As the temperature begins its descent down the thermometer, memories of cozy warm mornings line my cerebrum. My own memories of childhood include the wafting aromas that crept under my covers and woke me up on a Saturday morning. If we were lucky, we woke up to pancakes and waffles and the sweet dreamy reality of maple syrup.
Maple syrup is one of those amazing food items that has an interesting history that we are lucky to have lining the pages of our local history books. The syrup, as many know, comes from a variety of maple trees, including one, the sugar maple. Early immigrants who came to the land we now call home were taught by the indigenous people about the act of collecting sap from a tree and then turning it into the sweet oozing substance we now know as maple syrup.
Old Bethpage Village Restoration plays host to a great many festivals and occasions within their confines. One of these most wonderful of festivals was their Maple Days, complete with recipe book that shares a collection of recipes from the 19th Century—absolutely perfect for my historically-seeking recipe agenda.
Old Bethpage Village Restoration began in 1963 with the acquisition of a 165-acre property known as the Powell Farm. After the GIs returned following WWII, many of Long Island’s historic homes were lost in the rapid expansion of home building that followed. The idea of the preservation of some of these homes for the education and cultural exploration for the masses is an incredible idea. Through my own love of old things, the idea that one can visit a place and be transported back to a time long ago is an unparalleled experience. I walk the grounds and pretend that I live there. I love the experience of being surrounded by historic things. Being able to put them in the context of their former life is something that is unique to a place like Old Bethpage Village Restoration. One can see an old pot in an antique shop and appreciate its former life, but when exposed to an old cauldron, hanging over the traditional hearth fire, boiling and emitting glorious aromas, is an experience second to none in terms of its value in teaching about the past. We all know that knowledge of the past helps us to shape and destine our future, therefore its importance is vital to us in so many ways.
I would love to know how people long ago discovered the phenomena that syrup is created within. Simply, a tap is placed in the trunk of the tree. The tree’s roots hold starch that turn into sugar as it begins to make its ascent upwards. The taps lead the sugary substance into buckets that hang from the tree. The sap, which begins as 98% water, is then boiled down, leaving the sticky, and now very concentrated, sugary syrup. It takes about 40 gallons of sap to create one gallon of maple syrup. Maple syrup has its roots in early baking, as it was used as an early form of sugar prior to the development of cane sugar production.
This Blueberry Maple Syrup Cake is one of those comfort sweet breads one creates on a cold winter’s morning to feed the soul as well as the belly. The soft, sweet flavor that exudes from the maple syrup essence is apparent and changes the makeup of the typical cake chemistry. Hints of nuttiness are present in this light and fluffy century-old cake. The use of maple syrup as the main sugar, accompanied by white sugar, adds a delectable combination of the history of the old and the new melding together into one. This is the perfect cake for a sweet breakfast or as an accompaniment to a cup of tea or a latte in the afternoon. The fresh blueberries sit suspending in the network of airy lightness that forms as a result of the leavening process. Please make this to delight and impress—even if it’s just yourself.
Blueberry Maple Syrup Cake
- 1/3 cup butter
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 3 eggs (beaten)
- 3/4 cup maple syrup
- 2 ¼ cups unbleached flour
- 3 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 cup milk
- 2 cups fresh blueberries
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a loaf pan.
- In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar.
- Add eggs one at a time. Beat after each addition.
- Add maple syrup. Mix well.
- Add the flour and baking powder; mix to combine.
- Fold in the blueberries.
- Pour into pan and bake for about 50 minutes until top is lightly browned.
- When cool, remove from pan and place on baking rack.
- Sprinkle powdered sugar on top.