Let Them Eat: Blueberry Crumb Cake


True blue. [Photograph: María del Mar Sacasa]

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Having a slice of cake as the cornerstone of a morning meal is probably not the norm for most people. But around these parts, it's completely normal to have one or two whole cakes, plus foil-wrapped remnants of others, lying about the living room, decorating the dining table, and hiding in the narrow alley between the toaster and the fridge. However, even in this caked-out environment, only seldom is a layered and frosted slice served as breakfast. Breakfast is a time for a different type of cake, such as this one.

Yes, crumb cakes and strudel cakes and coffee cakes are often creatures of the afternoon, destined to be enjoyed in the softening light of the sun, but they're also perfectly breakfast-appropriate. These cakes are not shellacked with glazes or piled high with meringue coiffures, nor schmeared with velvet swirls of frosting. They are simple, humble, and unpretentious; buttery and often fruit-studded, hiding under textured blankets of sugary crumbs.

This crumb-topped cake has a basic yellow, not too sweet base that's pierced with blueberries which burst into juicy welts during baking. Do notice that this cake will bleed blue, rather than an odd acid green. Ever wonder why that happens to blueberry muffins and cakes? Baking soda. The chemical reaction between that leavener and the berries causes an odd and unsightly discoloration. In this recipe, only baking powder is used and, though a touch less browning occurs, it yields more eye-pleasing results. The crumb topping is a mixture of sugar and brown sugar with some lemon zest rubbed in. The coarse sugar crystals act as an exfoliant, releasing the natural oils of the lemon zest. Flour and melted butter are stirred in until a nubby mixture forms, and for an additional punch of blueberry flavor, I've added some tiny dried bluberries.

Make this cake before bed and serve it in the morning, or, get up a bit early and have it warm with a cup of coffee.

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Blueberry Crumb Cake »