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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Oh my…..so nice nice nice blog & lovely pic's! Agneta from Sweden


Okay...this I am making!!!!!


I am so glad I have found your blog! My husband and I moved to Japan a few weeks ago so I will try my best to find ingredients, or incorporate what we have here, but at least reading your recipes makes me think of home. Thank you for a beautiful blog! HS: What an adventure Lindsey - have a great time in Japan. I can't wait to go back there.


Amazing recipe. Cakey cakeyness + blueberries could only be a recipe for sweet success.

Meghan (Making Love In The Kitchen

Well, I'm eating this straight out of the oven right now, and I think it's fantastic. Thanks for another wonderful recipe!! I used some old frozen blueberries in the freezer (I was too impatient to freeze some fresh ones) and it's still great - with really good blueberries, I'm sure it'd be even better. Other details: I made this vegan by using egg replacer, soymilk, and Smart Balance vegan margarine. In addition, I used slightly less than a half cup of molasses (I used agave for the remainder of the half cup), though if I made it again, I think I might just do molasses. I was worried because my molasses is really strong, but it doesn't overpower the cake at all. I'll try it with whole wheat pastry flour, which is my standard baking flour, next time. Thanks again!


I will have to give this recipe a try. Thanks for the great blog.

Brian Robertson

Heidi, I made this cake and it turned out great! BUT, the only prob was that the color came out totally diff than yours. My cake was much lighter, light brown rather than the dark brown yours had. Do you know why? Thanks! HS: Hi Jennifer, what brand of molasses did you use? I suspect that might be the variable - but I'm glad it turned out, and you liked it regardless.


Have you considered opening a restaurant? Just wondering.... HS: It's funny, I get asked that question quite a lot! No plans for that sort of thing anytime soon.


YUM!! I've got all the ingredients...might even try to make it tonight!!


I just made the chocolate zucchini muffin recipe (I have two very large zucchs from the garden I need to use!) posted in 2005. They're incredible! So chocolatey, and not too sweet. Delicious and creative. Thank you!


I loved the tender taste and fine texture . It taste even better than it looks in the picture. I highly recommend it. I followed every step given in the receipe with the exception of fresh blueberries and I suspect that may have made it more moist . Cheers!


Of all the berries, blueberries are my least favorite; however this recipe looks good. I wonder if other berries (raspberries, blackberries, etc.) or other fruits (say preserved peaches or pears, or even frozen strawberries) could be used.


my boyfriend always makes this! It's a traditional recipe for his family. I LOVE it, but he also serves it with a really simple vanilla sauce/syrup thing that makes it EVEN BETTER if that's possible.


This looks interesting! Is something that you could serve for breakfast or a brunch. I like that fact that it doesn't seem too sweet.


just made these this morning w/ 1/2 white whole wheat flour and 1/2 unbleached white flour. they are yummy -- and i baked them in mini muffin tins for my 2 year old. she liked them. to the person who mentioned swapping agave for the molasses, i often mix 1/2 agave or maple syrup with molasses as a substitute for brown sugar in quick breads and muffins.


This is destiny: I need to bring a dessert to a potluck tonight. I've had such great luck with 101 recipes that I knew I'd come here for tonight's delicacy. Gourmet Magazine taught me how to cook (I recently gave away all my old copies). I grew up in beautiful Scituate, Mass and left after graduating in 1975. Didn't know Patricia though. Can't wait to try this one.


Hi Heidi Thanks for another intriguing recipe. I love blueberries and molasses but hadn't thought to combine them before. I have made the cake twice and the first time I followed the recip religiously. I found the flavour pleasant but somehow lacking (it was all base notes if you know what I mean, and I wanted something more warming and volatile in the aroma). So the next time I added some ground ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg - just a dash of each - and I found it more balanced. It is winter here now, and cold and damp, so I crave warming spice in my food. I love the fact that this is not a sugary sweet cake. I served it with a lovely organic yoghurt sweetened with a touch of honey - Beautiful!


looks very nice i will try

sanjeev kumar

hi heidi, i have been an avid fan of so many of your recipes.. this looks incredible! i am vegan, so i will try to veganize this cake. thanks for the inspiration and great recipes!


I froze blueberries when I got them at a bargain and I am waiting for my next off day to try out this recipe. Thank you very much.


Rustic, not-too-sweet desserts are my favorite! I also stock up on blueberries and freeze the extras...so I can't wait to put them to good use. Thanks!

Michelle @ porktopurslane

I am a sucker for vintage food magazines and cookbooks, too. I pick them up when I can. It looks like you baked this in a vintage pyrex, too. Love those. I thought I was ahead of the blueberry game this year and froze an obscene amount...I've used them all. I can't help myself when it comes to blueberries.

Amy Green - Simply Sugar & Gluten-Free

I am a sucker for vintage food magazines and cookbooks, too. I pick them up when I can. It looks like you baked this in a vintage pyrex, too. Love those. I thought I was ahead of the blueberry game this year and froze an obscene amount...I've used them all. I can't help myself when it comes to blueberries.

