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Blueberry Crumb Cake a blue-ribbon winner

Thursday, July 24, 2003

Readers, take our advice: Make a trip to the closest farmers' market, pick up a pint of blueberries and bake Blueberry Crumb Cake -- you'll be delighted.


Blueberry Crumb Cake is a coffee cake studded with fresh plump blueberries. Lemon juice, lemon zest and vanilla (use pure vanilla extract) add to this cake's unique flavor. Before baking, a layer of chopped walnuts is spread over the batter followed by streusel topping. What an outstanding combination!

Katie McGuire of Carnegie requested today's recipe. We received responses from Ruth Silverman of Churchill, Carol Schaff of Jefferson Hills and Lois Seiling of Monroeville.

Blueberry tips:

Freeze fresh blueberries in a single layer on a tray, then transfer to freezer containers.

Always add blueberries last and stir gently or they will bleed.

Do not wash blueberries until ready to use.

Store blueberries in the refrigerator in a single layer if possible in a moisture-proof container for up to five days.

If berries are packaged, turn the box upside down to make sure there is no stain moisture on the bottom. This indicates overripe berries.

1 pint of fresh blueberries equals about 2 cups.

Choose blueberries that are plump and firm and have a silver frosted indigo blue color.

Maida Heatter's Blueberry Crumb Cake

  • Topping:
  • 1/3 cup sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • Cake:
  • 2 cups fresh blueberries (about 1 pint)
  • 2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons double-acting baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • Finely grated rind of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, cut medium fine
  • Confectioners' sugar, optional
  • Dry bread crumbs (about 3 or more tablespoons) for pan

Pick over and wash the blueberries in a large bowl of cold water. Drain.

Turn them out onto a towel. Pat them lightly with towel to dry. Set aside in a single layer on the towel to dry completely.

Adjust rack to the center of the oven. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 9-inch square or 9-inch round cake pan. Coat it well, bottom and sides, with fine, dry bread crumbs. Set aside.

Prepare the topping. Mix flour, sugar and cinnamon. With a pastry blender cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Set aside.

Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Place the dried blueberries in a large bowl. Sprinkle with about 1 1/2 tablespoons of the sifted dry ingredients. Using a rubber spatula, toss and turn gently to flour the blueberries without crushing them. Set aside both the floured berries and remaining sifted dry ingredients.

Cake: Cream the butter. Beat in vanilla and sugar and beat for 1 minute. Add the egg and beat for 1 minute more. On lowest speed alternately add remaining sifted dry ingredients in three additions and milk in two additions, scraping the bowl with a rubber spatula and beating only until smooth after each addition. Stir in lemon rind.

Spoon the stiff batter over the floured blueberries. With a rubber spatula, gently fold together until just mixed. Turn batter into the prepared pan. Spread smoothly. Sprinkle walnuts over top, and then sprinkle reserved topping over the nuts.

Bake 50 minutes (see note) or until the top is well-browned. Cool in pan for about 1/2 hour. Run a knife around sides of pan to loosen cake.

Cover top of pan with a piece of aluminum foil large enough to fold down around the four sides (in order not to lose any of the topping when the cake is inverted). Over the aluminum foil place a cake rack or cookie sheet. Invert and remove pan. Place cake plate or board upside down on cake and invert again.

This may be served while still warm or at room temperature -- it holds its heat for 1 to 1 1/2 hours after being removed from pan. If you wish, before serving cover the top generously with confectioners' sugar sifted through a fine strainer. Yields 9 to 12 portions.

Note: Our cake was ready in 45 minutes.


Oren Spiegler of Upper St. Clair: "I would love to know what the secret is to the pink-colored sauce used in Buca di Beppo's tasty Macaroni Rosa dish. It is unusual and a nice deviation from the red sauces we Pittsburghers typically love."

Maha Rajaram of Ross loves the garlic bread served at Buca di Beppo restaurant. "It has a lot of roasted garlic inside. Do you or any reader have the recipe?"

From Ellie Cravotta of Plum: "Many years ago, there was a bakery on Eighth Avenue in Homestead called Wolfarths. It made a wonderful cookie that my mother bought for special treats, such as the annual school picnic. This was a soft cookie topped with a marshmallow-like cream and sprinkled with coconut. Do you or someone in the reading audience have the recipe?"

Marilyn Tesla of Pembroke Pines, Fla., writes: "Many years ago, late '70s or early '80s, I cut a recipe from The Pittsburgh Press for pepperoni bread. I lost the recipe. It included frozen bread dough, oregano or parsley, 1 egg, grated cheese and pepperoni. The dough was rolled out, the ingredients were placed on top and the dough was rolled jelly-roll style and baked in a loaf pan. Would anyone have this recipe?"

Dee Kapourales of Mingo County, W.Va.: "When we were children, Mother would send us 'upstreet' in Dormont to Potomac Bakery for a chocolate icing, yellow batter layer cake anytime unexpected company arrived. We loved the icing. Although Potomac is still there and the cakes are still good, they no longer have the same "hard" chocolate icing we all loved! Does anyone have the old recipe?"

Write to Kitchen Mailbox, c/o Arlene Burnett, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh 15222, or e-mail . Please include a name, neighborhood/city/borough/township and state and a phone number.

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