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Homemade Blueberry Skillet Cake

January 11th, 2010

We spend some time each summer gathering sun ripened berries and stowing them away in the freezer. They’re a delightful reminder of summer during these cold dark winter months. Our freezer is currently stocked full of blueberries, blackberries and wild black raspberries. Yesterday I decided that some blueberries would go perfectly with those lemons I got a while back. I settled on blueberry muffin cake, since it would pair perfectly with our morning coffee on a sub-zero Sunday morning.

I call it a cake because I don’t bake it in muffins tins (I have a strong aversion to all things non-stick). I like baking in a cast iron skillet, so all of my muffins are made in one batch in this cast iron skillet that’s probably twice as old as I am. I find that they bake wonderfully, it takes a little longer, but it’s well worth the extra time. Not to mention there are no muffin tins to wash, which is a big plus in my book!

I prefer my breakfast to be a little less sweet so I have developed this recipe to suit our tastes. It’s a lower sugar recipe, so if you’re looking for those sweet as candy muffins you can buy at the local coffee shop, double the sugar in this recipe. You could also sweeten them up with a crumble topping, sprinkled on top before baking or by drizzling them with some lemon juice mixed with powdered sugar after taking them out of the oven.


2 2/3 cup of flour (I use half whole wheat flour)
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup of sugar (double this for sweeter muffins)
zest and juice from 1 lemon *
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract *
2 eggs, room temperature
1 cup + 2 Tablespoons of room temperature buttermilk (use regular milk or cream here if desired)
3/4 cup melted coconut oil, unsalted butter,** or cooking oil of your choice (the coconut oil doesn’t impart a “coconut” taste to the muffins, but it seems to add another layer of flavor)
1 1/2 – 2 cups berries (fresh or frozen, allow to thaw a bit if using frozen)

Heat oven to 400. Put cast iron skillet in oven. In large mixing bowl combine: flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and lemon zest. Stir to combine.

In another bowl crack eggs and whisk. Add vanilla extract, buttermilk and lemon juice to eggs and stir to combine. Remove cast iron skillet from oven and melt coconut oil in skillet, swirl oil around to coat skillet. **If using butter make sure to oil skillet with shortening or oil, not butter.

Pour wet ingredients (including coconut oil) into dry ingredients and lightly fold until almost combined. When almost combined add berries and stir to incorporate. If batter is too thick add a little more buttermilk or milk. You want this batter to be too thick to pour, but not too thick to smooth into edges of pan.

Spoon batter into cast iron skillet and put in oven. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until knife inserted in middle comes out clean. Baking time will be longer if eggs/milk were not at room temperature and if berries were not slightly thawed. Keep checking every 5 minutes until done. Remove from oven and cool on wire rack for 5-10 minutes. Slice and enjoy with coffee.

If baking in muffin tins bake for 20 minutes checking after 15.

*Optional flavor combination: cranberry & orange, cranberry & almond, strawberry & lemon, strawberry & vanilla, blackberry & lemon, black raspberry & lemon.

You can use any kind of berry in the muffins. I have used: blackberries, raspberries, blueberries and even cranberries. Strawberries would also be delicious, I think I’ll try those next time, or tomorrow depending on how long this batch lasts. Change the extract or citrus flavor depending on berries used. Cranberries and oranges are a wonderful combination. Almonds compliment cranberries or cherries beautifully and lemon pairs perfectly with blackberries, blueberries and raspberries. Strawberries would be heavenly with lots of vanilla.

So grab some berries from your freezer (or the grocery store freezer) and let you imagination run wild. Heat up that oven and bake up a batch of sunny muffins. Enjoy a delicious taste of summer in the middle of this cold winter weather.

What’s your favorite kind of muffin?

Freezing Wild Black Raspberries

July 9th, 2009

My mom has a nice area in her back yard where a lot of wild black raspberries grow. She’s had a bumper crop this year, so she invited me over to pick the extra berries she didn’t want.
I went over several days last week and one day this week and I spent about an hour each time. So far I’ve been able to pick 10.5 pounds of wild black raspberries for our freezer! I’m heading over again today so I should be able to add another 2-3 pounds to that total. That means I won’t have to go to the local blueberry farm to buy blueberries this year since I have so many raspberries.
I freeze the berries on a cookie sheet so that they don’t freeze together in the bags. When they’re frozen, I scoop them up and put them in a freezer bag.
This way I can easily measure out what I need for a recipe from the bags and I don’t have to pre-measure into smaller freezer bags. I prefer freezing my berries and dealing with them later when I have more time and when the weather’s cooler outside.
I’m looking forward to making some jam this winter and perhaps some cobbler or some black raspberry scones.

