Recipe Box: blueberry swirl cake (with blemish-concealing citrus glaze)

It's blueberry season! Let's eat cake, let's share cake, let's take a glamour shot of said cake. We took this beauty over to our friend's house the other night and man oh man if it had A Moment. It's just that good.  

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I love this recipe because the berries are really incorporated into the batter, because you make a simple jam from a portion of the fresh berries. This makes gorgeous, deeply flavored swirls in a rich, buttery cake...something I prefer over biting into a baked blueberry blob. This hearkens back to my younger self picking all the blueberries out of a muffin. Deflated, watery, tasteless...nothing that should describe a fresh blueberry. Degradation! But no more with this recipe. 

Try it! You can do this!  

And even if you liberally spray your bundt pan with baking spray and the darn cake still sticks (man, I had a feeling it would happen, I think I cursed it--and I wrote down how you can avoid it), well doggone it, make this easy (as cake?) citrus glaze to mask your mistakes. It improved what's already a lovely thing. I like when that happens. 

This recipe is adapted from Cook's Illustrated, a magazine I've hoarded and now don't know where all those saved issues are.... 

Blueberry Swirl Bundt Cake

 Cake:

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (yes that seems weird but it really works) 

3/4 cup buttermilk (or do the spoonful of vinegar in milk trick...OR come over to our house and get the rest of our buttermilk out of the fridge) 

2 teaspoons grated lemon zest plus 3 tablespoons juice (this was two lemons) 

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 large eggs plus 1 large yolk, room temperature

2 1/4 sticks unsalted butter, softened

2 cups sugar

Filling:

3/4 cup sugar

3 tablespoons low- or no-sugar-needed fruit pectin

Pinch of salt

2 cups fresh or thawed frozen blueberries

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest plus 1 tablespoon juice

Glaze:  

2 cups powdered sugar

3 tablespoons lemon and/or lime juice  

 

Method:

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat to 325 degrees. Heavily spray nonstick bundt pan with baking spray and flour. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon together in large bowl. Whisk buttermilk, lemon zest, juice and vanilla together in medium-size bowl.

Gently whisk eggs and yolk to combine in third bowl. (I know! The bowls! So many!) 

Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, beat butter and sugar on medium-high until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes, scraping as needed. Reduce speed to medium and beat in half of eggs until incorporated, about 15 seconds, then repeat with remaining eggs, scraping down bowl after incorporating.

Reduce speed to low and add 1/3 of flour mixture, followed by half of buttermilk mixture, mixing until just incorporated after each addition, about 5 seconds.

Repeat using half of remaining flour mixture and all of remaining buttermilk mixture. Scrape down bowl, add remaining flour mixture and mix on medium-low until batter is thoroughly combined, about 15 seconds. Remove bowl from mixer and fold batter once or twice with a rubber spatula to incorporate any remaining flour. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and set aside while preparing filling (batter will inflate a bit.)

Filling: Whisk sugar, pectin and salt together in a small saucepan.

Process blueberries in a blender until mostly smooth, about 1 minute.

Transfer 1/4 cup puree and lemon zest to saucepan with sugar mixture and stir to thoroughly combine.

Heat sugar-blueberry mixture over medium heat until just simmering, about 3 minutes, stirring frequently to dissolve sugar and pectin.

Transfer mixture to medium-size bowl and let cool for 5 minutes. Add remaining puree and lemon juice to cooled mixture and whisk to combine. Let sit until slightly set, which make take around 15 minutes. This is an important step! I didn't wait long enough and that was my pan-stick problem. Learn from my impatient ways! 

Spoon half of batter into prepared pan and smooth top. Using back of spoon, create 1/2-inch-deep channel in center of batter. Spoon half of filling into channel.

Using butter knife or small offset spatula, thoroughly swirl filling into batter (there should be no large pockets of filling remaining). Repeat swirling step with remaining batter and filling.

