Lea Wait, here.
Several days ago I developed a craving for blueberry cake. (This is Maine, after all!) The blueberry season may be over, but the magic of freezing keeps wild blueberries available twelve months of the year, and almost every day I have them in my oatmeal … so finding them in my kitchen wasn’t a problem.
I stood in our kitchen — the kitchen where my mother had cooked, and my grandmother, before her — and suddenly memories filled my head. Blueberry memories. My grandmother, especially, had loved them, and during blueberry season had made not only blueberry pies and muffins and pancakes and blueberry grunt, but the blueberry cake I was remembering, and had put up blueberry sauces and jellies for the winter.
The more I thought about blueberries, and my grandmother, the more I wished I could ask her how she found the energy for all she did. I knew how she’d learned many skills. Like me, she’d depended on books. (The one great sorrow of her life was that she hadn’t been able to attend college. In her sixties, she listened to “sunrise semester,” early morning courses broadcast on television from New York University. I went with her twice a year to the original Barnes and Noble in New York to buy the books for her classes: Russian literature, Victorian literature, European history, Introduction to Philosophy, and other courses I don’t remember. She never took the exams, but she read every book and listened to every lecture in the courses.)
So I knew that, excellent cook though she was, her cookbook was the source of most of her recipes. I don’t have her copy of Fannie Farmer’s The Boston Cooking School Cook Book (one of my sisters has that,) but I have my mother’s copy.
Fanny Farmer didn’t disappoint. I found my grandmother’s favorite recipe for blueberry cake, and for the lemon sauce she always poured over it. I stood in the same kitchen where she’d made it so many times for me when I was a child, and I followed the instructions. My husband and I enjoyed every bite.
And now, with memories of my grandmother, here’s the recipe she followed, with a couple of minor changes for the times.
Blueberry Cake: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. butter two 8-inch cake pans. Mix 1 cup blueberries with 1/4 cup of flour. Work 1/3 cup of butter until soft and creamy; add 1 cup sugar and beat until light. Add two eggs, beaten, 1 1/2 cups flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt; 1/2 teaspoon vanilla; and 2 teaspoons baking powder. Mix thoroughly. Add in blueberries, stir, and pour into cake pans. Bake 20-25 minutes.
Lemon Sauce: Mix together 1 cup sugar and 2 tablespoons cornstarch. Add 2 cups boiling water, and stir over heat, boiling for 5 minutes. Take off stove. Add 4 tablespoons butter, 4 tablespoons lemon juice, a sprinkle of nutmeg and a pinch of salt.
Simple, delicious, and a taste of the past for today.
Enjoy, with my grandmother’s complements!
Lea Wait is the author of the Mainely Needlepoint mysteries, the most recent of which, Threads of Evidence, was just published. She also writes the Shadows Antique Print mystery series, historical novels set in 19th century Maine for ages 8 and up, and a collection of essays, Living and Writing on the Coast of Maine. See her website for more about Lea and her books, and for links to prequels of her books.