Red, White & Blueberry Cake

Red, White & Blueberry CakeThe Fourth of July is just a few days away, y’all! While you may be thinking about vacation or grilling or how to keep your dog safe during the fireworks, I am over here thinking about—what else—cake! Red, White & Blueberry Cake, to be specific. Yes, a layer cake that is loaded with strawberries, blueberries, and tons of whipped cream. It showcases some peak summer produce and looks pretty patriotic, too! This is my kind of Independence Day dessert.

Red, White & Blueberry CakeThe cake itself if a classic white cake. I used my Vanilla Layer Cake as a starting point, manipulating the recipe until I had a light, fluffy result. The most significant change is that there are no whole eggs in the recipe; if there were, the cake wouldn’t be white! Only egg whites are used here. They are whipped to the point where they hold stiff peaks before being folded into the batter. The air in the whipped egg whites, along with a hefty dose of baking powder and sifted dry ingredients, will keep the resulting cake light and airy.

Red, White & Blueberry CakeWhile the egg whites give the cake tons of structure, their complete lack of fat has the potential to dry it out. I did a few things to counteract this:

  • I reduced the flour. Egg whites provide tons of structure in baked goods, so I was confident that cutting a bit of the flour wouldn’t affect the cake’s ability to bake properly.
  • I used butter and oil. I wanted this cake to have a buttery flavor, but as butter is 15% water, I was concerned that the results could be dry. This recipe requires 3/4 cup melted butter and 1/4 cup neutral-flavored oil, like vegetable or canola oil. This small amount of oil keeps the cakes nice and moist.
  • I used a combination of regular milk and sour cream in place of buttermilk. Sour cream’s thick texture and fat content keep this cake super moist. Also, as it has been “soured,” when combined with milk, it mimics the tenderizing qualities of buttermilk.

But enough about the chemistry of cake batter. This white cake is crazy delicious—soft, buttery, and flavored with vanilla and almond extracts (you can leave the almond extract out if you have a tree nut allergy). It would be spectacular with a little vanilla buttercream, but that’s not the direction we’re going in today.

Red, White & Blueberry CakeInstead of frosting this cake with buttercream, we’re using Whipped Cream Frosting! It’s a lot like regular whipped cream, except that it won’t weep or slouch after an hour or two. Many recipes for Whipped Cream Frosting require gelatin, but I don’t care for the texture it produces. Instead, our whipped cream is stabilized with sour cream. This adjustment allows for the whipped cream to hold up for days! Just beat some heavy cream, confectioner’s sugar, and vanilla until soft peaks form, and then use a handheld whisk to incorporate the sour cream until you achieve stiff peaks. Don’t be tempted to add the sour cream all at once—this will deflate your whipped cream. Instead, add it by the spoonful. This sounds tedious, but it really doesn’t take long at all.

For those of you who do not care for the flavor of sour cream, know that I don’t either. Its flavor here is very subtle, especially when combined with the white cake and berries. If you really don’t wish to use it, you may substitute creme fraiche or cream cheese.

Red, White & Blueberry CakeRed, White & Blueberry CakeRed, White & Blueberry CakeTo assemble the cake, slice both baked layers equatorially so that you have four very thin layers. If the idea of slicing a cake layer in half intimidates you, just know that they don’t have to be perfect—mine certainly were not! Just do your best. Lay one cut-side up on a serving plate (or a cake round, if you are me and can’t fit a serving plate in your fridge). Top the layer with some sliced strawberries and a few tablespoons of blueberries before spreading whipped cream frosting over the top. It may seem illogical to put the fruit directly on the cake, but it allows the berries’ juices to soak into the cake instead of breaking down the whipped cream. This is just insurance that your leftovers won’t get gross in the refrigerator. Repeat the layering process two more times before placing your last thin layer cut-side down. Use the rest of the whipped cream to frost the cake. I went for the naked cake look, but you may do whatever you like. Make sure to decorate with more berries!

Red, White & Blueberry Cake
Sliced 15 minutes after assembly.
Red, White & Blueberry Cake
Sliced after chilling in the refrigerator for a few hours.
Red, White & Blueberry Cake may be served immediately after assembly, but know that the whipped cream frosting may squish out the sides a bit. This doesn’t bother me one bit, but know that a couple hours in the refrigerator will help the cake stay more intact.

