By Caitlin Sackville
Visitor Experience Associate
Inspired by David Brooks Stess’ powerful and thought-provoking photographs and his decades of experience working alongside Native Americans and migrant field hands during Maine’s annual blueberry harvest, I wanted to create a recipe that would showcase Maine’s precious blueberries. This cake, which is great for a crowd at a party or just as an afternoon snack, has a mouthful of blueberries in every bite and the tangy lemon icing is just enough to offset the sweet berries.
Blueberry Rakers: Photographs by David Brooks Stess is part of the Portland Museum of Art’s innovative Circa series and is on view until Sunday, May 19. The exhibition is a stunning reminder of Maine’s deeply set roots in agriculture, and of how much we still depend upon the hardworking hands of laborers who often go unnoticed and unappreciated.
Blueberry Rakers Bundt Cake with Lemon Icing
2 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour and 2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon fine sea salt or kosher salt
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
3 large eggs, at room temperature*
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup buttermilk
3 1/2 cups Maine blueberries** (I used the wild variety, but cultivated berries are sometimes more readily available; frozen berries are also fine)
2 cups powdered or confections’ sugar Zest
juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
Preheat your oven to 350°F. Generously grease a 10-cup Bundt Pan, either with butter or a nonstick spray. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, sift together 2 1/2 cups flour (leaving out the extra 2 tablespoons), baking powder, and salt and set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer or large mixing bowl, cream together the butter, sugar, and lemon zest until light and impossibly fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Then, with the mixer on a low speed, add your eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl between each addition. Beat in vanilla, briefly. Add 1/3 flour mixture to batter, beating until just combined, followed by half the buttermilk, another 1/3 of the flour mixture, the remaining buttermilk and remaining flour mixture. Scrape down from time to time and don’t mix any more than you need to. Toss the berries with the remaining 2 tablespoons of flour. With a rubber spatula, gently fold the berries into the cake batter. The batter will be very thick and this will seem impossible without squishing the berries a little, but squished berries aren’t always a bad thing!
Spread cake batter — you might find it easier to plop it in the pan in large spoonfuls, because it’s so thick — in the prepared baking pan and spread the top smooth. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, rotating the cake 180 degrees after 30 (to make sure it browns evenly). The cake is done as soon as a toothpick comes out clean of batter.
Set cake pan on a wire rack to cool for 30 minutes, before inverting the cake onto a serving platter to cool the rest of the way. Cool completely.
Once cool, whisk together the powdered sugar, lemon zest, juice and butter until smooth and very, very thick. (If you’d like it thinner, add more juice, but I like the thick drippiness of it, seen above.) Spread carefully over top of cake, letting it trickle down the sides when and where it wishes. Serve at once or keep it covered at room temperature for 3 to 4 days.
*Because I used farm-fresh, richly colored eggs, my batter and cake was subsequently darker than if you use store bought eggs.
**If you choose to use cultivated blueberries, you may want to decrease the amount slightly, because of their larger size.
Caitlin Sackville is a Visitor Experience Associate at the PMA. Visit her blog, Look Good Eat Well for creative recipes and original photography.