Blueberry Tea Cake

Who hasn’t got dreamy memories of licking spoons and waiting expectantly by the oven to have yet another taste sensation? Sadly, now that we are so busy juggling work-family-life balances, treasured baking recipes, handed down through the generations, are a thing of the past. Baking, rather like letter-writing, has become something special, yet it doesn’t really need to be overly complicated. You can bake with few ingredients very successfully. A constant abundant supply of home-baked goodies isn’t realistic for most of us, but it’s a shame to miss out on the inherent joy of a homemade treat–an instant shortcut to a moment of domestic bliss.–Bill Granger

LC No Frosting Required Note

This lovely, lovely tea cake–a.k.a. dessert masquerading as breakfast or afternoon snack or anytime you crave something sweet–is so moist and perfectly balanced and just plain irresistible that it could do without the sweet-tart lilt of cream cheese frosting if you’re in a hurry. Author Granger suggests the time-pressed instead rely on a lemon drizzle, made by mixing a little lemon zest and the juice of a lemon into confectioners’ sugar and then, ahem, drizzling it over the cake.

Blueberry Tea Cake Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 15 M
  • 1 H
  • Serves 10 to 12

Ingredients

  • For the cake
  • Heaping 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the baking dish
  • Heaping 1 1/2 cups superfine sugar (you can easily make your own by blitzing granulated sugar in the blender until finely ground but not powdery)
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 pint (about 2 cups) fresh blueberries
  • Scant 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • For the frosting
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature (you can use that remaining 1 tablespoon for buttering the baking dish)
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Juice from 1/4 lemon
  • 16 ounces confectioners’ sugar

Directions

  • Make the blueberry tea cake
  • 1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (176°C). Butter 9-by-13-inch baking pan and line it with parchment paper, allowing the excess paper to hang over the edge of the pan.
  • 2. Combine the sour cream and baking soda and let stand for 5 minutes.
  • 3. Beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and creamy. Add the lemon zest and vanilla and beat until combined. Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time, then add the sour cream mixture and beat just until combined.
  • 4. Place the blueberries in another bowl and toss with just a couple spoonfuls of the flour. Sift the rest of the flour over the butter mixture and sift the baking powder over the top. Gently fold just the dry ingredients together, then fold them into the batter, mixing just until combined. Gently fold the flour-coated blueberries into the batter, being mindful not to overmix.
  • 5. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, then carefully remove the cake to a wire rack to cool completely, either by using the parchment paper as handles or by inverting the cake onto a wire rack and then inverting it again.
  • 6. Frost the cooled blueberry tea cake, if desired, or serve it plain if you prefer.
  • Make the frosting
  • 7. Beat all of the ingredients except the sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Gradually mix in the sugar and beat until smooth. Use immediately.
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Testers Choice

Testers Choice
Testers Choice
Sandy Hill

Jun 09, 2011

What a delicious cake! It was dense and moist, much like pound cake, and full of juicy blueberries in every bite. The lemon juice and zest in the cream cheese frosting put it over the top—what a subtle surprise in flavor.

The recipe was easy to follow, and I did blitz the granulated sugar in my blender. Instead of using parchment, I buttered and floured the pan, and frosted the cooled cake in it. (I thought it would travel better in the pan with a lid.) It came out of the pan perfectly. I’ll definitely make this again.

Testers Choice
Steve Subera

Jun 09, 2011

This has a well-balanced lemon and blueberry flavor, and a muffin-like crumb that makes a seriously nice afternoon cake. And a breakfast cake. Dessert, too.

Everything mixed up well, although I’m not sure why I couldn’t just mix the baking powder with the flour and sift it all together. The final batter was quite thick to the point of concern, having never made it before. But no worries, it all turned out fine. I used the parchment “handles” to pull the cake out of the pan, but it resisted until I gave it some persistent nudging. In retrospect, I might have flipped the cake, and then pulled the paper off.

Although I loved the cream cheese frosting, this cake is perfectly wonderful without it. If you’re on the fence—to frost or not to frost—I recommend making the frosting and eating it separately with a large spoon and a big smile.

Testers Choice
Karen Depp

Jun 09, 2011

This is a straightforward recipe for a rather low-rise cake filled with blueberries and great flavor. The lemon gives it just the right amount of counterpoint to the sugar, as well as to the sweetness of the berries themselves. My blueberries were huge, and it probably would’ve been better if they had been a bit smaller. I chose to not frost the cake, as I thought that might be overkill—and plus, I wasn’t sure about a cream cheese frosting on a tea cake. Which brings me to the next issue: what’s a tea cake? Around here, the designation falls to a semi-raised, cookie-type sweet. As it turns out in this recipe, it’s a sheet cake-type that yields “12 squares” rather than “12 slices.” But this is a small argument over a big treat. Make it, you’ll like it!