Look at that! Cake, berries, whipped cream, and a little patriotic flair. Add fireworks and you’re in for a great Fourth of July.Red, White & Blueberry Cake

Red, White & Blueberry Cake
makes 1 9″ round layer cake

To Grease the Pans:
2 tablespoons neutral-flavored oil
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Cake:
2 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cornstarch
2 cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1/4 cup neutral-flavored oil (I like canola)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
1 1/2 cups milk (not skim or fat-free)
1/2 cup full-fat sour cream
4 large egg whites, room temperature

Whipped Cream Frosting:
3 cups heavy cream, cold
4-6 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup full-fat sour cream

For Assembly:
1 pound fresh strawberries, hulled and thinly sliced
6 ounces fresh blueberries

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease the pans. In a small bowl, use a fork to whisk together oil and flour. Use a pastry brush to apply a thin layer to the entire insides of two 9-inch round cake pans. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, cornstarch, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Sift together four times. Do not skip this step. Set aside.

In a separate large mixing bowl, whisk together melted butter, oil, vanilla and almond extracts, sour cream, and milk. Set aside.

Place egg whites in a clean, dry medium-large mixing bowl. Use the whisk attachment on an electric mixer to beat egg whites on medium-high speed until they hold stiff peaks. Do not over mix. Set aside.

Fold dry ingredients into wet in three installments, scraping down the bowl as necessary. Carefully fold half the whipped egg whites into the batter, followed by the other half.

Divide the batter evenly into the prepared pans. Lightly tap each pan on the counter a couple of times just to help any large air bubbles dissipate. Bake for 32-37 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centers comes out clean. Let cakes cool in the pans for fifteen minutes before running a small, thin knife around the edge of the pans and inverting the layers onto a rack. Allow to cool completely.

Make the whipped cream frosting. Combine heavy cream, confectioner’s sugar, and vanilla in a large mixing bowl. Use an electric mixer to beat mixture until soft peaks form. Switch to use a hand whisk. Add sour cream by the spoonful, whipping until stiff peaks form.

Slice cake layers in half equatorially. Lay one cut-side up on a serving dish or cake round. Top with about 1/3 of the strawberry slices and 3-4 tablespoons blueberries. Drop large spoonfuls of whipped cream over the top and spread them out with an offset icing spatula. Repeat this process two more times. Place the last layer on the top cut-side down. Frost and decorate with berries as desired. Serve or refrigerate immediately.

Leftover cake will keep in the refrigerator for up to two days.

Blueberry Muffins

Blueberry MuffinsBlueberry Muffins always make me think of summer camp. I went from the time I was in first grade, and after sixteen years (twelve as a camper, four as a counselor/staff), my love of summer camp is just a part of who I am. I finished my last year at camp a mere eight days before I moved to New York–almost ten years ago!–but around this time every year, I still get the urge to pack a trunk and take up residence in a cabin in Granbury, Texas. I know I have many friends who would be happy to join me.

Blueberry MuffinsIt’s different now, but the food at camp was pretty terrible back in my day, save for a few crowd-favorite meals. The highlights of the week were grilled cheese and tomato soup and blueberry muffins. Yes, blueberry muffins were as good as camp breakfast got. I don’t know how exactly it got started, but we had a tradition during those breakfasts where we’d all occasionally chant-yodel “BLUE…BERRY MUFFINS!” I wish I could explain why we all thought it was so funny, but as anyone who has ever gone to camp can tell you, it’s just a camp thing.

Blueberry MuffinsThose summer camp blueberry muffins will always hold a place in my heart, but in all actuality, they weren’t very good–dry with a hard outer crust and gummy blueberries. They worked on those early mornings, but I know I wouldn’t want one now.

Blueberry MuffinsBlueberry MuffinsBlueberry MuffinsThe blueberry muffins I make these days are everything you could possibly want them to be. They’re soft and fluffy with domed tops, and positively bursting with blueberries–there are two whole cups in the recipe! The muffins themselves are flavored with a bit of vanilla and nearly-undetectable dashes of cinnamon and nutmeg. They stay moist for days thanks to buttermilk, a combination of melted butter and oil, and the blueberries, of course! Really, they are everything a blueberry muffin should be.

