Inevitably, every March and April, I find myself in a bit of a culinary rut. After the bustle of the holidays, the excitement of roasting root vegetables, and the sugar high of National Pie Month, which is religiously observed in our household, the remaining months of winter and early spring feel slow and uninspired.
I grow weary of eating root vegetables and slow cooking meats. I’m ready for summer’s fresh fruits and vegetables.
So when the blueberries start flooding the market in mid May, I indulge. I go through pints and pints of blueberries, shooting my antioxidant intake through the roof. I top every dish, from pancakes to pork chops, with blueberries. These little, compact, tart signs from nature signal the changing season.
I count myself lucky for living a short 36 miles from Burgaw, the home of the North Carolina Blueberry Festival. Since we had never attended the decade-old festival, we loaded up our car and hit Highway 117 with only one expectation: to celebrate and consume plenty of blueberries.
As promised the festival was wonderful. There was an abundance of blueberry-related foods, crafts and games. Best of all, farm stands were selling pints of berries in several places on the festival grounds. Hundreds of people gathered to eat, drink, and dance in the tiny town of Burgaw, all in celebration of this exceptional fruit.
One of the first counties to reach out to me after I launched Tasting North Carolina was Pender County with their cookbook of award-winning N.C. Blueberry Festival recipes. After perusing the cookbook, I decided to try a Blueberry Lemon Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting. The recipe was submitted by Kelly Griffin of Wallace, N.C. With fresh Pender County blueberries in hand, I took to the task. And like this year’s N.C. Blueberry Festival, it did not disappoint.
The blueberry recipe below produces a cake that is light and fresh, bursting with flavor that captures the essence of the season. It’s exactly the dessert I waited for all winter.
Blueberry Lemon Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting
Kelly Elaine Griffin from Wallace, N.C.
2 cups flour
1 pint fresh blueberries
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup whole milk
1 ½ cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter three 9-inch diameter cake pans with 1 ½ inch high sides. Butter pans and dust with flour.
Sift flour, baking powder, and salt into medium bowl. In a separate bowl, toss blueberries in a bit of the flour. Set remaining flour mixture and blueberries aside.
Stir whole milk, vanilla extract, and grated lemon peel in small bowl. Beat butter in a large bowl until light and creamy. Gradually add sugar, beating until mixture is light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time.
Add flour mixture to egg mixture a little at a time, alternating with milk. Fold in blueberries and divide batter equally among pans.
Bake 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Cool cakes in pans on rack for 10 minutes. Run knife around pan sides to loosen. Turn cakes out onto racks to cool completely. Layer cakes with frosting spread generously between layers and on top.
Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting:
2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, room temperature
4 cups powdered sugar
Juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Using an electric mixer beat cream cheese and butter in large bowl until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in powdered sugar. Add vanilla, lemon zest, and lemon juice.