Testers Choice
Tamiko Lagerwaard

Jun 09, 2011

I loved this cake. It embodies the perfect blend of lemony, blueberry cake-ness, topped with a frosting that really was the icing on the cake. It was a snap to make, and I appreciated this being a 9-by-13 inch cake when it came to frosting—no layers to fiddle with. It was moist, light (I used nonfat sour cream in place of full-fat), and slightly dense, which I appreciated to support all the blueberries and the dollop of cream cheese icing on top. It’s a rich cake, but that didn’t keep me from eating a few pieces.

Comments
Comments
  1. Steph says:

    I wonder, can you use frozen blueberries with this recipe?

    • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

      I think you could, Steph. I would use blueberries that are still mostly frozen, patted dry, and tossed with just a touch of flour.

  2. Julia E says:

    Ayyy…. Bill Granger! He was never formally trained as a chef, so pretty much everything he makes is very approachable. And very, very fresh. I lived close to one of his cafes in Sydney for several years and enjoyed many a breakfast there. He really shines when he makes breakfast! I’m smiling at the idea to put frosting on this tea cake. We would give every Australian a heart attack at the mere thought! :-) We love our sugar in this country… 

    I had a friend bring over _Feed Me Now_ and _Bill’s Basics_ back in November when she came to visit from Australia, but I honestly still think _Sydney Food_ is his best cookbook. It has all his recipes that really showcase who he is as a chef. Yum. Now I need to go make his ricotta hotcakes with honeycomb butter or his corn fritters with avocado for breakfast!

    • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

      Seems we both have a wee crush on Bill, Julia. Words can’t express my envy at your proximity to the cafe. Yes, love the simple, approachable, unexpectedness of his creations. And thanks for the reminder about those corn fritters…I dare say I’ll be making those this weekend.

  3. Rebecca says:

    This was a really delightful tea cake to make and eat. The instructions were straightforward and all went to plan beautifully. The cake tasted lovely on its own but the cream cheese icing added a level of saltiness to the cake that really worked for me. Frost it, frost it, I say! I also added some orange zest to both recipes and loved it.

  4. Cathy says:

    So I made this recipe this summer and took it to work for my co-workers. Wow. I literally had to hook five people up with your website, they all loved the cake so much. Wait, it gets better, On Friday there was a muffin morning fundraiser for United Way so I baked the cake again. Some previous tasters from summer got wind that the cake was in the building and it went to a bidding war for the final slices. I was asked to make it again for round two of the fundraiser. I’m going to try substituting fresh cranberries for the blueberries and orange for lemon. I will let you know how it goes. Thanks again for the awesome recipe. It is one of my favorites from the site.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

      Cathy, thanks for letting us know! All kudos go to Bill Granger, the chef behind the recipe, although maybe we’ll take just a little credit for finding the recipe. Do let us know how the orange and cranberry version goes, it’s an inspired idea, one I quite like and would love to try…

    • David Leite says:

      Cathy, if I may jump in here, cranberries are tarter than blueberries and require a different method of cooking. I suggest chopping the cranberries roughly and tossing them with 1/4 cup extra sugar. Chopping the berries allows the sugar to work its sweet magic. Once you make the batter, add the berries as you would the blueberries.

  5. Andy says:

    I love this cake. I guess I am used to teacakes that are very delicate with small slices. I dare anyone to only have a small slice of this cake! Not possible!!

  6. Faye Levy says:

    What is the purpose of letting the sour cream stand with the baking soda?

  7. Adri says:

    I have a question. In reading through this recipe I see a direction to combine the baking soda and sour cream and allow the mixture to stand for 5 minutes. Once combined the two items have very low bench tolerance and lose leavening strength rather rapidly. So I am darn curious about the purpose of this direction. Also, is this an heirloom recipe? Thanks for your time!

    • Beth Price says:

      Hi Adri and Faye, I spoke with Cindi, one of our professional bakers, and these are her thoughts on the sour cream/baking soda question.

      This sort of combination is not that unusual. Often baking soda is used not just for leavening, but to temper/neutralize acidity and help products brown. The sour cream likewise can have multiple functions in a recipe – tenderizing, adding fat and moistness to the crumb, or adding a distinct tartness.

      This recipe also contains baking powder and creamed butter and sugar which would provide the balance of needed leavening. The proportions of the baking soda and sour cream combo were, I imagine, calculated with that in mind. The amount of baking soda here is probably a little more than is needed to neutralize the amount of sour cream so there’d still be a little left to provide some lift. Additionally, this isn’t an especially light and fluffy sort of cake.

      One more note, not to be depended upon, but good to know, modern baking sodas are generally formulated to allow a little leeway time-wise. Most recipes, even those leavened only with baking soda, don’t get into the oven in under a couple of minutes anyway. So yes, the reaction takes place quickly, but it’s not completed instantaneously. That said, unless instructed to do so as in this recipe, the prudent baker will get her baking soda leavened batters into a preheated oven asap.

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