I'm a sucker for an unfussy cake, the kind of cake that you can whip up in an hour or less without any extra trips to the grocery store, one that is special enough to serve to guests, but homey enough to not need a special occasion at all. This fragrant lemon cake — scattered with juicy blueberries and dolloped with soft lemon cream — is the perfect unfussy cake, just the thing to bring to a last-minute spring dinner party or to snack on with afternoon tea.
The recipe is adapted from a Gourmet raspberry buttermilk cake recipe. I love the crunchy edges and moist interior of the original, but it didn't take me long to adapt it to fit my unfussy cake needs. Instead of buttermilk, which I rarely keep on hand, I use a mixture of Greek yogurt and milk. And in place of delicate raspberries, I use blueberries — fresh when I can find them at the farmers market and frozen when I can't. (I used frozen wild blueberries for the cake pictured.)
Rubbing lemon zest into the sugar before it is creamed with the butter infuses the cake with a deep lemon flavor, a trick I picked up from a Dorie Greenspan recipe. And a quick mixture of heavy whipping cream and bottled lemon curd, whipped until thick and soft, transforms a simple snacking cake into a dinner-party-ready dessert.
At first glance the baking temperature might seem unusually high, but the high heat is what gives the cake its browned, sugary-crisp edges. It also narrows the window between "just done" and "dry and overdone," so if you aren't sure about the accuracy of your oven, play it safe and start checking on your cake a little earlier. Or pick up an oven thermometer. You won't regret it — especially while sitting back and snacking on a slice of this cake.
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries (no need to thaw)
1 1/2 tablespoons turbinado sugar
For the lemon cream: 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream 2 tablespoons store-bought lemon curd
Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in the middle. Butter a 9-inch round cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. Flour the sides.
Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.
Place the granulated sugar and lemon zest in the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large mixing bowl. Using your fingers, rub the zest into the sugar until it is the texture of damp sand and smells like lemon candy. Add the butter and beat in a stand mixer or with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the vanilla and the egg. Add the yogurt and beat well.
At low speed, beat in half the flour mixture until just combined. Then beat in the milk and remaining flour mixture.
Spread batter evenly in the pan. Scatter berries over top and sprinkle evenly with turbinado sugar.
Bake until cake is golden-brown and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 25-30 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then turn out onto a rack and cool for 10-15 more minutes. Remove parchment and invert onto a plate.
Meanwhile, using an electric mixer or immersion blender with a whisk attachment, beat cream and lemon curd on high speed until creamy, smooth and thick. It should be about the consistency of regular yogurt. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.
Serve cake warm or at room temperature, dolloped with lemon cream.
You can substitute 1/2 cup buttermilk for the yogurt and milk.
This cake bakes quickly; if you are unsure about the accuracy of your oven, start checking on it after 20 minutes of baking.
Cake can be made 1 day ahead, wrapped and stored at room temperature. Lemon cream can be made up to 8 hours ahead and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.