Maine produces foods that are iconic: lobsters chief among them. But at a certain “tilt” of summer, Maine blueberries, tiny with a sweet/tart burst on the palate, are a must-have in the kitchen.
I know it’s hot, blasted hot some days in August. Take a deep breath, set the oven to 350 degrees, turn on a fan (or two) and make this cake: Melt in Your Mouth Blueberry Cake, made famous by another Maine treasure, Marjorie Standish.
Gather your ingredients: I found blueberries from Linda’s in Eddington, Maine at our local Hannaford grocery store. It was purely a chance encounter, but I snapped up a container of them and will go back for more to freeze. Best $6.99 ever spent.
Getting back to Marjorie Standish: who was she, you might ask? Standish wrote a cookbook called Cooking Down East in 1969. But her experience went back much farther. She had written a column by the same name for a Portland newspaper starting in 1948, conducted cooking classes at local grange halls, taught home economics in high schools and collected recipes from family and friends.
In the introduction to Cooking Down East, she says,
There is something special about a Maine recipe. It s remembering the smell of beans baking or seeing yeast rolls rising in their pans in a warm place. It could be the bubble of brown bread steaming in its kettle…When a State of Mainer thinks of apple pie he sets his belt buckle forward a notch.
Standish herself got the recipe for Melt-In-Your-Mouth Blueberry Cake from a Maine church cookbook, so we may never really know who concocted this formula. She said “it is undoubtedly the most popular recipe ever used in my column.”
Suffice to say, it’s tried and true in my kitchen, as you can see from my handwritten note in the margin. I make it every summer to serve with lobster when my grown kids come home to visit. “Yum!”
Melt-In-Your-Mouth Blueberry Cake, adapted from Marjorie Standish
2 eggs, separated
[1 tsp. cream of tartar, to help stiffen the egg whites] My note.
1 c. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. shortening [I use butter. She, as many cooks did at the time, may have used a Crisco-like shortening]
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 c. sifted flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/3 c. milk
1 1/2 c. fresh blueberries
Beat egg whites with the cream of tartar and 1/4 c. of the sugar until stiff.
Cut butter into cubes and rub with salt and vanilla until pea-sized.
Add remaining sugar (3/4 c.), egg yolks and beat until creamy.
Add dry ingredients with the milk. Instead of sifting the flour, I whisk it with a whisk in a large bowl. But if you want to sift it, feel free!
Fold in egg whites.
Fold in blueberries, giving them a shake in a bag with a little flour first, to keep them from settling in the pan.
Turn into 8″ by 8″ square pan and bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes.* My oven runs hot, so I put on the timer for 30 minutes, then did the toothpick test. When the toothpick comes out “clean,” without crumbs or batter, it’s done. Cool on a rack, slice and devour.
And for my die-hard beer fans, enjoy this cake with your favorite blueberry beer. Brewed right in Bangor, is Seadog’s Blueberry Wheat Ale. Cheers!
Note: I love Mark Bittman, author of How to Cook Everything. Here is his well-argued article about why butter is better. https://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/24/opinion/the-trans-fats-that-wont-leave.html