I’m a compulsive hoarder – less charitable souls have described me as an incorrigible pack rat – of many different and disparate things. Glass jars and bottles of pleasing shape or colour, talismanic stones and pebbles, Bridgewater pottery, all things ornithological – the list could go on ad finitum. So far, my mania has not extended to include sprawling colonies of cats in the cupboards, but given room enough and opportunity, well, who could possibly predict what might happen!
One of my more contentious and obtrusive collections is the ever-expanding drift of recipes which I slavishly clip from magazines and newspapers or cull from various sources online, always with very pure and noble intentions of making them “one day.” With the saying about roads and good intentions ringing dolefully in my ears, I have, at long last, decided to ensure that my little obsession becomes something more than a pile of paving stones, and with the aid and abettal of my partner in crime/hapless test subject, the delicious Him Indoors, I am now going to help these recipes make the leap from purely theoretical to fleshed-out reality.
I desperately wanted the first recipe I tested to be an unqualified success, but, alas, I cannot, hand on heart, claim that it was. Plucked from my Saved but Unattempted file from Allrecipes.com, “Melt in your Mouth Blueberry Cake” failed to melt my icy heart. I admit I tried to stack the deck in my favour; there were reviews, most of them glowing, so I felt I couldn’t possibly go wrong. All told, the potential for success was great; there was cake, which is almost always good, and there were blueberries, which are the divinities of Fruitkind. Surely the combination of the two would blow minds, redress global injustices and usher in a new age of peace, love and harmony. The slight pangs of trepidation that I felt whilst perusing the handful of dissenting voices in the wilderness were brushed firmly aside. I was not to be deterred.
To be fair, it wasn’t terrible or inedible – the creamy yellow, vanilla-scented cake studded with jewel-bright berries was certainly lovely to behold, the crumb was moist and tender, and the top was slighty crusty with caramelised sugar. Its downfall was its flavour; it was simply disappointingly bland. If it were a person, and you you met it at a party, you’d be dumbstruck by its beauty as you stole glances at it from across the room. Then, once you’d summoned up the courage to sidle up next to it to strike up a conversation, you’d be rendered speechless yet again, but this time it would be due to your companion’s complete and utter lack of effervescence and verve. Having been promised so much and after all the extra steps I’d taken and bowls I’d dirtied, I expected something more than what Him Indoors aptly described as “an enormous muffin, cut into cubes.” If I’d wanted something that tasted like blueberry muffins, I would have made blueberry muffins – at considerably less cost, effort and time, I might add.
Because blueberry season is so fleeting, good, fresh berries ought to be treated reverently, and I just cannot help but feel that my two precious punnets worth of rare commodity were carelessly wasted. This recipe shall therefore be removed from my files posthaste.
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs, separated
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup milk
1/4 cup white sugar
1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1-3 tablespoons white sugar
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour an 8 inch square pan. ( Alternatively, if you weren’t terribly bothered about presentation, you could line the pan with greaseproof paper and cut squares out of the pan as I have done.)
2. Cream butter or margarine and 1/2 cup sugar until fluffy. Add salt and vanilla. Add the yolks from the separated eggs to the sugar mixture and beat until creamy.
3. In a separate bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups flour and baking powder; add alternately with milk to egg yolk mixture. Coat berries with 1 tablespoon flour and fold them gently into the batter. (The batter will be rather thick by this point, so a gentle hand is needed with the berries or else you might be pulling a purple-stained cake from the oven!)
4. In another bowl, (plenty of washing up for this recipe!) beat the reserved egg whites until soft peaks form. Add 1/4 cup of sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, and beat until stiff peaks form. Carefully fold the egg whites into batter. Pour into prepared pan and sprinkle top with remaining sugar. Bake for 50 minutes, or until cake tests done. (Mine was done in 48 minutes.)