Tender, moist and stuffed with berries, this Old Fashioned Blueberry Coffee Cake is a quick and easy breakfast for weekend mornings.
Cookies stuffed with cookies and nestled inside brownies. Cakes made to look like patchwork. Burgers piled so high with toppings you know you’d never stretch your mouth around it. Somedays, I check out Pinterest and scroll through Instagram and peruse Facebook, marveling at the complicated recipes other food writers and bloggers are making.
Sometimes, the creations even sound good.
But when I am in my own kitchen, the food rarely falls into the complicated realm. I might spend an hour creating a risotto with fresh peas that I shucked myself, but at its core, the recipe is simple. Basic. Easy, even. And it’s classic. I know that if I cook rice with small amounts of wine and broth slowly, it will become tender and create a creamy sauce. Add in some sauteed onions, fresh peas, basil, a touch of parmesan and salt and pepper, and it’s a flavorful, comforting dish.
Though I’ve dabbled with some more complex recipes, I skew toward simpler foods — ones that rely on their natural flavors to create depth and nuance in a recipe. I like the grace of classic preparations and appreciate how certain flavors together — like lemon and garlic — will reliably produce a good marinade.
That’s not to say that I won’t enjoy those more complex foods. I had a memorable meal in Portland, Maine, over the winter that was absolutely complex, right down to the foam and frizzled microgreens that garnished dishes. It was an amazing experience.
But in every day life, I just prefer simpler things. My emails are short, my words succinct and my desired driving route usually direct and streamlined (have four errands to run? What’s the fastest way to do ’em all?). And when it comes to planning, I want to find the path of least resistance. Why drag a conversation on for 90 minutes over text messages when a two minute conversation would suffice?
Simplicity in life is something people have sought after for centuries. Leonardo da Vinci, who lived in the late 15th and early 16th centuries, said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” In the 19th century, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said, “In character, in manner, in style, in all things, the supreme excellence is simplicity.”
And as far back as the 6th century BC, ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, founder of Taoism, said, “I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures.”
I think Lao Tzu was right. Those three things are treasures, and also secrets to leading a good life. I want to live a good life. Who doesn’t?
It’s my love of simplicity that originally led me to collecting old cookbooks, particularly those that predate the advent of canned vegetables, frozen dinners and boxed potatoes. The recipes show a simpler way of cooking that I adore.
But that’s not to say there isn’t room for creativity in simple cooking. For instance, using a basic breading technique on avocado to create avocado fries is out of the ordinary deliciousness, but still simple. And this coffee cake, dotted with plump blueberries, isn’t totally basic, but it still retains its simplicity.
This recipe is adapted from a coffee cake recipe that I love. I found it in a 1930s cookbook, and have made it several times and in several different ways. This one, filled with plump blueberries and topped with a buttery cinnamon sugar crust, is one of my favorites.
Blueberries are in season here in Maine, and last weekend I picked up a ton of fresh berries at the farmers market. When I discovered they were of the tart persuasion though, it foiled my intentions to eat them by the handful. Fortunately, tart berries are just perfect for lightly sweetened coffee cakes like this.
And one of the things I love the most about this recipe is that it’s quite fast — In a mere 40 minutes you can be sitting down, digging into a slice. Not bad for a moist, fluffy, delicious baked good, right?
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 6 tbsp cold unsalted butter
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1 cup fresh blueberries
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter, , melted
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 tbsp all purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 9-inch round baking pan with butter.
- In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Using two knives or a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the flour mixture until it forms course crumbs. Set aside.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and milk until light and frothy. Pour into the flour mixture, and stir to combine. Add the blueberries and stir to combine.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan and pat into a single layer. The dough will be slightly stiff. Brush with the melted butter for the topping, pouring over any excess.
- In a small bowl, stir together the sugar, flour and cinnamon. Sprinkle over the top of the coffee cake all over.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out cleanly. Let cool for 5-10 minutes in the pan before transferring to a serving dish, slicing into wedges and enjoying.
Sarah Walker Caron is a cookbook author, freelance writer and founder of Sarah’s Cucina Bella. She is the author of four cookbooks including The Super Easy 5-Ingredient Cookbook and One-Pot Pasta, both from Rockridge Press. A single mother to a tween and a teen, Sarah loves nightly family dinners, juicy tomatoes plucked fresh from the vine and lazy days on the beach. She also adores reading and traveling.