My last little baby – precious Ren – turned one this past week. There’s just a few things to report about the going’s on of a one-year-old:
1.) Ren’s healthy, but she doesn’t move from her perfectly content sitting position. Hopefully, crawling and walking are on her bucket list.
2.) When Ren’s ready to sleep, she reaches for her blankie and the fingers on her left hand. They’re like sleep lollipops.
3.) Ren loves blueberries.
The list looks short, but it’s pretty complete. Babies are not over sharers (they leave that to their older siblings).
So…Ren loves blueberries. The jury’s still out on princess dresses, basketball shorts and movie faves. So what does a baker mom do when left with only a shred of a preference? Make blueberry muffin cake! For Ren’s birthday, I added three cups of frozen blueberries to my favorite white cake recipe, and amped up the vanilla.
NOW HERE’S THE TIP: Then I divided the batter. With one batch of batter, I made one 10 inch layer cake and 12 cupcakes. We enjoyed the big cake at her party with our relatives on the weekend, and froze the cupcakes to enjoy later with “just us” after dinner on her real birthday, which fell in the middle of the week.
For the layer cake, I split the single layer cake into two. I used a fluffy Swiss meringue buttercream to fill and frost the cake (that, and the cake flour, provided a nice juxtaposition to the typical “heavy” muffin). Before placing the second layer, I dotted the filling with fresh blueberries.
From there, I frosted the cake as usual, using an off-set spatula dipped in hot water and dried to get smooth sides and a top. Finally, I piped details, added fresh blueberries used the crumbles from a cupcake to give a “muffin effect” on top. Imagining the buttery goodness of a fresh blueberry muffin made the first bite all the better!
For the cupcakes, I wanted the brain on blueberry, so I used purple liners. I used three star tip to cover the tops with lots of frosting and sprinkled them with tiny purple non pariels. These cupcakes were bursting with berries and had lovely, crispy browned tops, almost like a meringue. I think that’s due to the eight egg whites folded into the batter. Mmmm…I’m still dreaming about them.
For the final touch – once the cakes were defrosted and ready to serve – I added a few fresh blueberries on top. Surprise, surprise, that’s all Ren wanted to eat, so everybody gave up their blueberries (precious as they are in January!) and settled for a subtle, buttery blueberry cake (with no complaints from Dad and the other pint sized diners). (;
Blueberry Muffin Cake
3 cups and 2 tablespoons cake flour (not self rising) (divided)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 sticks (1 1/2 cups) unsalted butter; room temperature
2 1/4 cups sugar (divided)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup milk
8 large egg whites
3 cups frozen blueberries
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium bowl, sift together 3 cups flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and 2 cups sugar until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in the lemon zest and lemon bakery emulsion.
3. With the mixer on low speed, add flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the milk and beginning and ending with the flour; beat until just combined. Transfer mixture to a large bowl; set aside.
4. In the clean bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat egg whites on low speed until foamy. With mixer running, gradually add remaining 1/4 cup sugar; beat on high speed until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 4 minutes. Do not overbeat. Gently fold a third of the egg-white mixture into the butter-flour mixture until combined. Gently fold in the remaining whites.
5. Finally, mix the frozen blueberries with 2 tablespoons flour and fold into cake batter.
6. Pour the batter into greased pans or cupcake liners. I use a baking spray to grease pans, but butter with a dusting of flour works well too.
7. Bake until the cakes are golden brown and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer pans to a wire rack to cool 20 minutes. Invert cakes onto the rack, then reinvert cakes and let them cool completely, top sides up.
Swiss Meringue Buttercream
4 large egg whites
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into tablespoons
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon coarse salt
1. In the heatproof bowl of a standing mixer set over a saucepan of simmering water, combine the egg whites and sugar. Cook, whisking constantly, until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is warm to the touch (about 160 degrees F).
2. Attach the bowl to the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat the egg white mixture on high speed until it holds stiff (but not dry) peaks. Continue beating until the mixture is fluffy and cooled, about 3 minutes.
3. Switch to the paddle attachment. With the mixture on medium-low speed, add the butter several tablespoons at a time, beating well after each addition (If the frosting appears to separate after all the butter has been added, beat on medium-high speed until smooth again, 3 to 5 minutes more). Beat in salt and vanilla extract. Stir with a rubber spatula until the frosting is smooth.
(Both recipes, above, are adapted from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook).