Few things say Ontario summer quite like the roadside blueberry stand. From late July through August along the byways and back roads of cottage country and throughout Northern Ontario – the blueberry economy is a hive of activity as fresh blueberries make their way to farmers’ markets, grocery stores, and fruit stands across the province. But get them quick – the end of August also marks the end of the season as the last berries from the North trickle in.
One of my fondest childhood memories after arriving in Canada from England was a cottage holiday on the shores of Georgian Bay near Parry Sound. Every window in the cottage looked out across that most quintessential of Canadian landscapes – the windswept pines, the rocky granite outcrops and the clear, deep-blue waters of Georgian Bay. I spent entire days taming chipmunks and foraging endlessly in the bushes for blueberries. Both were brand new to me and I could scarcely get enough of either. This memory that I hold so close to my heart has become synonymous with summer for me.
Blueberries are a powerhouse super-food. They contain potent anti-inflammatory agents, are one of the richest known sources of antioxidants, and have cancer fighting, anti-aging and cholesterol lowering properties. They are also thought to be useful for cardiovascular, cognitive, and digestive functioning – and may aid in the prevention and control of diabetes, macular degeneration, and Alzheimer’s. With only 80 calories per cup and virtually no fat, blueberries are a practically perfect food.
To retain maximum health benefits, blueberries are best served uncooked. Recent research also shows that eating blueberries with milk may destroy some of the antioxidant benefits. From a nutritional point of view, a fresh fruit salad is probably the optimum way to serve blueberries. But blueberry season is short and at least once a summer it’s worth the splurge on a homemade blueberry pie, blueberry cake, or blueberry pancakes. This classic blueberry cake is heavy on blueberries and light on flourless cake, more fruit. It’s Ontario summer in a cake. Enjoy it while you can – we all know what’s coming…
Classic Blueberry Cake (serves 6)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup butter
¾ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 large eggs
2 ½ – 3 cups fresh blueberries, preferably wild or organic, lightly washed and gently patted dry
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp icing sugar for dusting
Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly butter a 9-inch spring-form pan or 9-inch round cake pan and dust lightly with flour.
Combine flour, baking powder and salt and set aside.
Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat for a further two minutes. Gently stir in the flour mixture. Scrape the batter into the prepared baking pan.
Mix together the blueberries, lemon zest and lemon juice and spoon over the batter, pressing the berries gently into the batter.
Bake for 40-45 or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Carefully slide a thin knife around the edges of the cake to release it from the pan. Transfer the cake, berry side up, to a platter. Let cool and dust with icing sugar. Serve with whipped cream.