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What’s Cooking in Illinois: From cake to coffeecake, here are two great ways to use powerfully good-for-you blueberries.

Charlyn Fargo Ware

July 17, 2020

4 Min Read
piece of 4-H House Blueberry Buckle Coffeecake on plate next to bowl of blueberries
HAPPY: Enjoy the many benefits of blueberries with a piece of 4-H House Blueberry Buckle Coffeecake.Charlyn Fargo

Blueberries make me smile.

Why? They make me think of my time at 4-H House at the University of Illinois, where all 60 of us house girls learned to make (and love) Blueberry Buckle Coffeecake. The recipe even made the 4-H House Cookbook that my mom, Roberta Archer, helped put together.

Blueberries also make me think of healthy eating. While I don’t like to think of any food as a superfood (because a wide variety of foods have nutritional benefits), blueberries certainly are powerhouses.

Their many health benefits include 4 grams of fiber per cup, 24% of your daily need for vitamins C and K, and 25% of your daily need for manganese — at only 84 calories and 15 grams of carbohydrates. Blueberries are also full of antioxidants, which may help fight cancer. If that’s not enough to make you want to snack on a handful, the antioxidants in blueberries are linked to reduced levels of oxidized LDL, otherwise known as the bad cholesterol. Another study found eating just 2 ounces of blueberries lowered blood pressure.

Blueberries even may boost your mood. British researchers fed young adults a cup and a half of blueberries, then measured effects on mood, memory and decision-making. Mood scores rose 15% five hours after blueberry consumption. Researchers credit anthocyanins in berries for reducing inflammation, and the lower the inflammation, the higher the mood, according to the study.

The bottom line: Blueberries are incredibly healthy and nutritious, and they taste good.

I’m not sure our Blueberry Buckle Coffeecake is all that healthy. But in moderation, it can be a sweet accompaniment to a cup of coffee.

My friend and distant cousin Cathy Schwartz of Springfield, Ill., takes her love for blueberries to the next level. She not only frequents the pick-your-own sites around the area, but every summer, she brings back upward of 300 pounds of fresh blueberries from her summer vacation time in Michigan. She got started bringing fresh berries back to clients, a sort of midsummer Christmas gift, instead of the usual gift at Christmas. Now that she’s retired, the list includes family and friends. I’m lucky enough to make the list.

Michigan berries are larger than those in Illinois due to the cooler climate, and the picking season lasts longer. There’s even a Blueberry Festival in Cathy’s vacation town of South Haven, Mich.

Cathy uses blueberries in smoothies, over cereal, in blueberry scones and for a blueberry pie that’s like a fresh strawberry pie — you cook some of the berries to make a glaze and add toasted slivered almonds and almond flavoring. Her family’s favorite is a True-Blue Pudding Cake that includes 1 cup of boiling water poured over the cake.

“I just finished the last from the freezer,” Cathy says. “It’s painful to use that last bag. That’s when I know it’s time to head north.”

Here’s that famous 4-H House Blueberry Buckle Coffeecake and Cathy’s True-Blue Pudding Cake.

4-H House Blueberry Buckle Coffeecake

½ cup sugar
½ cup flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
⅛ teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons butter, room temperature

2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup sugar
4 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1 large egg, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup milk, room temperature
2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease 8-inch-square or 9-inch-round cake pan. Make sure it’s at least 2 inches deep.

To make the streusel topping, mix the sugar, flour, cinnamon and salt in a small bowl. Cut or rub in the butter with the side of a fork until it reaches a crumbly state. Set aside.

To make the cake, blend the flour, baking powder and salt together in a medium-sized mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, beat together the sugar, butter, egg, and vanilla. Alternately, add the milk and the flour mixture to the sugar-butter mixture, ending with flour. Add blueberries. Stir only enough to blend.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle the streusel topping over the batter. Bake the cake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven and set it on a rack to cool for 10 minutes. Serve right from the pan, or transfer to a serving plate.

True-Blue Pudding Cake

3 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 cup flour
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ cup milk
3 tablespoons butter, melted
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

½ cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 cup boiling water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8-by-8-inch baking dish. Toss blueberries, cinnamon and lemon juice together. Place in baking dish. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, milk, butter and vanilla, and spoon over berries. Mix sugar and cornstarch. Sprinkle over batter. Pour boiling water over the entire cake. Bake for 50 minutes or until lightly golden brown on top. Serve warm with ice cream. Makes 12 to 16 servings.

Fargo is a registered dietitian with Southern Illinois University Medical School in Springfield, Ill. Send recipe ideas to her at [email protected]. The opinions of this writer are not necessarily those of Farm Progress/Informa.

About the Author(s)

Charlyn Fargo Ware

Charlyn Fargo Ware is a registered dietitian with Southern Illinois University Medical School in Springfield, Ill. Email recipe ideas to her at [email protected].

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