, Kris also introduced me to a blueberry cake recipe that I have been making for 25 years. It is easy to execute on short notice and delicious every time. I still refer to the hand-written recipe card she gave me so many years ago, reminding me that the best recipes are those we share with friends and family.
So when I saw a picture of a blueberry cake posted by Ottolenghi that also happened to have another of my favorite ingredients in the title, coconut, I didn’t waste a minute to comment that I needed the recipe. Never in a million years did I think Ottolenghi or anyone else would answer.
But someone very kindly did and let me know that the recipe was in Ottolenghi’s most recent cookbook, Sweet that he co-wrote with Helen Goh. The versions of the recipe I was able to find online were written in the metric system, so instead I waited patiently for the US version of the book to arrive at my local library.
Almond flour is mixed with coconut, self-rising flour and sugar. The mixture is added to a good number of eggs, many Tablespoons of butter, vanilla, lemon zest and fresh blueberries. The cake is topped with some slivered almonds and baked until golden. Dense, moist and absolutely scrumptious.
The first time I made the recipe, I cooked it for 50-55 minutes according to the recipe’s instructions and thought the cake was slightly overdone, although it was still incredibly moist thanks to the eggs and butter. This cake definitely doesn’t scrimp on ingredients!
The second time I made the cake, I cut the baking time down to 40 minutes and thought it was just perfect. I rewrote the recipe accordingly. Since every oven is different, you will want to test your cake with a skewer to make sure it is done. The only other change I made to this otherwise perfect recipe is to add a sprinkling of sugar on top of the batter before it goes into the oven because, why not?
Footnote – I am reading online that the original translation of the book was filled with errors that the publisher was planning to fix. I’m not sure if my copy is the corrected version so that may explain the cooking time issue.
Here’s why you should make this cake. If you are like me and love coconut, then the aroma that will fill your kitchen while the cake is baking is reason alone. Also, the cake is incredibly easy to make and huge on flavor. I had some friends staying with me overnight and served it to them for breakfast. They all really, really loved the cake! As did my friends, Tenney and Alison who sampled the first version. And lastly, it is the time of year for blueberry picking! To make the cake even more special the second time around, I visited one of the local “pick your own” berry farms here in Rhode Island and came away with more than enough to use in the cake, nibble on and put in my husband’s morning cereal. The flavor of a local berry is worth the investment of time to pick them yourself.
I’ve made a note in the recipe that I used a 9-inch springform pan to make the cake. I really like the springform pan because it’s so forgiving when it comes time to unmold. I highly recommend it as investment for your kitchen if you do not already own one. You can also bake this cake in a 9-inch square pan if you choose. And I wonder what the cake might taste like if you substituted just a little bit of almond extract for the vanilla? It might be worth a try if you particularly love almond flavor. You could definitely substitute raspberries for the blueberries or even use a combination if you want.
In any case, I do hope you give this recipe a try. Sweet is filled with some inspiring cakes, cookies and other confections so there may be more baking in my near future.
As always, please let me know if you make the cake and what you think!
Until next time…