It’s blueberry season! Here on the west coast, as well as in many other locales, overflowing baskets of these plump bursts of the taste of summer crowd the market tables. Growing up in southern Manitoba, I was very familiar with what I thought were blueberries. Subsequent learning would reveal that the berries I had grown up with were actually saskatoons. While they share a comparable deep blue pigment, they are a little smaller, and possess a unique subtle flavour – they are a ‘wild’ fruit with a distinct taste difference. Saskatoon berries, which are indigenous to the Canadian Prairies, grew rampantly within the bushy areas that surrounded our family farm.
Every summer, time would be allocated to journey into the dense prickly bushes in pursuit of the beautiful berry. And it would be a family affair – my sister, brother, mother, as well as uncles and aunts all would don the official berry-picking uniform (long pants, socks, closed shoes, a long-sleeved, high-collared shirt, and a hat – on a sunny 300C day) and carry our pails into the bush to relieve the heavy branches of their fruit. It is important to mention that in addition to being berry season, it was also mosquito season (hence, the uniform).
Berry-picking involved some strictly-enforced rules: 1) Hold the pail with your left hand; 2) Pick berries and swat bugs with your right hand; 3) Don’t run with a full pail of berries; 4) Bring back a full pail of berries within a reasonable length of time; and 5) Don’t eat too many! This was a daunting challenge for my sister and me! Stained faces and scantily-filled pails told the tale of our decision to abandon the rules. After a long hot day, with our bellies full of berries, we would trudge back to the farmhouse, knowing that the day was not yet over. The pails of berries would need to be ‘picked over’ – removing twigs, leaves, and the remains of any successfully-swatted bugs that may have landed in the pail.
And then my mother worked her magic and turned out the finest berry pies, turnovers, and up-side down cakes.
This is mom Helena’s recipe for Blueberry Upside-Down Cake. She, of course, would use the saskatoon berries. The only change I have made is the choice of pan. A spring-form pan, rather than a cake pan, allows the inviting golden edges of the cake to be clearly visible.
If you choose to use a spring-form pan, ensure that you line the pan with parchment paper in order to catch the juices.
Blueberry Upside Down Cake
Prep Time: 20 minutes Baking Time: 40-45 minutes
Number of Servings: 8
70 g (1/3 cup) light or dark brown sugar
60 g (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
2 1/2 – 3 cups (650-750 mL) fresh or frozen blueberries
115 g (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup (200 g/250 mL) granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tablesppon (15 mL) grated lemon zest
1 ½ teaspoons (7.5 mL) pure vanilla extract
250 g (1 ¾ cups/400 mL) all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons (7.5 mL) baking powder
½ teaspoon (2.5 mL) salt
1 cup (250 mL) buttermilk (or 1 tsp lemon juice added to whole milk)
1. Line an 8- or 9-inch spring-form pan with parchment paper. Spray paper with a vegetable oil spray, or lightly butter the paper.
2. Preheat oven to 3500F (1900C).
3. In a medium saucepan, over low heat, melt 1/3 cup of butter and add ¼ cup brown sugar. Cook over very low heat just until butter is melted and the sugar is dissolved.
4. Remove from heat, add the blueberries, and gently combine. Pour the berries into the prepared spring-form pan. Set aside as you make the cake batter.
5. In a mixer bowl, cream butter with the granulated sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes.
6. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
7. Add lemon zest and vanilla extract.
8. In a small bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
9. Add flour mixture and the buttermilk to the butter-sugar mixture. Do this by alternating the addition of some of the flour with some of the buttermilk until all has been incorporated. Start and end this process with the flour mixture.
10. Mix just until well combined.
11. Pour the batter over the blueberries in the pan.
12. Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until cake is golden, and an inserted cake tester comes out dry. Cool on a wire rack. Carefully release the spring-form pan, and peel back the parchment paper.
13. Serve warm or at room temperature. Top with a ‘little bit’ of’ whipped cream!