Amy Green - Simply Sugar & Gluten-Free

That's it! I can't take it anymore. I'm buying the ingredients that I don't already have on hand and I'm making this fantastic recipe this weekend. You had me at "blueberry". Thank you!

Carlo/Carlo At Your Service Productions

I just made this cake and it was delicious! so rich, the intensity of the molasses with the sweetness of the blueberries is perfect. I usually strongly dislike cake because its often dry and too sugary, but this was not "cakey" at all - super super moist. next time I might experiment with adding ginger ... or maybe some lemon too... Thank you so much for the recipe!


I have been making this Blueberry Cake from the original Gourmet recipe since July 1974. It is FABULOUS and is always a BIG hit. Try adding ginger to the recipe ~ either candied ginger minced or a tsp. dry powdered - adds additional excitement.

Janis Diner Brinley

wow, this sounds really lovely. can't wait to try.


It's blueberry season....how could I not give this one a try. BUT with the Swanson sweet tooth there has to be frosting or at least powdered sugar!.


How perfect! I just walked in the door with a huge bag of fresh blueberries which are at their peak here in British Columbia. Thanks Heidi.


For the person looking for molasses you might look for tins of treacle. I think this is actually moslasses.I seem to remember this along with tins of Tate and Lyle Syrup and I know a neighbour of ours in Ireland used to make soda bread with treacle.


Oh, I am so going to try this next week.


Heidi, I also live halfway around the world from you and the only molasses we have is crude,sold in large drums for animal feed. Is there really no adequate substutution? How about golden syrup? The recipe appeals to me and I would like to try it.


This looks fantastic. I love blueberries. Thanks for sharing the recipe!


What do you think of using Steen's Cane Syrup instead of molasses?


This looks great and I love molasses. I was wondering if molasses can be used instead of maple syrup in your basic chocolate cake recipe? I am a little worried that sweetening with maple syrup will make everything remind me of pancakes. ;)


I love blueberries! This looks great.

Mexican food

My Mom is Pennsylvania Dutch, and made a Shoofly pie that was rich and sticky with Molasses. Then she made gingerbread houses at Christmas to sell so her ten children could get a little "something something" for Christmas. This recipe looks wonderful, and I really appreciate ingredients like Blueberries that are in season, and low sugar and fat recipes. Thanks Heidi!


Looks delicious! We are in Maine for a few days and just bought a quart of those beautiful, tiny wild Maine blueberries. I will be trying this as soon as I get home as an alternative to my usual sugar and butter laden cake...I love molasses so this version sounds great to me.


Heidi - This looks awesome! My heart broke a little when I saw there was no chocolate in it (the picture is misleading!) do you think adding a little cocoa powder would taste bad? I have tried chocolate with molasses but its sounds good to me, what do you think?


This is so interesting...I don't think I would naturally want to pair blueberries and molasses together, but you've made it sound, and look, so great. I, too, love hunting for vintage food magazines and some of the recipes are just so good...

Mixing Bowl Mama

I don't think I'll ever walk by an old food mag at a yard sale again. Thanks for sharing a great recipe.


I just picked blueberries. I don't have white flour, but can grind my ww pastry flour on the finer side. Have to try this. Thank you.


It's fitting that the recipe came from Scituate. It's a very old town (1627), and both molasses and blueberries are traditional New England baking ingredients. Patricia Michaelson was a well-known local artist who died in 1990. Here's a nice snapshot of her from an article in the Boston Globe: "Artist Patricia Michaelson was a quiet, understated woman whose peaceful blue eyes would peer out through large-frame glasses and see brilliant colors that could transform an ordinary landscape, still life or portrait. Never one to chase fame or fortune, she approached art with her heart. "Art isn't something I do. It's something I am. I have no desire to be famous, whatever that means. I'd just like to make art -- do wonderful paintings[.]" I love how recipes connect people across time and geography. HS: Thanks for this bit of insight Rosalie - she sounds like and amazing person.


Two of my favorite things - blueberries and cake! Can't wait to try it. (ad so glad I found this site!)


This sounds enticing! Blueberries & molasses...two long time favorites. My grandfather lived the life of a dairy farmer & custom blended his own mixture of feed for his herd which included molasses...I spent my childhood picking out & eating the bits of molasses whenever I could get away with it. I'm making this today.



My Food and Life Encounters

Oops, ignore my comment. When I clicked on "read more" it took me to your site. I guess it's some kind of blog-recipe-gathering 'bot.

Lucy T.

I sure appreciate you posting this recipe. I love molasses and have a really hard time finding recipes for it's use. Can't wait to try it!


I was curious if I could find the original recipe online, and found this link when I was googling. http://www.choicecooking-recipes.com/2009/08/27/old-fashioned-blueberry-cake/ Is it kosher for it to be here, or have they plagiarized your story? Only because your name doesn't appear anywhere on it, but it's your post word for word, and your photo. HS: Oh, it looks like they are taking my RSS feed - annoying. :/ Thanks for the heads up.

Lucy T.

Heidi - why does it call for frozen blueberries? Can you use fresh? If not, why not? Thanks!


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