Oh, Canada! Vanilla Berry Crumble Cake

My brother and his family live in British Columbia in a remote, secluded, sleepy town, where bears make unannounced visits, ziplines keep cousins entertained for hours, and berries grow in abundance over the summer. In early July when we visit, the sun-warmed berries look so pretty, polkadotted against the dramatic West Coast landscape. Blueberries, raspberries, huckleberries, salmonberries, and cherries all grow wild in their backyard and are perfect for popping in cakes. Serving this cake slightly warm, with a scoop of vanilla or walnut ice cream that slowly melts into the buttery, berry crunch of the crumble, is a moment worth working toward.
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  • Level: Intermediate
  • Total: 1 hr 30 min (includes cooling time)
  • Active: 40 min
  • Yield: One 8-inch round cake
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Ingredients

Very Vanilla Cake:

2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/2 cup (120 milliliters) whole milk  

2 eggs, at room temperature  

Scraped seeds of 1 vanilla bean  

3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated sugar  

1 1/2 cups (195 grams) all-purpose flour  

1 teaspoon baking powder  

1/4 teaspoon baking soda  

1/4 teaspoon salt  

8 tablespoons (1 stick/115 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature  

1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract  

3 tablespoons grapeseed oil or any mild-flavored oil 

Berry Crumble:

1/2 cup (65 grams) all-purpose flour

1/4 cup (45 grams) light brown sugar, lightly packed  

1/2 teaspoon salt  

4 1/2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, diced 2 cups (280 grams) blueberries 

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare an 8-inch springform pan, making sure it's lined with parchment on the bottom and sides.
  2. Make the batter for the Very Vanilla Cake according to directions.  
  3. For the Very Vanilla Cake:  
  4. Add the lemon juice to the milk to sour it. Set aside for 5 to 10 minutes or until curdled.  
  5. In a small bowl, whisk the eggs together. Set aside.  
  6. In another small bowl, use your fingers to work the vanilla bean seeds into the sugar. Remove any bits of pod that may have come off with the seeds. Set aside.  
  7. Place a large sifter or a sieve in a large mixing bowl. Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and sift.  
  8. Using an electric mixer with beaters or a paddle attachment, beat the butter for 30 seconds on medium speed and then gradually add the sugar. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Continue beating on medium speed for another 4 minutes or until light in color and fluffy.  
  9. Add the vanilla extract and beat until combined.  
  10. With the mixer still on medium speed, gradually add the eggs. If the batter curdles, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of the flour to bind it back together.  
  11. On low speed, add the flour mixture and then the oil and milk; mix until just combined. Don't overbeat. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. 
  12. Make the Berry Crumble.  
  13. For the Berry Crumble: 
  14. In a large bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, and salt. Add the butter and work it between your fingers until you have pea-size crumbles. Gently fold in the blueberries.  
  15. To assemble the Vanilla Berry Crumble Cake:  
  16. Fill the pan with batter and then evenly sprinkle the crumble over the top of the batter. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes until a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, and the cake bounces back when lightly pressed. Let the cake sit for 10 minutes before releasing the springform, carefully peel off the parchment paper, slice, and serve. 

Cook’s Note

To get the cake you truly deserve, sift the flour mixture twice to get the flour as aerated and light as possible, or give it a spin with cake flour. If you don't have vanilla beans in your pantry, increase the vanilla extract to 2 tablespoons.