Blackberry Boy Bait

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Whooo, y’all. It’s been busy over here in chicken central. We were not prepared for how fast those little guys would go from tiny balls of fluff to Actual Birds, so it’s been all hands on deck to build the coop. Our girls are very ready to get out of the garage.

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Pidgey is unsure how she feels about the whole coop situation, at the moment

Anyway, I managed to escape the miasma of paint fumes in the basement to finally shoot this recipe for y’all. It’s a variation on a coffee cake recipe that’s been floating around in the back of my head for a while, and I’m really excited to finally be able to share it.

This cake takes inspiration from a blueberry coffee cake developed by a Chicago teen named Renny Powell back in 1954. She named it for the power it had over members of the opposite sex, or so the story goes.

I’ve tweaked the original version a bit, swapping blackberries in for the blue and punching everything up with a healthy dose of lime. It’s bright and barely sweet, with pockets of slumped, jammy blackberry that make the whole house smell of summer and an addictively crunchy lime-sugar topping that will have you reaching for seconds (or maybe thirds).

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And while I can’t say I’ve noticed a particular uptick in the number of boys in my yard, my brother did eat half of the 9×13 pan by himself the last time he was home, and I’m pretty sure that counts for something, at least.

Blackberry-lime Boy Bait
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen, who adapted it from Cook’s Country, who adapted it from the original

For the lime sugar:
zest of two limes
3/4 c. granulated sugar

For the cake:
1 c. (two sticks) butter, at room temperature
1/2 c. lime sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
2 c. all-purpose flour
1 T. baking powder
1 t. salt
juice of two limes
1 c. whole milk
heaping 1/2 c. fresh or frozen blackberries, chopped

For the topping:
heaping 1/2 c. fresh or frozen blackberries, chopped
1/4 c. lime sugar

Preheat your oven to 350°F and grease and flour a 9×13 inch baking dish.

To make the lime sugar, dump the granulated sugar and lime zest into a food processor, and let it run until the sugar is light green and beginning to look damp. It should smell amazing. I find it’s easiest to zest the limes with a vegetable peeler and then scrape away any bitter white pith from the back, but you’re welcome to do whatever you’re most comfortable with.

The cake is based on the creaming method. Begin by combining the butter and 1/2 c. of the lime sugar you just made in a large bowl, and beat with a hand mixer or stand mixer until the butter is very light and fluffy, and you can barely feel the sugar crystals when you rub a pinch of the mixture between your fingers. This will take a few minutes, but it’s important because those sugar crystals make a bunch of microscopic pockets in the butter which the chemical levener will be able to inflate later.

Once your butter is nice and fluffy, beat in your eggs one at a time. Again, it’s important not to rush this because the watery egg whites need a little time to form an emulsion with all the fat in the bowl.

While your eggs, butter and sugar are mixing together, measure out your dry ingredients into a medium bowl and whisk them well to combine. Then, juice your limes into a one-cup liquid measure, and then fill up to the one-cup line with your milk. You will not use the full cup I called for up top, but because the amount of juice in your limes will vary, I wanted to make sure there was a little extra built in.

Alright. Cake time. Stop your mixer and add 1/3 of your flour mixture, then beat on low-speed until it’s just combined. Then add 1/2 your milk mixture (which may look curdled. This is ok.), and again mix to combine. Alternate adding the dry and wet, mixing after each addition, making sure you begin and end with the dry.

Toss a heaping 1/2 cup of blackberries with a hefty pinch of flour, which will keep them from sinking to the bottom of the cake, and gently fold them into your batter with a spatula.

Dump your batter into your prepared pan and smooth the top. Sprinkle over the remaining 1/2 cup of blackberries and whatever lime sugar you have left.

Bake for 40-50 minutes, until the top is browned and crunchy and a toothpick inserted into the center of the pan comes out clean. Cool in the pan at least 15 minutes before serving.