Maggie Huff loves corn so much that as a kid, she devoured the vegetable straight from the can. “It was sweet and delicious,” she says. “To me, it tasted kind of like candy.”
Frozen and canned vegetables were the norm in Huff’s childhood home in Dallas (it was the seventies!), but occasionally fresh corn landed on her family’s dinner table. “There were a few ingredients that seemed kind of special, and corn on the cob was definitely one of them. I couldn’t wait for summer to come around so I could sink my teeth into something fresh.”
Huff, the pastry chef at Homewood in Dallas, was just nine years old when she baked her first batch of blueberry cornbread muffins. “I think I wanted to make pancakes and we didn’t have the stuff to make them,” she says. “But I did find a box of cornbread mix. It was probably a box of Jiffy mix, and I put some blueberries in there because I thought it sounded yummy.” If she remembers correctly, she used canned blueberries.
Huff’s mom taught her how to read a recipe and turn on the oven, and the future chef took these skills and ran. “I was a latchkey kid,” she says. “I was left alone a lot and started baking and cooking really young. I would use a cookbook and watch more than my share of cooking shows on public television, things like Julia Child and The Galloping Gourmet and Nathalie Dupree.”
Everybody has to start somewhere. And for inexperienced home cooks, this cake may be the answer. “When I make blueberry muffins, I say that it’s basically just enough muffin to hold the blueberries together,” she says. This easy-to-make cake is loaded with berries and tangy lemon zest, and topped with crunchy streusel. Served with sweet corn ice cream, it’s an upgraded nod to the pastry chef’s early nights cooking out of a can.
Blueberry Coffee Cake With Cornmeal Streusel and Sweet Corn Ice Cream
Blueberry Coffee Cake
1 cup sugar
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
zest of 1 large lemon
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 ½ pints (3 cups) fresh blueberries
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup cornmeal
⅓ cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
zest of 1 large lemon
6 tablespoons butter, melted
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 10-inch springform pan.
- Make the streusel: mix together the flour, cornmeal, brown sugar, salt, and lemon zest. Whisk in the melted butter. Using your fingertips, form into crumbles and set aside.
- Make the cake: place the sugar, butter, vanilla extract, and lemon zest in a bowl. Using a handheld or stand mixer, cream together until light and fluffy.
- With the mixer running, add the eggs, one at a time, being sure to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl until incorporated.
- In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients. Add to the sugar-butter mixture and mix until just combined.
- With the mixer running, add the buttermilk in a slow and steady stream. Turn off the mixer, then gently fold in the blueberries. Pour batter into the prepared pan.
- Bake for 35 minutes, then top with the raw cornmeal streusel and bake for an additional 15 minutes, or until the streusel is golden brown and a cake tester comes out clean. Let cool for 10 minutes. Serve slightly warm and topped with corn ice cream, if desired.
Sweet Corn Ice Cream*
2 ears of corn, shucked, kernels cut from the cob
2 cups milk
8 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
2 cups heavy cream
1 to 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- Place the corn cobs, kernels, and milk in a saucepan. Bring to a strong simmer, then remove from the heat, cover, and let steep for 30 minutes.
- After 30 minutes, remove and discard the corn cobs and, using an immersion or stand blender, puree the kernel-milk mixture. Return the smooth mixture to the saucepan and bring to a boil.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar. Then, while whisking constantly, pour the hot milk into the yolks. Return the combined mixture to the saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula, until thick.
- Once the mixture has turned thick, strain through a fine sieve and add in the heavy cream. Add salt to taste, then chill. Once the mixture has cooled, process according to your ice cream maker’s instructions.
*If you don’t have an ice cream maker, the streusel-topped cake will taste just as delicious with store-bought.