The only things that could make them better are a swipe of butter and sharing with a camp friend or two. Or sixty.Blueberry Muffins

Blueberry Muffins
makes 12 muffins

2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
12 ounces fresh or frozen (not thawed) blueberries
1 cup buttermilk
1 large egg + 1 large egg yolk, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons neutral-flavored oil (I used canola)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoon coarse sugar (like turbinado), for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 400F. Line a 12-cup standard muffin pan with cupcake liners. Set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Remove 2 tablespoons of the dry ingredients and place in a separate medium mixing bowl. Add fresh blueberries. Toss together with your hands until blueberries are coated in the dry ingredients. This will keep them from sinking in the batter. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together buttermilk, egg and yolk, vanilla, oil, and melted butter. Add dry ingredients in three installments, scraping down the bowl as you go. Mix just until combined. Fold in blueberries.

Divide batter among muffin cups–they will be almost completely full. Sprinkle with coarse sugar. Carefully tap the pan on the counter five times to release any large air bubbles. Bake for 5 minutes, then turn the oven temperature down to 350F and bake for an additional 14-18 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for at least five minutes before removing to a rack to cool completely before serving.

Leftovers will keep covered at room temperature for up to three days, or in the refrigerator for up to five.

Blue-Razz Pie

 If, hypothetically speaking, I ever wanted to leave New York City for good, I know exactly where I would go. I’d pack my life into a moving truck, drive ten hours north, hop a ferry, and set up camp on Swans Island, Maine. There would be an initial shock, leaving a city of 8 million people and taking residence in a town of 300, but I’m sure I’d adjust quickly. 

As I doubt I have any talent for lobstering (the primary profession among citizens of Swans Island), I think I’d build a little pie shop next door to the general store and live out my days wearing cute aprons, rolling dough, and serving warm slices of local berry pie a la mode. Oh yes, that’s the dream. Or at least it is today.

I’m currently vacationing on Swans Island with my dear friends VJ, Shira, and Liz. As there are two Lizzes here, I have been dubbed Betsy for the purposes of this trip. There’s not much to do here–there’s one store, no restaurants, no TV. Wi-Fi is available only from the porch of the public library and the vestibule in the post office. We’re completely out of our normal routines, instead filling our days with reading, relaxing, building fires, and making meals together. It’s absolutely glorious, and I think I can speak for all of us when I say that we are not terribly thrilled that we’ll have to drive back to Brooklyn on Saturday. 

Liz and I have spent several hours walking down the side of the main road foraging for berries. When I was here last year, I found tons and tons of wild blackberries, but they’re not quite ripe yet. Instead, we’ve done some light trespassing in the name of blueberries and worried about ticks while picking raspberries in a ditch. We have not been arrested or had any ticks, thank goodness, but we have managed to collect just enough berries for pie.

When Liz and I met a year ago, we bonded over our mutual love of pie. She is a filling person, while I prefer the crust–a perfect balance, if you ask me. We have made at least fifteen pies since, including one November evening where we baked three apple pies before virtually passing out during the final game of the World Series. Every single one has been an enjoyable (and delicious) collaboration, but I think the Blue-Razz Pie we made today is my very favorite. 

  And how couldn’t it be? We worked as a team, scouring every bit of woods up and down North Road in an effort to make this happen. On our first visit to the WiFi porch at the public library, we each rushed through checking our email and social media so that we could squat in a ditch and pick blueberries. Yesterday, we took a six hour sojourn to the mainland for provisions and even though we were exhausted when we got back to the island, we put on long pants and went out to gather raspberries near the Back Cove. Our foraging was cut short by rain, but when we got home, Liz cut together a batch of Cream Cheese Pie Dough and we planned to get up the next morning and make pie first thing. 

   She stirred together the filling while I rolled and cut dough. We cut out hearts with an ancient cookie cutter we found in the back of a cabinet full of mismatched pots and pans. Everything got a brush of egg wash and a sprinkling of sugar before being popped into the oven. And forty-five minutes later, we pulled out the most beautifully browned pie, full of bits of wild raspberries and blueberries and smelling like magic. 

 There’s something really amazing about biting into something you made with someone you adore. This pie captures what I love about my friendship with Liz: the teamwork, the creativity, and the sweetness. I can’t wait to make another one. 

 Blue-Razz Pie
makes one standard 9-inch pie

1 recipe Cream Cheese Pie Dough
3 cups fresh blueberries
1 cup fresh raspberries
1/2 cup granulated sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
4 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
juice of 1/2 lime

Egg Wash
1 egg
1 teaspoon water

On a floured surface, roll out one disc of pie dough to a 12-inch diameter and fit it in the pan. Trim the edges to 1/2-inch of overhang. Refrigerate while you prepare the filling.

