And here I go, getting nostalgic over food one more time.
Back when I was a kid, growing up on Detroit’s East Side I spent A LOT of time with my neighbors who lived two houses away from me. Mrs. LaBine was a really young mom of four, always stylishly dressed, listening to Elvis and the Everly Brothers on her console stereo. She was soft spoken, kind and also a SUPERB cook and baker.
Every summer during the short Michigan blueberry season she would make Blueberry Boy Bait. It was my favorite. Because she only made it once a year, the cake was special. You can’t imagine how happy I was when she would offer me a piece of this treasured dessert. She was the best!
A Copy of My Own
The things you remember from when you were a kid–the neighbors Dutch Elm tree falling on our house, the 1967 Detroit Riots, endless days of playing with the kids on our block, walking blocks to the swimmobile and the the bookmobile.
And I remember Mrs. LaBine’s cookbook, often times sitting open on her dining room table. It was a HUGE book, probably a wedding gift, and most likely where her all of her great recipe ideas came from.
Fast forward to the late 1980s when I was was living far away from Detroit. Vacationing in L A, I stopped at a thrift shop. While looking through the store’s collection of books, I came upon the Mary Margaret McBride Encyclopedia of Cooking. Could this be a copy of Mrs. LaBine’s cookbook? The one with her Blueberry Boy Bait recipe? The cover was different but it sure looked familiar.
I pulled the book from the shelf and flipped to through the first few pages. It published in the late 1950s (check) and was it was HUGE (check). I excitedly flipped to the index, and there it was…my beloved Blueberry Boy Bait recipe, up close and in person. I hit the jackpot!
These days a recipe is easy to find on the internet (thank you Pinterest), but back then you had to buy the book. Buying and then schlepping it all the way home to Dallas, Texas, was the thrill of a lifetime. Lucky for me there was no extra charge back then for my bulging suitcase.
Here’s a link to her cookbook on Amazon.com Encyclopedia of Cooking
A History Lesson
Recently I read an interesting article about cookbook author, Ms Mary Margaret McBride. Considered to be the “first lady of radio,” she was a voice her 6 million listeners trusted, including her words of wisdom when it came to cooking. Here’s a link for more info on Ms. McBride. Who was Mary Margaret McBride?
And I love a recipe with a good story, and Blueberry Boy Bait didn’t disappoint. The original recipe dates back to 1954 and was submitted to a Pillsbury baking contest by a 15-year-old girl. She won second place (I can’t imagine there could be anything better to beat her recipe). She named her recipe Blueberry Boy Bait because she believed this cake had the power to attract the opposite sex. I think she was on to something.
I made a couple of adjustments to the original recipe, like skipping the sifting and adding a little cinnamon to the crumb mixture with a touch of vanilla to the batter. (There I go having to “add a little somethin’”) But this time the results were been spot on.
So every summer, during blueberry season, as I make this dessert my mind fills with such beautiful and bittersweet memories of childhood, those Michigan summers, and my very kind neighbor and her family. Yes, it takes a village.
Blueberry Boy Bait
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup white sugar
- 2/3 cup butter, softened
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 cup milk
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract (almond extract is good, too)
- 2 egg whites
- 2 cups blueberries
- PREHEAT oven to 350 degrees F. GREASE and FLOUR a 9x13 inch baking dish.
- In a large bowl, STIR together the flour and sugar. CUT in butter using a pastry blender or a fork until pea-sized. REMOVE 3/4 cup of the mixture and MIX cinnamon into this mixture. SET ASIDE.
- ADD baking powder and salt into the remaining mixture. ADD egg yolks, milk and vanilla extract. Using an electric mixer, MIX on low speed for 3 minutes.
- In a large glass or metal bowl, WHIP egg whites just until stiff peaks begin to form. Carefully FOLD egg whites into the batter.
- SPREAD batter evenly into the prepared 9 x 13 pan. SPRINKLE blueberries over the batter. SPRINKLE the reserved crumb mixture evenly over the top.
- BAKE for about 40-50 minutes or until the cake springs back when touched lightly in the center. (Start checking for doneness at 35 minutes).
- NOTE: I often use a food processor to quickly pulse the flour and sugar and then to cut in the butter. I quickly pulse until butter is pea-sized. I then transfer mixture to a standing mixer bowl. More dishes to wash but less hassle getting the butter to break up into pieces.