Bake until top is golden brown and skewer inserted in center comes out clean, about 60 to 70 minutes. Let cake cool in pan on wire rack for 10 minutes, then invert cake directly onto wire rack. Allow cake to cool for at least 3 hours before serving.

Want (or in my case need) a glaze?  

Sift powdered sugar into a bowl (at this point, I just barely wiped out a bowl...enough with the bowls!), mix in two tablespoons of juice, adding the remaining tablespoon a drop at a time to make a thick but pourable glaze. Decorate with berries and mint leaves and make someone's day.  

Unfurling

Hello again. I'm here, tending soil and finding quiet. And failing at the latter a lot more than I'd like you to know. But here I am. 

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After two growing (a term used loosely in light of the results) seasons of squash vines given over to boring (tunneling, not dull) grubs and single eggplants and a handful of okra...paltry results for the work of tilling and weeding and waiting...we dug out one of our four garden plots. It's got to be the soil, so overused and tired. We needed to start all over. 

By "we" I mean my husband. Digging out the plot became such hard prisoner type work that he determined only one plot per year could be excavated. Southern red clay petrifies, roots hold fast. He dumped a pickup truck bed worth of rich, bought soil in its place. Loose and loamy. 

And then I planted, the same as ever. Nothing is as faith-filling as planting a garden. Seed to sprout? To full fruiting plant all the way to our plates? Yes and yes and yes. Amen. It will happen, I blindly tend every Spring, not a doubt in my mind even after a few summers of drout and duds. Hands in the soil and sun on my neck, the small and still voice is Present, audible and amiable.  

Oh, but this year! That soil we traded out? The plot of tomoatoes and squash erupt with such enthusiasm that I confessed to my friend Emily the other day that I'm half afraid of it. The way it climbs and clings and produces is so unabashedly vigorous I'm baffled.  

In the compost mix must've been some cast-out squash of some sort, vines growing beyond borders, greedy for space and sun, spitting and squeezing out ovals of fruit nobody can identify. It's not a melon, wrong stem for that, though I cut one open and the fresh smell of honeydew had me convinced except the seeds are wrong. Maybe a gourd? A spaghetti squash? Whatever it is, we are good at growing it...there's at least 24 of the things expanding before our very eyes.  

I didn't come here to talk to you about gardening really, though this is typical of the South this time of year. You talk about soil, you walk up to check on things, you report on pests and fertilizers. Proud and perplexed, at least that's us.  How's your garden, we ask. Y'all getting any tomatoes yet? 

I came here I guess because with this season comes the tug of words. Not for an assignment but just for the sake of the thing itself. Not unlike planting something and just walking away. Not expecting much in return save the feeling of dirt underneath your hands and the sun on your neck. The feeling of being once again a part of something. Bigger and smaller all at the same time. Remembering the cycles of the moon as we tilt and spin on a sphere of rock and water. Held and tended.  

For some of my friends this year has been hard and root bound. The world is all impermeable edges and there doesn't seem to be much color. Sweetness and growth seem impossible and improbable, but yet even now they feel tendrils pushing up. Out of our miniscule microcosms...damn if we don't keep growing even when it's dark.  

I can't believe it really, it scares me how green and wild and ALIVE things can be. Out of my hands, hidden and rooted, a sprout bows and bends and unseen--its two hands reach for the sun.  

 

The way you make a bed

So precise.  

Sheets and blankets at hard angles, 

taut to the edges, everything  

tucked within an inch 

of its life. The way 

it is supposed to be, the way

your mother does it.  

I tug up the sheets and pat

down the bulges

trying to hide  

what I was too lazy to actually do.  

Hiding me.  

Then I go and look  

at how nice your bed is made

How rumbled is mine.  

But your bed is my bed and we make

it our own ways. One day mine

one day yours.  

Others, we forget and meet across

a swarm of sheets a damp towel 

a curled up cat  

and still each other.