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Hello, Discomfort! | Blueberry Almond Cake

Blueberry Almond Cake | Delightful Crumb

Hello from Chicago, and from the uncomfortable in between! Moving, my friends, is no small feat, though any of you who’ve moved know that already. And, yes, I knew that, too, but it doesn’t make it easier, I’m sorry to say.

We’re on the other side of what, to me, are the hardest parts: all of the goodbyes and “lasts” back in our old city, the wait while all of our belongings made their way across the country in a moving container, carrying those precious belongings up the narrow back steps of our new building, cleaning an apartment that one might (reasonably?!) have hoped would already have been plenty clean, figuring out what doesn’t fit in a new space (i.e., the totally normal-sized bed frame), buying the replacements for both this and everything I gave away or tossed back in Oakland, trying not to dwell on all of the money a move requires, that short but awful moment when nothing feels familiar. Being past all that is a relief—but the challenges of arriving are far from over. While I’m now in possession of a Chicago library card and have found a good cafe for working, a nice coffee shop and a running route, I’m still scouting out the grocery stores and farmers’ markets. I don’t have a favorite restaurant or a church or a place where they know my name. I have, like, two friends. And I can’t for the life of me find great lighting for food photos in this apartment.

If I’ve realized anything this month, it’s about the last move, not this one. The transition to Oakland was so hard, and while I theoretically had a good handle on why, I’m realizing now that I never forgave myself for struggling as much as I did. I should have been able to handle it, right?! I can do hard things! But here I am, seven years older, married for seven years (vs. zero!), with plenty of therapy under my belt and a sense of the challenges of a big, cross-country move . . . and it’s still hard! Also, a lot of genuinely bad things happened during and right after that move: the job searching, the mugging, the health scare, etc. Of course it was hard. Of course I fell apart. I finally am extending grace to twenty-five-year-old me. Now I just need to work on grace for thirty-two-year-old me—who I am sure I’ll likewise understand better in retrospect.

I find myself feeling very ready for fall. For one, I’ve been waiting a mighty long time for a proper autumn season. Crisp air! Scarves! Tights! A physiological reason for warming stews! But it’s obviously more than that. I’m ready to be past this summer, the one in which we wrestled with the question of whether or not to move, made our decision, broke our own hearts, said goodbyes, moved out, moved in, started over. I would like to be on the other side, with art on the walls and enough friends for a dinner party.

Yet I know enough to try, at least, to appreciate the moment, however uncomfortable and awkward I might find it. Grace Bonney recently quoted advice she received from an older woman about her own season of transition. This woman called it “the juiciest time,” which I love, and told Grace, Don’t rush through it. The freedom of the unknown is something you’ll come to enjoy more as you get older. There are people, I hear, for whom this comes easily, even people who are not “older”; I just happen to not be one of them. But I know it’s true. I know it’s a rich and fleeting window.

And if I squint hard enough, I can almost see it: the possibility and hope for all that might happen for this girl who lives in Chicago. After all, how could I have imagined everything that unfolded in the Bay Area? In the first months after that move, as one thing after another didn’t go as I’d hoped, a happy, full life felt impossible. This time, I have some proof—because things did work out, good emerged even from the bad, life offered up its magic. As it always does.

Furthermore, it’s still August, and there are peaches and tomatoes and corn and blueberries to boot. Blueberries had come and gone in the Bay, but they seem to still be abundant here—a little bonus, like those extra hours you gain when you cross the right time zones. So here is a favorite cake, delicious there, delicious here, captured in imperfect light and comforting indeed.

Blueberry Cake with Almond & Cinnamon

Very slightly adapted from Alison Roman‘s excellent Dining In

This cake is intended to be reminiscent of a muffin top, which it achieves, delightfully. It is nutty and yet light, with a comforting kick of cinnamon. Beating the batter for an extended amount of time gives the cake its lift, but don’t go beyond the time allotted or it might get too tall for the tart pan (no need to worry about this if you use a traditional cake pan).

Blueberry Almond Cake | Delightful Crumb

1 cup (100 g) almond flour

3/4 cup (90 g) all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

3/4 cup (170 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus additional

1/2 cup (105 g) light brown sugar

1/4 cup (50 g) plus 3 tablespoons (approx. 40 g) cane sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Scant 2 cups blueberries

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter a 9-inch fluted tart pan or round cake pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients: the flours, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.

Using an electric or stand mixer, beat together the butter, brown sugar and 1/4 cup of the cane sugar on medium-high speed until the mixture is super light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

Scrape down the sides of the bowl. With the mixer on medium, add the eggs one at a time, beating until combined after each, and then add the vanilla. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the mixture is pale and nearly doubled in volume, about 4 minutes.

Fold in the almond mixture until no dry spots remain. Gently add 1 1/2 cup of the blueberries, mixing by hand.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and, using an offset spatula, smooth the top. Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup blueberries and 3 tablespoons sugar on top. Bake until the cake is deeply golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes. It should start to crackle on the top, and a knife inserted in the center should come out clean.

Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool before slicing and serving. It will keep well, tightly wrapped, for several days.

Note: I’m aware that there’s something wrong with the comment function on my site right now—I’m working on getting to the bottom of it! Thanks for putting up with the lo-fi nature of this humble blog in the meantime.

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