Side Orders: Pick your own berries at Blueberry Hill Farm

Red, White and Blueberries at Chattanooga Market: Chattanooga Market salutes America's birthday with Red, White and Blueberries on Sunday, July 1, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. in First Tennessee Pavilion, 1826 Carter St. Visitors can enjoy blueberries used in a variety of market wares from baked goods to candle scents. Enter one of the blueberry pie-eating contests (noon and 1 p.m., register a half-hour in advance of each) or cheer your favorite vendor during the market vendors' pie-eating contest at 3 p.m. For more information: 423-648-2496. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
photo Anne Braly

Blueberries are one of nature's finest gifts. Not only are they extremely healthful, they're so delicious, you want to eat them as soon as you pluck them from the bush. At least that's what my granddaughter does, and I follow suit. They're hard to resist.

This year's crop appears to be arriving right on time, thanks to abundant spring rains and plenty of sunshine.

David Wood and his wife, Judy, bought the old Varnell Blueberry Farm about five years ago because Wood, who grew up in Arizona, would often hike the trails of East Tennessee during his college years and fell in love with the Volunteer State. But the Woods also love blueberries, so finding the Varnell property up for sale, they jumped at the opportunity to live in East Tennessee and have more than an acre of berries outside their back door.

"We love them and have them every day," David Wood says, adding that they pick enough during the season to freeze plenty to enjoy year-round.

But the Woods are also willing to share because there's plenty to go around - the only caveat being you'll need to visit the Sale Creek farm, now named Blueberry Hill Farm, and pick them yourself.

For availability, prices and directions to the farm on Cap Elsea Road, check Blueberry Hill Farm's Facebook page, or call 423-332-4697. And when you get the berries home, check out this cake recipe. If you've grown weary of muffins, pies, crisps and crumbles and exhausted your blueberry repertoire, this amazing treat blends the sweet taste of blueberries with the lively tartness of lemons. Lemons and blueberries - can you think of a better marriage made in culinary heaven? As if that weren't enough to entice your tastebuds, just think about lathering cream cheese frosting between the four layers. Is your mouth watering yet?

The cake takes some time to make, primarily because you're not using a cake mix or canned cream cheese frosting. The cake, as is any good dessert, is made from scratch - start to sweet, sweet finish.

Lively Lemon Blueberry Cake

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature

1 1/4 cups sugar

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

4 large eggs, at room temperature

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

3 cups sifted all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup buttermilk

2 tablespoons lemon zest

1/2 cup lemon juice (about 3 medium lemons)

1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries

1 tablespoon flour


2 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened to room temperature

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature

7 cups confectioners sugar

2-4 tablespoons heavy cream

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Pinch of salt

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and lightly flour three 9- by 2-inch cake pans with nonstick spray. Set aside.

Make the cake: Using a handheld or stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on high until creamy, about 1 minute. Add granulated and brown sugars, and beat on medium-high speed until creamed, 2-3 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla. Beat on medium speed until everything is completely combined, about 2 full minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. Set aside.

In a large bowl, toss together the flour, baking powder and salt. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Beat on low speed for 5 seconds, then add the buttermilk, lemon zest and lemon juice. Remove from the mixer, and stir lightly until everything is just combined. Toss the blueberries in 1 tablespoon of flour, and fold into the batter. Batter is extremely thick. Do not overmix at any point. Overmixing will lend a tough, dense-textured crumb.

Spoon batter evenly into 3 prepared cake pans. If only using 2 cake pans, your bake time will be longer. Bake the three layers for 21-26 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven, and allow to cool completely before frosting. Refrigerate layers for at least 45 minutes before cutting the layers and frosting the cake. This will keep the layers from falling apart.

Make the frosting: Using a handheld or stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat cream cheese and butter together on medium speed until no lumps remain, about 3 full minutes. Add confectioners sugar, 1 tablespoon cream, vanilla extract and salt with the mixer running on low. Increase to high speed, and beat for 3 minutes. Add 1 more tablespoon of cream at a time till frosting reaches desired consistency.

Assemble and frost: First, using a large serrated knife, trim the tops off the cake layers to create a flat surface. Place first layer on a cake stand. Evenly cover the top with cream cheese frosting. Top with second layer, more frosting, then the third layer. Top with frosting and spread around the sides. Top with more blueberries or lemon garnish if desired.

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