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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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

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