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This tender blueberry coffee cake topped with a crunchy cinnamon streusel is cleverly named for its habit-forming effect on boys.
This old-fashioned blueberry coffee cake comes with a darling name and story. In 1954, a 15-year-old girl from Chicago named Renny Powell submitted a blueberry coffee cake recipe to the Pillsbury $100,000 Recipe & Baking Contest (the precursor to today’s Pillsbury Bake-Off). Renny took second place in the junior division for her recipe, cleverly named “Boy Bait” for its habit-forming effect on young men.
Tender, easy to make, and jam-packed with berries, boy bait has been popular ever since. My version is updated with lemon zest to complement the flavor of the blueberries and a crunchy cinnamon streusel topping. You certainly don’t need to be a teenage boy to enjoy it, but I can attest that this 14-year-old loves it — so maybe Renny was onto something
FOR THE STREUSEL TOPPING
6 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour, spooned into measuring cup and leveled-off
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
FOR THE CAKE
2 cups all-purpose flour, spooned into measuring cup and leveled-off
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon packed lemon zest, from 1 lemon
1/2 cup milk
2 cups fresh blueberries (frozen may be used but do not defrost)
Make the streusel topping: Combine the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, and salt in a small bowl. Using your fingers, mix until no lumps of brown sugar remain. Rub in the butter with your fingertips until it reaches a crumbly state. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Preheat the oven to 375°F and set an oven rack in the middle position. Grease a 9-inch square pan with butter or nonstick cooking spray.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and granulated sugar until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl and beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract and lemon zest.
Gradually add the flour mixture, alternating with the milk, beating on low speed to combine. Add the berries to the batter and fold gently with a spatula until evenly distributed. Do not over-mix.
Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and spread evenly. Sprinkle the streusel topping evenly over the batter. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until golden brown around the edges and a cake tester comes out clean. Let cool in the pan on a rack for about 20 minutes, then serve right from the pan.
This cake is best served on the day it is made. Leftovers will keep well for a few days wrapped in foil and stored at room temperature.