When the lights dimmed to sheer darkness Saturday evening at the Brewer Performing Arts Center, it was a strangely comforting feeling — like being wrapped in a soft blanket of pure black. If I’d had to move at all, not just sit waiting for Robinson Ballet’s production of Extensions to begin, I would have probably felt my heart race and my breath quicken.
But instead, I got to just sit there, wait and then enjoy.
Some people get through life with a strategy like this. I’ve always referred to it as sticking one’s head in the sand — not unlike an ostrich might do. It’s not something I particularly understand though, being of the curious, questioning type. But I recognize it when I see it.
When the lights came up again, dancers twirled and glided across the stage. The performance combined ballet, modern and contemporary dance styles over the course of the evening. As I watched the fluid movements, the graceful foot extensions and the lines created with bodies, I was transported back to the stages of my own youth back when leotards, tights and ballet shoes were my near-constant uniform. Dance is a powerful medium for expression. So many different things can be conveyed with the right combination of dancers, music and choreography.
I know what you’re thinking: why is she talking about dancing when this column is about cake? But stay with me here … Dancing and baking really aren’t that different. In dances, you combine different steps and arm movements in the right mixture to form sequences in a beautiful routine. Likewise in baking the right combination and measurements of sugar, flour, baking powder, eggs and blueberries can make so many different things from muffins and breads to cookies, waffles and pancakes.
Or those ingredients can make a cake, like this one.
I have frozen blueberries still in my freezer, the ones I bought frozen at a farmers market on a cold day some months back. They’ve been practically begging to be used and when I was considering what to do with them, a sweet, tender, frosted cake came to mind.
This recipe is similar to my one-bowl recipe for cupcakes. It’s so simple, made in a single bowl and baked to a tender crumb. Adding the blueberries to it makes it somehow more special. Like something you’d eat to celebrate a small accomplishment.
As for this fluffy frosting, it’s made without any milk at all. It’s a technique that creates a lovely, buttery frosting that’s not too sweet. (I really note this to be sure you know that I didn’t lose my mind and forget to include it in the ingredients.)
You start by creaming the butter until it’s light and fluffy. Then you add the powdered sugar and vanilla and mix it gently. Then you mix it more to get that fluffy, light consistency. It’s so easy to spread too.
Once the cake is baked and fully cooled, frost it. Then dig in, and celebrate life’s little joys — like how baking is a combination of the right movements, the right ingredients and just the right song.
In this case, I’d say it’s “Take Me to Church.”
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- ½ cup sugar
- 2 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- 1 large egg
- ½ cup milk
- ¼ cup canola oil
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup blueberries
- ½ cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 1½ cup confectioners sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add the egg, milk and oil to the bowl. Whisk vigorously for two minutes, until smooth. Stir in the vanilla and blueberries.
- Pour the batter into a buttered 8x8-inch glass baking dish. Bake for 20-24 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.
- Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely.
- Once the cake is cooled, prepare the frosting.
- First, place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat, with the whisk attachment, until light and fluffy. Then add the sugar and vanilla. Beat again to incorporate.
- Frost the cooled cake and enjoy.