I love waking up to Fridays like this past one. Peeking out from under the covers to a day that yawns out lazily, full of empty white hours where I don’t have to be anywhere doing anything. A day that's ripe for spontaneity and in a totally self-centred way, all mine for the picking. Even before I’d taken my first sip of dry cappuccino, I already had those little elves called Life bursting through my veins, gurgling with all sorts of fun and exciting ideas for things I could do throughout the day. The most promising of which was...blueberries. Blueberries and cinnamon. Blueberries and cinnamon and flour, and the giddy aroma of the oven at 375.
(For those less familiar with Dubai, who are puzzled at my Friday reference...Friday is the official weekend in most Islamic countries.)
Before I knew it, I found myself in the local Spinney’s, contemplating between Pillsbury and the local brand, and squinting into my blackberry google browser for tried-and-tested recipes for blueberry coffee cake. As I feverishly scrolled through the different search results for blueberry coffee cake – which mind you, are so mind-bloggingly numerous that one could write the Britannica of Blueberry Coffee Cakes with a mere laptop, an internet connection, and an affinity for google searching at hand – I was confronted with a few critical choices. Do I go with the recipe with plain milk, or buttermilk? Or maybe I should pull out the big guns with heavy cream and cream cheese? Guiltless grease-free batter, or oodles of butter for that lush moist mouth feel that only dense fatty cake crumbs can leave behind? Lemon zest or orange rind? Crunchy layer of cinnamon streusel on top, or a simple bed of fresh berries rolled in sugar?
As I walked through the aisles, I mentally stitched together little bits I was reading on each blog or recipe hub into countless permutations of blueberry cake until I could come up with something that would bake in, no pun intended, the essence of my carefree Friday morning. A flavour and texture that would feel clean and fresh and dripping with anticipation for the rest of the day, with an ever so slight eagerness to indulge in decadence, without going so far overboard that you’re left to gather the relics of your weekend wreckage before work the next morning.
Two hours and twenty minutes later, at 375 degrees fahrenheit, my oven gave birth to just that.
The results were light in taste, yet rich in texture. As someone at work said the next day (I took in a couple of pieces to guilt folks into staying awake through my Excel 101 departmental training session), the cake actually didn’t ‘feel’ like cake. It was dense and silky, less like a cake and more like a thin slab of fudge brownie, made of vanilla and blueberries rather than chocolate. It was just the sort of sweet, but controlled experience that I was looking for that morning – little hints of moist buttery decadence, curbed in with the acidity of the berries that had burst in the oven and bubbled over throughout the batter. Topped with sugary cinnamon, and a citric sparkle of shredded orange rind (primarily because I forgot to add it in the batter itself. But this little mistake will have me using orange zest as a garnish for many more baking recipes rather than a batter mix-in).
The recipe I finally went with was something I cobbled together from the recipes I found at Joy of Baking (the main batter proportions), Within the Kitchen (the cinnamon-rolled berry garnish), blueberry-recipe.com (cream cheese inspiration), and ifood.tv (nutmeg, almost forgot to add it until I stumbled upon this recipe!).
Evidently, my Russian Roulette across different online recipes had worked in my favour this time around.