How do you preserve berries for those long winter months?

Mini Veg

June 6th, 2009

The vegetables are all starting to come on, most of them are mini veggies at the moment. Soon enough we’ll be enjoying bounty from the gardens.
I’m really suprised that I had peppers set so early, especially since we’ve had such cold weather (even now it’s in the low 50’s at night). I heard that if you spray them with fish emulsion or seaweed it helps the blooms set into peppers, I guess it works!
These are the Sub Arctic tomatoes, I have one that has a tomato the size of large marble already.
This is one of the late strawberries (we have early, mid & late bearing). I harvested our first batch of strawberries yesterday (1lb 7 oz) and we enjoyed the for dinner before I remembered to take photos.
Do you have baby veg or are you harvesting already?

Enjoying the Fruits of our Labor

April 11th, 2009

If you were around and reading my blog this past summer you’ll remember that we foraged for bunches of blackberries and we picked blueberries at a local farm. We’ve really been enjoying the fruits of our labor this winter. There’s nothing like berry syrup over lemon pancakes, blackberry or blueberry muffins or our favorite, triple berry cobbler. We eat this often for breakfast, it sure makes all the hard work of picking blackberries, black raspberries and blueberries worth it.

1 cup of all-purpose flour (I use whole wheat)
2 Tablespoon of sugar (I skip this and sprinkle some on top before baking)
1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon (if desired)
1/4 cup chopped crystallized ginger (if desired)
1/4 cup cold butter
1 egg
1/4 cup of milk

6 cups frozen berries (I use a mix of blueberries, blackberries & wild black raspberries, sometimes I use 8 cups)
1/4-2/3 cup of sugar (I usually use 1/4 cup of honey and omit the remaining sugar)
1 Tablespoon of cornstarch

For filling: in a saucepan combine the berries, sugar (or honey) and cornstarch and 1/4 cup of water. Let stand for 10 minutes (20 minutes for frozen fruit). Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly, keep warm.

For topping: in a medium bowl stir together flour, sugar, baking powder and if desired cinnamon (ginger is added later). Cut in butter till mixture resembles coarse crumbs, stir in crystallized ginger, set aside.

In a small bowl stir together egg and milk. Add to flour mixture, stirring just to moisten. Transfer filling to a 2 quart baking dish, or large cast iron skillet. Using spoon, drop topping onto small mounds atop filling (sprinkle with sugar if desired).

Bake cobbler in a 400 degree oven for 20-25 minutes or till a wooden toothpick inserted into topping comes out clean. Serve warm.

What’s your favorite way to eat berries?

Mulching the Strawberry Patch

January 10th, 2009

This spring we put in two 4×10 foot raised beds filled with 3 different kinds of strawberries. We planted early, mid, and late bearing plants, that way we have strawberries for a longer period of time. Since this was our first summer with plants, we didn’t get any strawberries. I faithfully picked off the blooms when I saw them, hoping for a great crop this year.
Strawberries like acidic soil, so when we built the raised beds we added extra peat moss to the soil mix. I tested the ph and it was perfect for strawberries. I’ve read several placed that strawberries should be mulched in the winter to protect the crowns (especially here in Ohio where we have fairly cold winters). I was planning on using straw, but then I decided the pine needles would work better.
They have less of a tendency to attract slugs and they are acidic so they will help maintain a proper ph in the strawberry bed. Since we don’t have any pine trees on our property, we loaded a few tubs into the car and headed down to the walking path in our neighborhood. It’s under canopy of huge white pine trees, so there were plenty of pine needles for us to rake up, and the best part is that they’re FREE!
We spent a 15 minutes raking up a few bins full of mulch and then headed home. We had to make 2 trips but we were able to get enough mulch for our 2 strawberry beds and our 6 blueberry bushes (which also like acidic soil).
The mulch not only helps protect the plants and improves the soil, but it makes the beds look much nicer as well. In the spring we’ll scrape off most of the mulch and it will go in the compost pile to finish decomposing.
Do any of you have any other great ideas for free mulch?


This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.