Most of my pastoral kitchen fantasies involve distressed wood and cast-iron skillets. Of course, the benefits of cast iron are many: it’s not potentially toxic like some nonstick cookware, it can go from stove to oven faster than you can say lickety-split, and—perhaps most importantly—it quietly emanates that farmhouse aesthetic that keeps me running to magazines like Southern Living whenever I want to redecorate my kitchen.
For mainly this last reason, I capitalize on any opportunity to bake in my cast-iron skillet. Cornbread? Sure. Giant cookie? Let’s try it. Cornmeal skillet cake? I think we’re on to something here. I first adapted this recipe, lovingly, from Joy the Baker, and she tops hers with a lemon glaze that I am sure is delicious. I’ve chosen instead to soak mine with blueberry simple syrup because it becomes somewhat reminiscent of a fruity tres leches. Plus the cake’s distinctive marbling appeals to my inner country mouse.
Micah says this is his favorite cake that I’ve ever made for him, and, while he is occasionally prone to hyperbole where food’s concerned (more of a “love the cake you’re with” kind of vibe), I’m inclined to believe him because there’s never any left.
If you don’t have a cast-iron skillet, you could easily bake this in a 9” greased cake pan. You could serve it with ice cream or whipped cream, by itself or by yourself, at the fabulous party you throw to unveil the new downtown-meets-no-town-upscale-casual-rustic-farmhouse-chic remodeled kitchen of your dreams. Send the pics to Southern Living. If you play your cake right, I bet you could make the centerfold.
- 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup water
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- Place all ingredients in a heavy-bottomed sauce pan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
- Once boiling, reduce the heat and keep the mixture simmering until blueberries have burst.
- Strain the blueberry syrup over a sieve into a bowl.
- 1⅓ cups flour
- ½ cup cornmeal
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- 3 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- zest of one lemon
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 large eggs
- ½ cup butter, browned and cooled
- Place a rack in the center of your oven and preheat to 350F. In a 9” cast-iron skillet over medium heat, melt ½ cup butter until browned and fragrant. You’ll know the butter is browned when it begins to smell nutty and brown bits are visible on the bottom of the skillet.
- Grab the skillet handle with an oven mitt or kitchen towel and tilt the skillet to grease its sides. Remove the butter to a small dish to cool while you prep the remainder of the ingredients.
- In a small bowl, zest one lemon into ½ cup of granulated sugar. Incorporating the zest into the sugar will allow the oils to distribute evenly and further enrich the lemon flavor of your cake.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the granulated sugar and remaining top six dry ingredients. In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, cream, and browned butter. If the butter has not yet cooled completely, add it slowly so as not to scramble the eggs.
- Fold the wet ingredients into the dry until just combined. Do not over mix as this will make for the most tender crumb.
- Bake for approximately 30 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the cake center comes out clean.
- Remove the cake to the counter to cool slightly before puncturing intermittently with the tines of a fork. Pour ½ cup blueberry simple syrup over the cake and serve with ice cream or desired accompaniments.