High Country Baking: Blueberry lemon cornmeal babycakes wholesome and unfussy
High Country Baking
Editor’s note: High altitudes makes cookies spread in the pan, cakes fall and few baked goods turn out as they do at sea level. This twice-monthly column presents recipes and tips that make baking in the mountains successful.
Light, tender, moist, with a lovely crumb, appealing play between the lemon flavor and the blueberries, and added complexity from the cornmeal and tangy buttermilk, these little cakes are a delight. They’re wholesome and unfussy, yet sophisticated enough to end a casual dinner party. Take them on a picnic, nibble one with afternoon tea or omit the glaze and add them to a brunch buffet or weekend breakfast. Popular with both adults and kids, they’re a good fit almost everywhere and with almost anyone.
They’re also one of the easiest cakes to make. They truly come together in a flash and require almost nothing of the baker. No mixer, no waiting for butter to soften, no creaming ingredients — just whisk the dry ingredients in one bowl, the wet ingredients in another, blend them and add the berries. Voila — they’re in the oven.
No worries if you lack a bundtlette-style pan. You can bake one whole cake in a loaf pan.
Alter the amount of lemon juice/zest to your liking; the amount given in the recipe below results in a mild citrus taste. Be sure to use cornmeal that’s finely ground; one that’s more coarsely ground will result in a texture that’s so crunchy it may detract from the cakes’ tenderness.
Blueberry Lemon Cornmeal Babycakes
Make in a bundtlette-type pan with 1-cup capacity openings, preferably non-stick; or 8½-inch-by-½-inch shiny metal loaf pan.
(This recipe is adjusted for altitudes of 8,000 feet and higher.)
1 ¼ cups plus 2 tablespoons bleached all-purpose flour, spoon and level
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons finely ground cornmeal
1/2 cup superfine sugar, preferably Baker’s
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk or plain (not Greek) yogurt
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 to 1 ½ teaspoons finely grated lemon zest or 1⁄8 teaspoon lemon oil
1/2 cup plus 2 teaspoons canola oil
1 cup blueberries, stems removed, rinsed and dried
1/2 to 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
1-2 tablespoons lemon juice or milk or combination of both
More blueberries, optional
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (325 degrees if your pan is dark metal). Grease the pan openings with a baking spray containing flour and spread it with a paper towel so all parts are generously coated. If using a loaf pan, line with non-stick or regular aluminum foil, extending it several inches past two opposing sides to use as a handle when removing the baked cake. Generously grease all exposed parts of the pan and regular foil with a baking spray that contains flour.
2. Make the cake: Place the dry ingredients (flour though salt) in a mixing bowl and whisk vigorously to combine. (If using a loaf pan, gently fold the blueberries into the dry ingredients at this point.)
3. In a separate bowl, whisk the remainder of the ingredients, except for the blueberries, until blended, and then gently stir this mixture into the dry ingredients until a smooth batter forms. Fold in the blueberries until they’re evenly distributed. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan(s), filling them between one-half and two-thirds of the way to the top. Bake until the centers are firm to the touch, a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean and the sides start to pull away from the pan, 18-23 minutes for the bundtlette-style cakes and about 38-45 minutes for the cake baked in a loaf pan. Transfer the pan to a rack to cool. After about 12 minutes, invert the Bundlette-style pan and turn out the cakes. If using a loaf pan, cool about 10-15 minutes, then use the foil handles to carefully remove the cake and place it on a rack. Cool the cake(s) completely.
4. To make the glaze: Combine the smaller amounts of sugar and liquid (juice and/or milk) and whisk until smooth. Add more of either or both until you reach a good consistency for drizzling and the desired strength of lemon flavor. I use half juice and half milk for a moderate lemon flavor. Drizzle some over each cake, letting it run down the sides. Let the glaze firm up. Store in the refrigerator for a day and top with berries, if using, before serving.
This recipe is a variation of one published by King Arthur Flour. Vera Dawson is a high-altitude baking instructor and author of three high-altitude cookbooks (available at The Bookworm of Edwards, Next Page Bookstore in Frisco and Breck Books in Breckenridge). Her recipes have been tested in her Summit County kitchen and, whenever necessary, altered until they work at our altitude. Contact her at email@example.com.
Front and center each year, the Minturn Holy Cross VFW Post 10721 has partnered with the Vail Veterans Program to bring Matt Spang to Vail.