I’ve had the idea of some sort of blueberry swirled cornbread for over a year. For my first rendition of this idea, I simply swirled blueberry jam into cornbread muffins. It didn’t quite hit the mark; the jam didn’t hold up to the heavy cornbread batter. And the muffins were too crumbly.
I switched my thinking on this a few times and finally decided to try for a more cake-like texture and a more blueberry forward swirl. The end result is a delicious snack cake that melds a bunch of great things into one great quick bread recipe. It’s a cornbread but not. It’s a blueberry muffin but not. And it’s a blueberry buckle. But. Not. What it is? Delicious.
I happen to like blueberry flavor, but the texture of whole blueberries is just not for me. So, I chose to cook frozen blueberries into a thick syrup for the swirl. This process allows the berries to cook down into a jammy consistency, which I like. It also makes for an aesthetically pleasing (and tasty!) blueberry ribbon to be well-distributed throughout the cake. Cooking the berries also allows an opportunity for a little acidic flavor pop, in the form of lemon juice, to perk up the sweet berries.
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One final note about this cake is a serving note. This blueberry cornbread cake is wonderful right out of the pan without any other adornments. It’s a tall, chonky snack cake that is super satisfying. However, you might consider cutting a piece or two in half horizontally and pan toasting each side in a little butter until golden brown. And if you do consider it, you’ll be glad you did.
Blueberry Cornbread Snack Cake
- ⅓ cup sugar
- 2 tbsp butter
- 2 cups frozen blueberries
- 2 tbsp lemon juice freshly squeezed
- 1 lemon zested zest the lemon you are using for the juice in the blueberry swirl
- ¾ cup sugar
- ⅔ cup cornmeal
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1⅓ tbsp baking powder that's 1 tbsp + 1 tsp, for the record
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- ½ cup neutral oil like vegetable or canola oil
- ¼ cup butter melted; that's ½ a stick of standard butter (if you use fancy European butter, you'll have to find a different way to measure it!)
- 1⅓ tbsp honey that's 1 tbsp + 1 tsp
- 3 large eggs
- 1⅔ cup milk
- Preheat oven to 350F.
- Spray an 8x8x2 cake pan with nonstick spray or coat with a thin layer of oil or butter.
- Combine the ⅓ cup of sugar, 2 tbsp butter, and 2 cups of frozen blueberries in a medium sauce pot. Turn the heat on medium-high and bring to a boil/heavy simmer. Let this cook until the mixture has thickened to a syrupy, jammy consistency. This should take about 7-10 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in the lemon juice, and set the mixture aside to cool slightly while making the rest of the cake batter.
- In a large bowl, add the sugar and lemon zest. Using your fingers, rub the sugar and lemon zest together until the sugar gets moistened and very fragrant. It will start to feel like damp sand.Then add the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, and salt to the bowl. Whisk to combine well.
- In a medium bowl, combine the oil, melted butter, honey, eggs, and milk. Whisk until well combined.
- Pour the wet ingredients until the bowl with the dry ingredients. Mix until just combined. The batter should be fairly evenly moistened with no streaks of flour, but you might have a few small lumps.Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
- Dollop the blueberries by the spoonful evenly across the surface of the cake batter. It might sink a bit and that's ok. Then use a butter knife to cut the mixture through the cake in a swirling motion until there's a nice marbled effect on the surface of the batter. This will probably be about 10-15 swirls with the knife. Don't go overboard because you don't want the entire cake to be dyed blue–you just want the marble effect.
- Bake until the cake is set, about 50-60 minutes. You'll know it's done when the center is not jiggly and a toothpick inserted into the center is dry or just with a few crumbs. Honestly, it's a little tricky to tell when this is done because the berries remain a little soft before the cake fully cools and sets. If you want to be exact, the cake should be done when it registers 195-200F on a food thermometer inserted into its center.
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