May 07, 2011 | Updated March 03, 2022
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This buttermilk huckleberry cake is as good as it looks, and what’s more, it’s super easy to make and not too sweet.
I have Heidi Swanson of 101 Cookbooks to thank for this recipe. Heidi is not your typical vegetarian, and her cookbook Super Natural Every Day is not your typical vegetarian cooking. Yeah, I know, I am a hunter. I eat meat. But I like my fruits and veggies, too.
I first became aware of Heidi early on in my blogging career, when her stuff would show up in Google searches for the various odd ingredients I like to use: farro, whole oat groats, quinces, black kale, wild mushrooms. Her dishes have always been well-thought out, original, and tasty.
The other place where Heidi’s cooking shines is in her desserts, like this huckleberry cake. I really don’t like overly sweet desserts. And neither does she. Her buttermilk cake is a triumph — mildly sweet, tangy and tart from the fruit toppings. Plus, it will keep at room temperature for 4 days, covered loosely. Big bonus.
You should know that there is virtually no difference between a huckleberry cake and a blueberry cake; the berries are interchangeable. You could also use red huckleberries, too, which would be cool. Currants would also work, as would smaller gooseberries.
I use maple sugar in this cake because it adds a hint of maple, which I like a lot. But maple sugar can be hard to find and expensive, so if you can’t find it, use any brown sugar.
Cake flour makes this huckleberry cake better, but you can use all-purpose. The difference is in the crumb, the tenderness of the cake. Cake flour is, well… cakier.
This cake is prettier when made in a tart pan, but a regular 1 1/2-quart Pyrex or metal loaf pan, which is typically 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 by 2 1/2 inches also works. You can also put this mixture into muffin tins, but I also have a specific huckleberry muffins recipe that might be better for that.
- 2 1/2 cups cake flour (or all-purpose)
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon fine-grained salt
- 2 eggs
- 1 1/2 cups buttermilk, full fat if possible
- 1/4 cup melted butter (not too hot)
- Grated zest of 2 lemons
- 3/4 cup huckleberries or blueberries, fresh or frozen
- 3 tablespoons maple sugar, or turbinado sugar
- Preheat the oven to 400°F and make sure you have a rack near the top of the oven. Heat rises, remember? Butter and flour an 11-inch tart pan with removable bottom or a cake pan and set aside.
- Mix the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in a large bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and eggs. Now, with one hand whisking the mixture, drizzle in the melted butter. You need to do this to keep the heat of the butter from scrambling the eggs.
- Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ones, and mix just to combine. About halfway through the mixing, add the lemon zest and 1/2 cup of the huckleberries. Pour the batter into the pan and make sure it's evenly distributed. Sprinkle the remaining huckleberries over the cake, then the maple sugar.
- Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes clean out of the center of the cake. Gently remove the pan from the oven and set on a rack. Let this sit 5 minutes, then, very gently, pop the bottom up from the pan to free the cake, which will look like a large, flat muffin. If it sticks on the sides of the pan, use a knife to free the cake. Let the cake rest on the rack for 15 minutes before eating.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
We made them as muffins rather then a cake, easier to share that way. They were good but we found it needed more flavor overall, so next time some more lemon zest and maybe some ginger. And we will mix all the huckleberries in instead of adding any on top. With muffins they fell off where with a cake being sliced it made sense to have on top
I spent my childhood traipsing around the Mountains close to CDA, Idaho with my parents, Sisters and Grandparents picking huckleberries. There is no jam or pie like huckleberry!
I now live in British Columbia on Vancover Island on the Wet Coast and I am very happy to tell you that the wild Red Huckleberries grow in many places here including the woods across the street from my house!! we pick every summer and I make jam and it trully is delicious!!
I should be searching for dinner ideas, but my sweet-tooth always derails those plans.
Love this cake. It sounds a lot like my almond-berry cake.
I have to see what this is all about.
Luckily, I have some berries in the fridge and freezer!
I have two baby huckleberry bushes in my yard, one put in this year and one last year. I can’t wait until they’re big enough to put out enough berries for a pie! Maybe if I mix the few this year with the blueberries also in the yard…
Huckleberries! They remind me of Glacier Park in MT every time…
Tamar: Yes, “oo” flour is stronger than cake flour, but more finely milled. I find it to be a really good cake flour though. Easier to work with.
Jessa: Yep, I used frozen huckleberries. And yes, they were still cold when they were tossed into the batter. Not frozen, just cold.
What I remember best about huckleberries is the impenetrable mass of their bushes when trying to run compass courses through old growth redwood forests over on the coast. Those little boat shaped leaves of the branches interlocked like zipper teeth, so it was all but impossible to push through t them At times the bushes were 5 or 5 feet tall and you had to try to walk over the tops of them. And in those days we didn’t have time to sit down and enjoy the berries, either. But boy, are they tasty!
I cannot WAIT until it is huckle season again. CANNOT WAIT. I’m assuming you used frozen here? How’d you keep them from turning the whole darn thing purple? Were they just very cold?
I love Heidi’s previous Super Natural Cooking book – its my go-to for quick, interesting recipes with good flavor and texture. She always seems to get me out of my standard cooking ruts (where I use the same ingredients and flavor combos over and over again). I should probably buy her new one.
Hank — Nice cake! Got a flour question, though. My understanding was that, in the Italian flours, the number was a measure of the fineness, with 00 being finest. But I thought, if it was designated pasta flour, it was high-protein. No?