In a large mixing bowl, combine blueberries, raspberries, 1/2 cup sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, salt, and lime. Fold with a wooden spoon until everything is evenly coated. Transfer filling to prepared crust. Refrigerate.

On a floured surface, roll out the other disc of pie dough to a 12-inch diameter. You may use a cookie cutter to cut shapes in the dough before laying it over the top of the filling. If you want a full top crust, lay the rolled-out dough on top of the filling and cut a few vents. Trim the edges to 1/2-inch of overhang, and crimp the top and bottom crust edges together. Refrigerate.

Preheat the oven to 375F. Make the egg wash. In a small bowl, use a fork to whisk together egg and water. Use a pastry brush to brush the entire exposed crust with egg wash. Sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 45-55 minutes, tenting with foil at the 20 minute mark.

Let pie cool completely on a rack. Slice and serve with ice cream, if desired.

Pie will keep covered in the refrigerator for up to five days.

Blueberry Hand Pies

 How was your long weekend? Mine wasn’t really a weekend–I worked all but one day. Sunday, the one day I had completely off, my friend (also named Liz) came over and we made two pies for some Fourth of July barbecues she attended.

Liz and I rolled chilled dough and sliced fruit for fillings. We used a star cookie cutter to make the pies a little patriotic. We had a great time baking together, but at the end of the day we both came to the same conclusion: pie is a labor of love. You can’t just make pie on the fly. Nope. It takes about eight hours from the time you start making the dough to the time the finished product is cool enough to slice. 

I’m always up to make pie when I have the time, but it’s a little less fun when I know I’m not going to get to have any when the whole process is through. It’s especially disappointing when I’m making blueberry pie. Juicy blueberries spiked with cinnamon and lime and baked into a flaky crust–it’s the stuff of summertime dreams! But I am just one person. I do not need a whole pie sitting around. And so, after I put Liz and her pies into a cab, I set to work making these Blueberry Hand Pies. They’re classic blueberry pie, but in cute, convenient single servings 😊 

Blueberry Hand Pies start with my Cream Cheese Pie Dough. It’s super simple to put together and is flexible and easy with which to work. I’ve never had it tear, and that structural soundness is pretty important since it has to be cut, folded, and crimped! As with any pie dough, the key to working with this one is keeping it cold from the time you are cutting the butter and cream cheese into the flour to the minute it goes in the oven. If the dough becomes soft or sticky and any point in the hand pie-making process, refrigerate it for fifteen minutes before continuing. Taking the time to do this extra chilling will ensure super flaky crust.
 The dough is cut into 4 1/2-inch circles before being being filled with a combination of blueberries, a bit of sugar, cinnamon, salt, cornstarch, and lime. Then the edge of the dough is painted with a a semi-circle of egg wash before being folded in half and crimped with a fork. The hand pies are chilled while the oven heats up, then vented and painted with more egg wash before baking for 35-40 minutes, until glossy and golden. 
Where regular pies have to cool completely to room temperature before they can be sliced and served, these little Blueberry Hand Pies can be enjoyed just minutes after they come out of the oven! They’re fantastic by themselves, but I highly recommend enjoying one warm with vanilla ice cream! 

 Blueberry Hand Pies
makes 18 hand pies

1 recipe Cream Cheese Pie Dough,* chilled

Filling:
12 ounces fresh blueberries
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch or arrowroot powder
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
juice of one lime

Egg Wash:
1 large egg
1 tablespoon water

On a floured surface, roll chilled dough out to 1/4-inch thickness. Use a floured 4 1/2-inch round cutter* to cut circles out of the dough. Re-roll scraps as necessary to cut more circles. If dough gets too warm or sticky, place it in the refrigerator for 15 minutes. Place cut circles on a plate and refrigerate at least ten minutes.

Prepare the filling. Place blueberries in a large mixing bowl. Fold in sugar, cinnamon, cornstarch, and salt, followed by lime juice. Filling may seem dry. Set aside.

Make egg wash. In a small bowl, use a fork to whisk together egg and water. Set aside.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Assemble the hand pies. Lay a circle of dough on a floured surface. Place one tablespoon of the blueberry filling in the middle. Use a pastry brush to paint a semi-circle of egg wash on one half of the outer edge. Fold the unpainted half to meet the painted half, and press down lightly to seal. Crimp with a fork. Lay hand pie on prepared baking sheet. Continue making hand pies until all circles have been used. If anything gets too warm or sticky, refrigerate for at least fifteen minutes.

