Old-Fashioned Blueberry Cake Recipe

An old-fashioned blueberry cake sweetened with molasses adapted from a reader submitted recipe to the July 1974 issue of Gourmet Magazine - rustic, dark as chocolate, tender, and punctuated with lots of tiny pockets of oozy, magenta berry flesh.

Old-Fashioned Blueberry Cake

This inspiration for today's recipe came from a July 1974 issue of Gourmet Magazine. I sometimes come across vintage piles of Gourmet at yard sales, or on eBay, and can't help but buy them. This particular issue featured a lake-side picnic setting on the cover and originally cost seventy-five cents. On page two there was an old-fashioned blueberry cake recipe submitted by reader Patricia Michaelson that caught my attention. It was a simple cake sweetened with blueberries and molasses. That's it. Many cakes use a cup or two of sugar, so I was intrigued and curious...and a touch skeptical. And butter? Not much at all - also peculiar. The resulting cake was rustic, dark as chocolate, tender, punctuated with lots of tiny pockets of oozy berry flesh, and flavored with a dramatic molasses undercurrent.

blueberry cake recipe

I made a few changes to the original recipe, and rewrote it from the ground up for you. It is important to use the right type of molasses - unsulphered, preferably organic. I'll link to the brand I buy most often here, and in the ingredient list. If you aren't sure, taste your molasses - it should taste good. Strong but good. And while we're on the topic, it should be said, if you aren't a fan of molasses, this cake isn't for you. The molasses and blueberry flavors melded together beautifully in a not-too-sweet, sophisticated way - but I quite like molasses. On the berry front, use the sweetest berries you can get your hands on. If you come across great berries, stock up. A lot of times I'll buy fresh berries, set aside some to eat, and then freeze the rest (to use in a cake list this). And one last note - although I dusted the top of the cake this time with powdered sugar, I think the way to go next time is with a big dollop of sweetened freshly whipped cream (or both!).

Thank you Patricia Michaelson of Scituate, Massachusetts. We very much enjoyed your cake, and I look forward to making it again soon.

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Old-Fashioned Blueberry Cake Recipe

For those of you who want to use a whole grain flour here, I think I'd start by trying a 50/50 blend - half whole wheat pastry flour, half unbleached all-purpose flour. If you have a very fine, powdery soft whole wheat pastry flour, you might be able to get away with using it for 100% of the flour, but some of the whole wheat pastry flour has ragged, rustic texture that might be a problem here.

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt

1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar
5 tablespoons milk (divided)
1/2 cup unsulphered molasses
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, barely melted

1 1/2 cups blueberries, frozen (I freeze fresh berries)
1 teaspoon flour

Serve with a sprinkling of powdered sugar (optional), or a big dollop of sweetened freshly whipped cream

Preheat your oven to 350F degrees. Butter and flour a 9-inch round cake pan (or equivalent).

In a large bowl sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

In a small bowl whisk together the cider vinegar with 3 tablespoons of the milk. In another bowl whisk the molasses with the remaining 2 tablespoons of milk. Whisk the cider vinegar mixture into the molasses mixture, then whisk in the eggs.

Pour the wet ingredients over the dry and stir until just barely combined. Stir in the butter. Toss the blueberries with 1 teaspoon of flour and fold them into the batter.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about thirty minutes or until a toothpick poked into the center comes out clean. Let cool for a few minutes and then serve sprinkled with powdered sugar, or with a dollop of whipped cream on the side. We just enjoyed this cake served straight out of the pan, but you can turn it out if you like.

Serves 8 - 10.

Prep time: 10 minutes - Cook time: 30 minutes

If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!

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1 1/2 cups of blueberries and molasses, mmmmm boy that sounds good! I don't use molasses much, except taking blackstrap molasses for iron. I suppose I could bake with it too...but the flavor is intense!

Michelle @ Find Your Balance

I love less-sweet desserts. I love the taste of the fresh fruit to shine through. Thank you for always sharing recipes rooted in the earth. -Michaela

The Gardener's Eden

This looks great, Heidi! I adore blackstrap molasses too, and it has so many nutrients. Any suggestions for converting the flour to gluten-free? I'd prefer whole-grain or non-grain (almond, coconut) flours, if possible. I plan on also making this dairy-free by using a dairy-sub (So Delicious coconut milk, intended for drinking straight). Thanks! HS: I'm not sure off-hand about doing a GF version, but if any of you experiments with a version that you really like please report back.


Heidi, I cannot wait to make this. I love molasses and am always looking for recipes that feature it but don't have loads of sugar. Thank you so much for sharing!

Kylie of Thin Crust, Deep Dish

I still have a large bag of blueberries in my freezer and I have been collecting ideas for what to use them in. I may have to give this a try!

The Cooking Bride

Oh, wow. I love molasses-sweetened desserts, they have so much character. Molasses and blueberries are a new combination to me--I can't wait to try it!

dragonfly pie

I didn't even know that Gourmet has been around that long! How fun. I love the fact that this cake it sweetened only with molasses. It looks delicious.

Erica from Cooking for Seven

This reminds me of my grandmother's blueberry gingerbread - it's a very old recipe (and one I'm making this weekend! Yum!).


Heidi, this cake looks gorgeous. I'm off to hunt for the ingredients - I definitely want to make this soon!


Very interesting. I like the idea of molasses and blueberries together. I will have to try this!


I love the story behind your discovery of this recipe, and the cake looks delicious. I almost always sub in alternatives (agave nectar, maple syrup, honey etc.) for refined sugar when following recipes, so obviously I'm excited that this cake recipe calls for molasses instead of white sugar. Lovely!


I love the idea of this cake. The next time I get some blueberries I will make it.

George & Culinary Travels

I love the idea of this cake. The next time I get some blueberries I will make it.

George & Culinary Travels

beautiful! a masterpiece...as usual :) sounds like an interesting recipe..so original. xo maya


I love it! It makes me remember my grandma's cake thanks fra


Lovely Heidi! Sounds like an interesting flavor combination, I bet it was tasty! I'll have to try and adapt it to be gluten-free/dairy-free. Thanks! -Ali :)


my ww pastry flour is ragged... can i sift it? HS: That certainly might help....if you give it a go, and like how it turns out, let us know!


I'm completely intrigued by this recipe! I am a huge fan of molasses but I've never paired it with blueberries before. Any by the way, I used your "How to Make Gnocchi like an Italian Grandmother" recipe to make gnocchi for the first time the other day, and it was fabulous. Thank you for such a great recipe!


Beautiful! I love very lightly sweetened baked goods. I'll have to try and adapt this to gluten-free.


Wow - that looks fantastic. Definitely giving it a try this weekend.


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