A dairy-free coffee cake loaded with blueberries, almond flavour and a subtle hint of orange
It’s not quite blueberry picking season here in Quebec; that activity usually begins in August, but we like to plan ahead. Having experienced days under the hot sun, with legs stiff from squatting down for hours plucking berries off of low bushes, we know that it can be exhilarating, but overwhelming to face baskets of blueberries, with no clear idea what to do with them all. This blueberry almond cake is one delicious option.
Canada is the world’s largest producer of low-bush or wild blueberries, and Quebec is one of the four provinces where wild blueberries are most abundant (the other provinces being Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island). Wild blueberries differ from those which are cultivated in a number of ways. They are smaller (and thus, more adorable), and have a more intense sweet and tangy taste. Coming up with ways to enjoy this powerhouse of a fruit is always fun! You can read more about Canadian wild blueberries here.
Although we used fresh blueberries in this recipe, sometimes fresh blueberries, especially out of season, are not ideal. If that’s the case you can always turn to the reliable frozen blueberry. This is perfectly fine! In fact, sometimes it is even better. Particularly if you are hoping to use the wild blueberries in your cake, they are usually available frozen year round (We do have some helpful hints about using frozen blueberries listed below).
We love the flavour that the pure almond extract gives to this cake, and using orange juice as the liquid (instead of milk) and vegetable oil as the fat (instead of butter), we keep this cake dairy free. At the same time, the orange juice gives this blueberry and almond cake a subtle hint of citrus, and the vegetable oil contributes to a tender and moist crumb; we almost always prefer baking cakes with oil as opposed to butter. Sometimes we opt for the deep richness of olive oil, as in our marble cake, and other times we use a lighter flavoured vegetable oil as we do here.
We refer to this blueberry almond cake as a coffee cake, because it goes beautifully with a cup of coffee (maybe a Greek coffee, or a cold frappé). This cake is a delicious way to enjoy breakfast, and would be a lovely addition to a brunch. But, you can also think of this cake as a snacking cake, because it makes an equally good after-school, after-work, after-the-gym, after-trying-hard-to-resist-snacking-and-finally-giving-up-because-life-is-too-short snack. Enjoy the burst of blueberry goodness!
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Why do we toss the blueberries in flour before adding them to the batter?
The light coating of flour will absorb some of the liquid from the blueberries, making it less likely that they will sink to the bottom of your cake. This way, you will have evenly distributed blueberries in the top, middle and bottom of each slice! This is a good tip to keep in mind whenever you are adding fruit to your cakes. We have also suggested doing this with the cranberries in our recipe for orange and cranberry olive oil cake.
Can I use frozen blueberries instead of fresh blueberries?
Absolutely! If you do, you may want to toss them with more than 1 – 2 tablespoons of the flour however, as the frozen berries will have more liquid in them. We would suggest tossing the frozen blueberries with about 1/4 cup of your flour to ensure thorough coating. Remember, all the flour will end up in your batter anyways, so even if you have some flour left at the bottom of the bowl of blueberries, it will end up in your cake.
If I use frozen blueberries, should I defrost them first?
No. Best to use the blueberries straight out of the freezer. If you let them defrost for any length of time the colour will bleed into your batter. Not the worst thing that could happen, but it makes for a prettier cake if the colour stays in the blueberry!
What is pure almond extract, and do I really need it in this recipe?
Most pure almond extract is made from bitter almond oil and ethyl, a flavourless alcohol. Its purpose is to give an almond flavour to baked goods. So, not using it will not ruin your cake; it will still bake up beautifully. However, it won’t have the delicious almond flavour that goes so well with the blueberries. If you decide to omit it, you can use and equal amount of vanilla extract instead.
If someone has a nut allergy, can they have this cake?
Please no! Although some almond extracts are fine for people with nut allergies, we would sleep much better if we knew that you were serving your nut-allergic friends something else, like maybe this amazing double chocolate zucchini cake!
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Blueberry almond cake
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 cups fresh (or frozen) blueberries
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup sugar
- 3/4 cup vegetable oil (or canola oil)
- 1 tsp pure almond extract
- 1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
- icing sugar for dusting
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Wash your blueberries and pick out any berries that are shrivelled, and pull off any stems. Drain your blueberries and then toss them with 1 or 2 tablespoons of the all-purpose flour to coat. Set aside. (If you are using frozen blueberries, set aside 1/4 cup of your all-purpose flour and use that to toss with your blueberries to coat. However, do this later as you want to keep your blueberries frozen until just before adding them to your batter)
- Take the remaining flour and add in the baking powder, baking soda and salt. Whisk until well combined and set aside.
- In the bowl of your stand mixer (or in another large bowl if you will be using a hand held mixer) combine the eggs with the sugar. Beat at medium speed for 3 - 5 minutes until the mixture is a pale yellow colour. Slowly add in the oil and the almond extract. Beat until well combined.
- With the mixer speed set to low, slowly add in half of the flour mixture. Then, add in 1/2 of the orange juice. Once everything is incorporated, add the rest of the flour, and then the rest of the orange juice. Mix until just well combined.
- Pour the blueberries into the batter and using a wooden spoon or a rubber spatula mix the berries into the batter; be careful not to break your blueberries apart. Be sure to add in any of the loose flour which remains in your bowl; you need the entire 2 1/2 cups flour in your batter.
- Grease a 9 inch round cake pan with some vegetable oil and line the bottom with some parchment paper. Pour the batter into the pan.
- Bake your cake in the center of your oven for 50 - 60 minutes, depending upon your oven. Your cake is ready when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
- Remove cake from the oven and allow it to cool in the pan for approximately 5 minutes. Remove from pan and allow to cool completely on a baking rack.
- Dust with icing sugar and serve.