One of my early food writer heroes was Marjorie Standish, longtime columnist for the Maine Sunday Telegram. In addition to writing for the paper for 25 years, she published several cookbooks highlighting sensible, down-to-earth Maine recipes.
These recipes were often those shared by her readers and Maine households all around the state. I still have the newspaper clipping and will never forget our small town’s excitement when Standish featured my grandmother Hope Wixson’s recipe for Grapenut Pudding. She even included the family “story,” told to her by my aunt, Faith Wixson Varney.
In 1969, Marjorie’s first cookbook, “Cooking Down East,” was published. This wildly popular book of 350 recipes was followed four years later with “Keep Cooking the Maine Way.” In 2010, as a celebration of Maine’s foodie status, Down East Books revamped “Cooking Down East,” which included a foreword by Chef Melissa Kelly, of the acclaimed Primo restaurant in Rockland.
The recipe for Wild Blueberry Cake is based on Standish’s Melt-In-Your-Mouth Blueberry Cake. She gleaned it from a church cookbook, and claims it was the most popular recipe used in her column. After the first bite of this cake, you’ll understand why. It literally does melt in your mouth.
The key to this cake is in the eggs. By separating the yolks from the whites, the sugar is delivered to your palate in two different ways. Creaming the butter, sugar and egg yolks gives this cake a delicate “crumb” or texture. Beating the whites until stiff with sugar and then folding the mixture into the cake batter distributes tiny grains of sugar throughout the cake … they literally melt on your tongue. And this allows the flavor of the wild blueberries to really shine.
Mrs. Standish wrote: “Maine cooking is a way of life. It is evident as you use these recipes. You will find all kinds: they came from our family and they from yours. If you felt proud enough of your family recipes to share them in my column, then they have deep meaning for all of us … It is like opening a treasure chest to share a recipe.”
What’s in your treasure chest?
Cheryl Wixson lives and cooks in Stonington. She welcomes questions and comments at [email protected]
Wild Blueberry Cake
2 eggs, separated
1 cup sugar (separated into ¼ cup and ¾ cup)
½ cup butter at room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla
1½ cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/3 cup milk
1½ cups fresh wild Maine blueberries
Assemble ingredients and tools. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour an 8 by 8-inch pan.
Separate the eggs. In a small bowl, beat the whites until stiff. Beat in ¼ cup sugar. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, dust the wild blueberries with a bit of flour so they won’t settle in the batter. Set aside.
In the bowl of your mixer, cream the butter with the vanilla. Gradually beat in the remaining ¾ cup sugar. Add the egg yolks and beat until light. Sift the flour and baking powder together and add to the mixture alternately with the milk. Fold in the beaten egg whites. Fold in the wild blueberries.
Turn into a greased 8-by-8-inch pan. Sprinkle the top of the batter lightly with sugar. Bake at 350 degrees F until a toothpick comes out clean, about 45-50 minutes.
Nutritional analysis per serving: 289 calories, 4 grams protein, 41 grams carbohydrates, 12 grams fat, 124 mg. sodium, 1 gram fiber.