Picnics, for me, have traditionally meant the semiannual, church-wide affairs that passed off at a suburban metro park in my hometown. Your complete congregation from my Korean church, younger and previous, would arrange camp within the grass and spend the day socializing and having fun with nature. As a substitute of cheese, charcuterie, or sandwiches, you’d discover a (largely) Korean feast: rice, bulgogi, kimchi, fish fritters, and the like, with the occasional catered hen tenders thrown in for good measure.
At these bountiful out of doors meals, slices of juicy watermelon served as dessert — conventional sweets have been by no means very prevalent at all-church gatherings. Whereas the fruit was all the time a welcome (and thirst-quenching) end, recollections of it lately bought me considering: what would a picnic cake appear like, if it existed? Whereas a picnic-specific cake didn’t convey up any speedy associations, it nonetheless implied a deal with that was straightforward to move and eat, and never laden with wealthy, meltable frosting. That gave me a hunch about the place to begin: cornbread. Although it’s usually eaten alongside savory meals, its potential as a center-stage dessert appeared promising: Amongst different virtues, it has a novel crumb, a contact of sweetness, the flexibility to carry up properly to journey, and powerful summertime vibes.
If cornbread have been to get a glow-up, I’m satisfied that this blueberry-balsamic-glazed cornbread cake can be the consequence. I used honey to bump up the cake’s sweetness and bitter cream for a tender however not-too-moist texture, and mixed yellow cornmeal with all-purpose flour to echo cornbread’s attribute chew. Although I initially tried to include entire blueberries into the cake, they simply sank, no matter whether or not I dusted them with flour pre-bake or sprinkled them on high midway via baking (womp womp). Finally, a lightweight bulb went on: Why use entire berries when you possibly can simply mash them to make a glaze? This allowed me to maintain blueberries a (seen) a part of the cake whereas avoiding any points with sinking fruit. Though the purple-hued glaze doesn’t contribute a lot depth of taste, it provides the cake a playful pop of colour.
Whereas I’ve all the time considered cornbread as a (extremely fascinating) dinner facet, this cake has satisfied me it’s arguably even higher in dessert type. Like its inspiration, it’s informal and acquainted. However don’t let its simplicity idiot you. Minimize into squares, it’s exhausting to cease consuming — it’s candy and hearty however not cloying or heavy, and has a tender however structured texture. It’s additionally secure and straightforward to move: You received’t be battling shifting layers and melting frosting. In different phrases, it is a picnic cake, one which captures the essence of summer time and proves that dessert is usually just a few scrumptious tweaks away.
Cornbread Cake with Blueberry-Balsamic Glaze
Makes one 8-by-8-inch cake
For the cake:
¾ cup (105 grams) all-purpose flour
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons (55 grams) yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 stick (113 grams) unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup (150 grams) granulated sugar
2 teaspoons honey
2 giant eggs, at room temperature
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons entire milk, at room temperature
⅓ cup (80 grams) full-fat bitter cream, at room temperature
For the glaze:
¼ cup recent blueberries
¼ teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 cup (120 grams) powdered sugar (spooned into the measuring cup and leveled off), plus extra as wanted
Step 1: Preheat the oven to 350 levels. Flippantly grease an 8-by-8-inch sq. cake pan with nonstick cooking spray. Line the underside with parchment paper, leaving a two-inch overhang on the perimeters (to make it simpler to take away the cake after baking), and grease the parchment.
Step 2: In a medium bowl, whisk collectively the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Put aside.
Step 3: In a big bowl, beat the butter with an electrical hand mixer or in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment till clean. Add the sugar and honey and cream the combination till gentle and fluffy, 2 to three minutes. Scrape down the bowl with a rubber spatula.
Step 4: Beat within the eggs separately, scraping the bowl after every addition, then beat within the vanilla.
Step 5: Add half of the dry elements to the egg combination and beat simply till mixed. Rigorously beat within the milk and bitter cream, then beat in the remainder of the dry elements simply till the batter is clean.
Step 6: Switch the batter into the ready pan and clean the floor with a small offset spatula. Bake the cake for 30 to 35 minutes, rotating the pan midway via, till golden brown and a toothpick inserted within the heart comes out clear.
Step 7: Let the cake cool for quarter-hour, then gently run a small offset spatula across the edges to loosen. Utilizing the parchment sling to help, switch the cake to a cooling rack.
Step 8: Make the glaze: Completely mash the blueberries in a medium bowl with the again of a giant spoon. Let the berries sit for a minute, permitting the juices to build up. Add balsamic vinegar, powdered sugar, and some pinches of salt to the bowl and whisk till clean; it can ultimately come collectively. The consistency of the glaze ought to be pourable however not overly runny — if wanted, add extra powdered sugar, a tablespoon at a time.
Step 9: Line your workspace with a sheet of parchment, wax paper, or plastic wrap, or set out a rimmed baking sheet (any of those choices makes for simpler cleanup later). When the cake is totally cool, set the cooling rack (with the cake on it) over the parchment or baking sheet. Pour the glaze over the cake, spreading it to the perimeters and letting it run down the perimeters as desired. Enable the glaze to set fully earlier than slicing and serving.
Pleasure Cho is a pastry chef and freelance author primarily based in Brooklyn. After dropping her pastry prepare dinner job initially of the pandemic, Pleasure launched Pleasure Cho Pastry, an Instagram enterprise via which she sells her gem muffins to the New York Metropolis space.
Celeste Noche is a Filipino American meals, journey, and portrait photographer primarily based between Portland, Oregon, and San Francisco.
Recipe examined by Deena Prichep