Blueberry Boy Bait

I am at a bit of a parenting crossroads with Little C. We've reached that point where she is clearly no longer a baby, but she's not yet a full-fledged little girl (wasn't there a Britney song about this?). She is so tuned in to everything I do, wanting to get in on all the action and has started mimicking me in the most unexpected ways. Basically this means that I have got to stop dropping F-bombs. Also, she has started "helping me" when I bake. And recently I pulled up a chair to boost her sweet little face up to counter level while I put together some Blueberry Boy Bait, a recipe so simple, you can pull it together with a tiny person clinging to your sleeve.

This buttery, tender cake, studded with teeny blueberries and covered with a shattery cinnamon-sugar crust, is my kind of thing. Technically, it is a cake, but since it's like the most awesome blueberry muffin you've ever had in slab form, it's more quick bread in feeling. And this means you can brunch it, snack it, or dessert it, and in all cases you'll love it.

Now before you get all up in my grill about making a blueberry recipe in January, let me tell you that this recipe actually calls for frozen berries. Hooray! I love frozen berries of all sorts. This is not to say that anything can replace the experience of a flat of strawberries in July--let's not be crazy. But frozen berries are fabulous because they're picked and frozen at their peak, and are awesomely consistent in quality. Plus, you can't beat the price. Not that I know a dang thing about economy. But I do know that I am in pink-puffy-heart LOVE with Wyman's of Maine frozen wild blueberries. They explode in your mouth like sweet, bitty berry caviar and I covet them. And apparently I am not the only one, as per my sous chef.

And because I am a food history geek and love tidbits of culinary trivia, Blueberry Boy Bait first made an appearance in the junior division of a Pillsbury baking contest in 1954. The girl who invented it was only 15! Can you imagine being that young and fabulous and being able to BAKE? Girlfriend probably didn't need to come up with a specific cake to lure the boys in, I'm sure. Like I plan on telling Little C, she just has to be her fantastic, talented self and the boys will all be beating down our door to date her. Too bad her father won't be answering said door until she is 25.

Blueberry Boy Bait
Adapted from America's Test Kitchen

Be sure to look for wild blueberries, the tiny ones, not the bigger regular ones--you'll get better results with wild. I halved this recipe in an 8-inch square pan and it worked out perfectly. As you're sprinkling on the cinnamon and sugar you may think to yourself, "Dang! This is way too much cinnamon and sugar!", but press on and sprinkle on the whole lot of it. You will be rewarded with a crackly, shattering sheet of cinnamon-sugar topping in the end.

Makes 1 9x13-inch cake

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar, divided
3/4 cup light brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
1 cup frozen wild blueberries
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Position a rack to the center of the oven and preheat it to 350 degrees. Spray a 9x13-inch baking pan with cooking spray and line it with a sheet of parchment paper with a few inches of overhang on two sides. Spray the parchment, too.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, 1/2 cup of the granulated sugar and all the brown sugar on medium speed until lightened in color and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape downt he bottom and sides of the bowl. Beat in the eggs one at a time, letting each one incorporate fully before adding the next.

Reduce the mixer speed to low and add half the flour, mixing just until the flour begins to disappear. Add the milk, mixing to incorporate. Add the rest of the flour and mix until there are a few streaks of flour left in the batter. Fold in the rest by hand with a large rubber spatula until the batter is smooth.

Remove the blueberries from the freezer and divide in half. Place half the berries in a small bowl and toss with 1/ 2 teaspoon flour. Mix the floured berries into the batter and spread the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle the rest of the berries on top of the batter. Combine the remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar with the cinnamon and sprinkle evenly over the batter. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Cool in the pan on a wire rack. Remove the cake from the pan using the parchment sleeve and cut into squares. Store any leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

CakeShauna Sever