September is a month of abundance. It's also when we begin to slow down and start to have time to gather with friends again for pot-luck celebrations of gratitude, giving thanks for all the food we have harvested from our gardens and the (hopefully) quieter months ahead.
Our table, in these final weeks of summer, is laden full of fresh greens, tomatoes, carrots, beets, hearty breads, pickles and savory jams. But in the spirit of celebration, there is cake too — and not just any cake. Baking a cake that makes use of the harvest yet still has people asking for seconds takes a little creativity in the kitchen. Not all zucchini breads or carrot cakes are created equal, I have learned. Nor do they have to be boring or bland, labeled merely as “wholesome” or “healthy.” I look for recipes that combine unique ingredients like beetroots and poppy seeds, or zucchinis and lemons.
My favorite in-season cake this time of year is an old-fashioned blueberry cake that is the perfect bridge between seasons. Sweetened with molasses, the cake has a robust, warm flavor that hints at autumn yet makes use of the last of summers’ bounty with a handful of delicate blueberries studded throughout. Find the recipe below or try one of these creative harvest cakes the next time you’re in the kitchen:
This recipe is adapted from Heidi Swanson's 101 Cookbooks. The original recipe calls for 100 percent unbleached all-purpose flour, but because I prefer cooking with whole grain flour, I used a 50/50 blend—half whole wheat flour, half all-purpose flour. This yields a denser, more rustic texture. You can also swap the molasses for maple syrup if you prefer to use a more local sweetener.
Best served with freshly whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. Yield: 8 to 10 servings.
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar
5 tablespoons whole milk
1/2 cup unsulphered molasses
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, barely melted
1 1/2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen
1 teaspoon flour
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter and flour a 9-inch round cake pan. (A pie dish works well too).
Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the cider vinegar with 3 tablespoons of the milk.
In another bowl whisk the molasses with the remaining 2 tablespoons of milk.
Combine the cider vinegar mixture with the molasses mixture, then whisk in the eggs.
Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients, stirring until just barely combined. Stir in the butter.
In a separate bowl, toss the blueberries with 1 teaspoon of flour and then fold them into the batter.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about thirty minutes or until a toothpick poked into the center comes out clean. Let cool before serving.
Larissa is a graphic designer, yoga teacher and aspiring farmer. She lives with her husband and a wily dog named Dutch in the hills of New Hampshire.