Last Sunday, I unintentionally fell into a marathon session of cooking and baking. It all started very innocently. I wanted to whip up a quick dinner for my boyfriend, so I decided to make vegetarian lasagna and blueberry crumb cake. Now, anyone who has ever made lasagna properly, knows that it isn’t something you just “whip up.” I learned this the hard way. It actually takes a long time – just shy of two hours, at least for me. There’s thin sheets of pasta to individually boil and dry off. There’s vegetables to sauté, cheese to grate and saucy layers to arrange.
I didn’t even think it necessary to follow a recipe. I figured: who needs a recipe? After all, I am Italian. The dish will practically throw itself together. Wrong, wrong and wrong. Had it not been for my Nonna, who happened to drop by for a visit, my dish would have ended up as a cheesy disaster. In the end, it actually turned out pretty good. The sautéed layers of mushrooms, eggplant, red peppers, zucchini, spinach and ricotta were so good that we didn’t even miss the meat.
As for the crumb cake, it was another two-hour effort. Lacking a “paddle attachment,” I was forced to use my ten-tonne mixer by hand. As usual, my butter was cold, so it took forever to cream it with the sugar. My mixing bowl was too small, so flour and sugar spattered everywhere. And the whole process was slowed down because I had to put the heavy mixer down every 40 seconds, to give my burning bicep a break.
I was tired, covered in flour, and finally ready to pour my mix in the baking pan. At that exact moment, my mother trudged past the kitchen, with a towering load of laundry. She took one look at me and my mess, and shook her head. “And you think women with a full-time job and a family can spend four hours on a Sunday afternoon doing this and still finish everything else they need to do?” Not even waiting for an answer, she shook her head again and made a B-line to the laundry room.
My multi-tasking mother did raise a fair point. I guess it is a luxury to while away an afternoon cooking and baking. It would be significantly harder to do if you’ve got children to chase after and an entire list of household chores to work through. So we can’t begrudge the modern Superwoman, if she buys a box of ready-made cookies or heads to the bakery to pick up a pie. As I told my mom, right now, I have a bit of time on my hands. So while she wears the cape, I’ll bake the cake!
And as it turned out, the crumb cake was delicious! Another great recipe from Let Her Bake Cake . My cake was purple in hue because I used frozen blueberries, which bleed into the batter. And I messed up the crumble because I mismeasured the butter. But nonetheless, it was the moistest and one of the tastiest cakes I’ve made so far!
Blueberry Crumb Cake (From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan)
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.
- 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.