Plan accordingly

This weekend, I learned two things. The first is that if you would like to stay happily married for a long, long time, you should never, ever attempt to shop for a house. Not even if you aren't altogether serious about it, and especially not if you are just sort of testing the waters to see how much you like the place you're already in. If you do, you will very quickly discover that actually, people who like three bedroom homes are not made for people who like four bedroom homes, and that basements are secretly much more important to certain people than anyone could have ever imagined, and that there is a lot more to discuss than you realized when it comes to a yard. You might also find out that one of you is very, very picky about southern light, and windows, and old, antique-y frames and floors. As a matter of fact, the only pleasant thing that you might discover is that when two people decide to become so completely unreasonable, you can patch things up by making a cake.

That, of course, is the second thing I learned this weekend: I now know how to bake Melt-in-Your-Mouth blueberry cake.

I never knew that a skill like that could come in quite so handy, as in, stop-your-husband-from-running-away handy, but let me tell you, it does. It is a very important thing to have in your repertoire. I wish I'd had it up my sleeve while we were a little bit earlier, because I have a feeling it's the sort of cake that could do things like knock thousands of dollars off of asking prices and expand basements and add built in storage under eaves and make your husband smile and grab your hand, but I can't be sure.

At any rate, Melt-In-Your-Mouth Blueberry Cake's real power comes from the ever mighty butter and sugar and flour trio, the one that has been saving friendships and marriages and whole businesses since just about the start of time. You make it by creaming some butter, adding in some sugar and a spoonful of vanilla and an egg yolk, and then beating up the white with a little bit more sugar until it's stiff. Then when that all is ready to go, you add the behind-the-scenes structure, the flour and the baking soda and a little pinch of salt, you mix the dry ingredients into the wet ones, fold the egg whites in, and finally, at the last possible second, add a whopping two cups of slightly thawed Eastham blueberries. You get the oven hot, and prep two little pans, one to keep for Sunday morning breakfast and one to bring over to your two very good friends who are [finally! at long last!] coming home from their honeymoon, and you bake.

It couldn't be more soothing, or more delightful when it's finally time to sit down and eat.

We polished ours off yesterday, over tea and coffee and sautéed onions and Chinese cabbage and two fried eggs. We talked about Alex's hockey game, and my walk, and the cilantro plant in the window, and even about a piece of land he'd seen for sale, and no one got the least bit cross.

The only disagreeable thing, actually, was how quickly it disappeared. We thought about breaking into our friends' pan, but that didn't seem right, especially given that they've been gone for a month, and that it was a very long month, and that we're really hoping that now that the hullabaloo is over they'll settle down and stay. Stealing cake from honeymooners seemed terribly unsportsmanlike. So all I'll say is that if you make this cake with the intent to share, don't divvy it up. Plan accordingly, and make a double batch, or if you need to, which you might, even bake three.


Adapted from Cooking Down East by Marjorie Standish

This recipe comes from my mother's repertoire. The annotation next to the header in her copy of the book reads, "YES! Made for the blizzard of March '93." I don't remember the storm, seeing as I was only eight at the time, but she says we ate it at night, with the shades up and the lights on in the yard, watching the snow fly wildly around outside. I think it would be equally lovely tonight, watching the trees bend in the wind and the rain.

2 eggs, separated
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup whole milk, buttermilk, or even eggnog in a pinch
2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and butter an 8" by 8" baking pan. Beat the egg whites until they're stiff. Once they have the right consistency, beat in 1/4 cup of the sugar to keep them stiff, and set them aside.

Cream the butter; add the salt and the vanilla. Beat in the remaining sugar, add the egg yolks, and beat until everything is light and creamy. Whisk the dry ingredients together in a small bowl, and add them to the butter mixture alternately with the milk. Gently fold in the beaten egg whites, and then fold in the blueberries. (Doing this last prevents the blueberries from mixing too much with the batter and giving the cake that eerie green color you sometimes notice in overmixed muffins and cakes.)

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Bake the cake for 50 to 60 minutes, or a little less if you like your cake slightly gooey and underdone. Serve at room temperature, with a cup of tea.


Sio said...

Making this tonight as a sort of hooray, pat on the back for seriously nice decision making and the clearing up of 2 little, yet important percentage points. Its not buying land per-say but its a big MOVE none the less! This will be the "boy am I glad I made the right decision" cake.

Elspeth said...


Hip-hip-hooray! Boy am I glad, too. See you in May, with your moving truck.


Alison said...

LOL! Just wait until you have kids! ;-) Cake looks yummy. I'm sad that my blueberry supply is quite depleted. I'll have to bookmark it for next July...but that's awfully far away, isn't it?!?

Anna said...

Mmmmm I can vouch for the deliciousness of it. MMMMMM. I want it now!

Elspeth said...

Alison, I can only imagine. On a more serious note, blueberry depletion can make for a very sad state of affairs. But I have a hunch that if you can rustle up some cranberries, or maybe some strawberries, or even some raspberries or blackberries, you could still have yourself a very lovely cake.

And Anna, if I could FedEx you some, I would.

All the best,

Alison said...

Cranberries I do have...oodles. Great idea!!

Tamar@StarvingofftheLand said...

The nice thing about disagreements over house-hunting is that they're completely mooted by the actual purchase of a house. Love of cake is binding, and forever.

Elspeth said...

Tamar, I have a feeling you're right about the house. And I know for a fact that you're right about the cake.


Anonymous said...

Elspeth, I have a funny feeling that I was visiting you all when your MOM made that delicious blueberry cake.It is so good,Hugs,biee

Mara said...


This is Mara Courtney and I am Roula's former co-worker in Houston. She first turned me on to your blog and I have been checking it ever since! I made this cake tonight and it is delicious! My boyfriend and I have already guiltly eaten almost a fourth in one day!
I also wanted to say that I really admire what you are doing and enjoy reading your recipes each day. I hope when I have more time ( I am currently in nursing school and my boyfriend is in medical school) to make more of your recipes and get into canning! But one of the reasons I went into nursing was because I really saw the benefit of helping even one person. I feel that you are doing the same thing on your blog. You are spreading the message of the importance of supporting the local food movement to your community. Yeah yeah yeah it may not be affecting everyone on the cape but for us readers you are giving us hope that a food revolution can and will occur if enough grass roots organizations band together!
Best of luck with everything and I look forward to more stories!
oh my gosh also, as a fellow Heidi Swanson fan, have you ever made her mesquite cookies? they are my ultimate favorite cookie ever! I make a few adaptations though. I use all whole wheat pastry flour, only 1 stick of butter and only 1 1/2 of natural sugar. I do follow her suggestion to cook the cookies only for 10 minutes and let them bake an extra 5 minutes on the hot pan out of the oven. She is right when she says no longer than 10 minutes and err on the side of underbaking them! David Lebovitz also made them on his blog and they were a smash! Remember my modifications though- her recipe calls for 2 sticks of butter and I think makes them too rich. Enjoy!
Mara Courtney

Elspeth said...

Hi Mara:

It is so nice to hear from you here again. It is so encouraging to hear that you like the recipes and the message—and also to know that we have one more good person going into the nursing field! That is an important one.

As for the mesquite cookies, they sound delicious, but it looks like she pulled the recipe down because she's working on it for the book. If you have it, please share! They sound to die for.

All the best,

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