Once all pies are made, chill the baking pans in the refrigerator or freezer. Preheat oven to 375F. Once oven reaches temperature, remove full pans from refrigerator or freezer. Cut a small vent in each one* before painting with more egg wash. Bake for 35-40 minutes, tenting with foil at the 20 minute mark. Let hand pies cool on pans for fifteen minutes before removing to a rack to cool completely.

Hand pies may be served warm or room temperature. They are best the day they are made, but will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to three days or in the refrigerator for up to four days.

Notes:

1. You may use an pie dough recipe you like, or purchased refrigerated pie dough. This recipe requires enough dough for a double crust pie.
2. I use this 4 1/2-inch round cutter. If you do not have one, you may slice the dough into 5-inch squares, although you may get fewer total hand pies.
3. Pies may be frozen after they are vented. Lay them on parchment-lined pans and freeze until solid. Put them in a labeled freezer bag or container for up to two months. When you are ready to bake them, paint the pies with egg wash and bake them for an extra minute or two. No need to thaw.

Triple Berry Breakfast Crumble

 As far as I’m concerned, there’s nothing better than an early morning summer walk in New York. I rarely work before 3pm, so it becomes a daily ritual this time of year. Everybody else in Brooklyn Heights is sweating in their business clothes on their way to catch the subway, but I’m in yoga pants and Birkenstocks with an iced coffee in-hand, on my way to the green market for fresh berries. 

That’s my speed on weekday mornings: a quick stroll of the neighborhood, a little shopping, and then home to make breakfast with whatever looks best at the market. It’s a luxurious way to start the day–a fact of which I am far too aware–and I have no intention of wasting a minute of it. One of these days, I’ll likely have a job that requires me to get out of the house bright and early, but until then, I’m going to enjoy my walk, drink too much coffee, and come home to make Triple Berry Breakfast Crumble. 

This crumble is perfect for summer–fresh strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries are coated in a sweet orange mixture and topped with an oat and almond crumble, then baked until bubbly. The berries burst as they bake and create a beautiful red, orange-scented sauce. The topping gets brown and crunchy. Spooned into a bowl with your favorite yogurt (I’m partial to Siggi’s), this crumble is a perfectly delicious way to start the day.

I know what you’re thinking. Aren’t crumbles traditionally served for dessert? Well, yes. And this one would be great with a scoop of ice cream. But why wait all day when you can enjoy it first thing?! This recipe serves six and has less than 1/2 cup sugar. And if that’s not enough to sway you, the crumble is 100% whole grain. It’s made primarily of oats and white whole wheat flour, with five tablespoons of butter to hold it all together. Oh, and there are almonds for a little extra protein. I’m no nutritionist, but that all sounds pretty healthy to me.

Triple Berry Breakfast Crumble can be made start-to-finish in 45 minutes, which means that it’s perfect for a casual summer brunch, but can also be made on a Sunday night and reheated all week long. It’s excellent cold too, so you can pack your portion to-go without wondering if there’s a microwave at your destination. Make this crumble this summer–it’s a little taste of luxury any day of the week. 

  Triple Berry Breakfast Crumble
adapted from Breakfast Apricot Crisp by Deb Perelman
makes one 9-inch pie plate, about six servings

Filling:

16 ounces fresh strawberries, hulled and quartered
1 pint fresh blueberries
6 ounces fresh raspberries
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
1 tablespoon fresh orange zest
1 tablespoon fresh orange juice

Crumble:
1/2 cup old fashioned oats
1/2 cup white whole wheat flour*
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
2 tablespoons sliced almonds, optional
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, very cold, cubed

yogurt, for serving

Preheat oven to 400F. Grease a 9-inch pie plate. Set aside.

Combine strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries in a large mixing bowl. Add sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, orange zest and juice, and use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to gently stir it all together. Transfer berry mixture to prepared pie plate. Set aside.

Make the crumble. In a small mixing bowl, stir together oats, flour, sugar, salt, and almonds. Use a pastry blender or two forks to cut butter into mixture until the largest chunks are the size of small peas. Distribute crumble evenly over the top of the filling.

Place a rimmed baking sheet on the bottom rack of the oven to collect any overflow. Place assembled crumble on the top rack. Bake 30 minutes, tenting with foil if the crumble starts to brown too quickly. Let cool 10 minutes before serving with yogurt.

Triple Berry Breakfast Crumble will keep covered in the refrigerator for up to five days.