The first cake on 101-Mile Kitchen is like a country summer day on a plate. It is rustic in nature– meaning it has textural interest and isn’t overly sweet or elaborate. It is unfussy. It is flourless, therefore can be served to our gluten-sensitive beloveds. And most of all it uses fresh, seasonal, local ingredients.
A decade ago I played with and wrote about the magical flavor triad of sweet corn, blueberries, and buttermilk. I had two inspirations at the time. First by Claudia Fleming’s sweet corn ice cream recipe from her famous out-of-print book, The Last Course, from her time as the innovative pastry chef at Grammercy Tavern in the 1990’s. Tim Mazurak of the delicious blog Lottie + Doof created a blueberry galette in a cornmeal crust and served it with the same sweet corn ice cream. Swoon.
My addition of buttermilk to the corn and blueberries brought bucolic thoughts of summer full circle. I promptly forgot about this happy flavor song until now.
The Sweet Corn Buttermilk Cake
The Sweet Corn Buttermilk Cake is made with Floriani Red Flint stone-ground cornmeal from a local company, Camas Country Mill. This fantastic cornmeal and other flours, grains, and beans can be purchased at the charming Camas Country Schoolhouse Bakery and Store outside of Junction City, Oregon. Whatever brand you use, a stone-ground version is what gives this cake its particular toothsome texture.
This simple cake has ingredients from the farm. Before you scoff at the idea of sweet corn in your dessert, remember that peak-season fresh sweet corn is much sweeter than zucchini, an ingredient that commonly makes its way into cakes and sweet breads.
As an aside, this flourless cake will be gluten free if your cornmeal is certified that way. The generous dose of buttermilk makes it moist, tender, and subliminally tangy.
The recipe makes enough batter for one 8″ round or 8″ square cake. The former will result in a taller cake, the latter a shorter cake that will bake more quickly. It also makes two perfectly tall 6″ round cakes. As a household of two, six-inchers are my frequent choice. One for now, the other to be tightly wrapped and popped into the freezer for impromptu company or when the dessert mood strikes.
Be sure and view this short video tutorial for how to tip a cake out of its pan without it falling apart. If you’re not familiar with the technique you may find it helpful.
About homemade cakes in general: Please take the time to bring butter, eggs, and milk or buttermilk to room temperature. This is critical to achieving a good emulsion. If you’ve ever made a cake batter that turned curdly part way through, it is because cold ingredients just cannot emulsify. Your butter may get nice and fluffy, but plop a cold egg into it and it will seize back up into tiny bits rather than become one with the egg. The same goes for the milk or buttermilk you may add. Temperature matters!
The Blueberry Compote
One fanciful learning I’ve had this summer is to use berry-flavored vinegar in place of lemon juice in berry desserts. Berries often need a little acid to brighten them up and to balance their sweetness. The typical remedy is lemon juice. In several trials I’ve found that replacing lemon juice with berry vinegar gives the same lift while amplifying the berry flavor. Either works just fine in this recipe. Use what you have.
This Blueberry Compote recipe makes a lot. It can easily be halved, but it is so wonderful on pancakes, waffles, and vanilla (or sweet corn) ice cream. Don’t cut yourself short.
Sweet Corn Buttermilk Cake + Blueberry Compote
Sweet Corn Buttermilk Cake
- 1½ cups stone-ground cornmeal (not corn flour) I use Floriani Red Flint Cornmeal from Camas Country Mill
- 1 cup almond flour, finely ground
- 1½ tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. salt
- ½ cup unsalted butter (1 cube), room temperature
- ¾ cup sugar
- 3 Tbsp. blackstrap or dark molasses
- 3 large eggs, room temperature
- 1 tsp. pure vanilla
- 1-2 cups sweet corn kernels, cut from cob
- 1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
- 4 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen
- 1 cup sugar
- ¼ cup + 2 Tbsp. water, separated
- 2 Tbsp. cornstarch
- 3 Tbsp. lemon juice or berry vinegar
Sweet Corn Buttermilk Cake
- Preheat the oven to 350°. Generously butter two 6" round cake pans or one 8" round cakepan, and generously dust the pans with cornmeal.
- In a medium bowl, mix the stone ground cornmeal, almond flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
- Using a stand or handheld mixer, beat butter to smooth it out. Gradually add the sugar, ¼ cup at a time, and continue beating until the mixture as paled in color and is light and fluffy. Add the molasses and beat until thoroughly incorporated into the butter mixture. Scrape down the sides of your mixing bowl several times during this step.
- Add the eggs, one at a time and beating well after each one. Add the vanilla. Gradually add the buttermilk a little at a time, to avoid it splashing out, and to keep the mixture emulsified. If the mixture breaks/curdles during this step, stop adding ingredients and turn your mixer to high speed for a minute or two. If the ingredients are room temperature, that should bring it back together. Scrape down the sides of your mixing bowl several times during this step.
- Gently add the dry ingredients, again scraping down the sides of your mixing bowl several times during this step, until the cake batter is well combined.
- If you are using two 6" pans, evenly divide the batter between them, or if you are using the 8" pan fill it with all the batter. Bake 20-25 minutes, until the center is set and a knife point or bamboo stick cake tester comes out almost clean. The center will feel puffy and springy when lightly tapped.
- Allow the cake to cool in the pans for 15-20 minutes before removing the cake from the pans, and allow them to cool completely on a cooling rack.
- Serve individual slices on a puddle of Blueberry Compote and a top with a tuft of lightly whipped cream, or if using the cake all at once, place the cake on a serving plate atop a puddle of Blueberry Sauce, top with a billow of lightly whipped cream, and pass a bowl of Blueberry Compote to your guests to serve themselves more.
- Place blueberries, sugar, and 1/4 cup water in a medium saucepan.
- Bring to a boil, and reduce heat to medium low. Cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently, until the berries have turned from dusky blue to deep purple, and some of them have started to pop open.
- Combine the cornstarch and 2Tbsp. water in a small bowl. While constantly stirring, quickly and thoroughly stir the cornstarch mixture into the blueberries. Return to a boil for one minute.
- Stir in the lemon juice or berry vinegar. Allow to cool.
- Store in the refrigerator until using. You can easily cut this recipe in half, but you'll love having extra sauce for pancakes, waffles, and ice cream!