I was first drawn to this recipe, because, well, who could resist something called sugar cake. It reminds me of the great classic song “Tea for Two,” the Ella Fitzgerald version is on my kitchen playlist. “Day will break and I will wake, and start to bake a sugar cake, for you to take for all the boys to see.”
Recipes for sugar cake are scattered through community cookbooks, mostly a version called Moravian Sugar Cake, which involves yeast. But I came across this simple version and had to try it. It is dense and tender and beautifully yellow, with that thick, chewy crust so perfect on a moist loaf cake. I sprinkle the top with sugar to create a crackly sweet bite.
Simple cakes like this are the perfect vehicle for summer’s fresh berries. A simple tumble of blueberries with some lightly sweet whipped cream would be lovely, but I love pulling together the fruit and herbs of summer. This basil-scented blueberry compote is not too sweet, and lets the flavor of the berries really shine.
Sugar cake with blueberry-basil compote
For the sugar cake:
3 large eggs
1-1/2 cups white sugar, plus more for sprinkling
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9- by 5-inch loaf pan generously.
2. Beat the eggs in the bowl of an electric mixer until lemon yellow, then add the sugar and beat until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the flour, baking powder and salt alternately with the cream, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla until you have a smooth, thick batter. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Sprinkle about 1 tablespoon sugar evenly over the top of the batter.
3. Bake the cake for 50 minutes to an hour, until a tester inserted in the center comes out with a few crumbs clinging to it. Cover the top loosely with foil when it starts to brown. Cool the cake in the pan
For the blueberry basil compote:
1 pint of blueberries, washed and stemmed
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon lemon juice
5 to 6 basil leaves (attached to the stem is easiest).
1. Place the blueberries, honey and lemon juice in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir well, and cook until the berries are soft, about 5 minutes, stirring often.
2. Mash the berries with a fork and cook until the compote is thickened and reduced. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the basil leaves.
3. Leave to cool, then remove the basil leaves. Refrigerate the compote until ready to use. It will keep for 3 days in the fridge.