Seamus Mullen’s Favorite Blueberry Cake

Good-for-you blueberries shine in this easy cake.

Chef Seamus Mullen was working grueling hours just after opening his Boqueria restaurant in New York, when he woke up one night with hip pain so agonizing that he had to dial 911.

The then 32-year-old chef spent the next three days hospitalized, with doctors running every test conceivable until they discovered the cause: rheumatoid arthritis.

The auto-immune disease causes the body to produce too many white blood cells and attack itself, causing painful and debilitating inflammation.

For a chef who works long hours on his feet, it was devastating news. But Mullen vowed he would not let it get the best of him. Not even when he competed on “The Next Iron Chef” three years ago, making it to the final three. The frenetic experience, though, led to another rheumatoid arthritis flare-up, leaving him unable to move quickly around the set. He was eliminated, and returned home in a wheelchair.

But Mullen fought his way back, making changes to his life, including in his diet. He doesn’t believe that food can cure illness, necessarily. But he does believe that what you eat can improve your sense of well-being.

To that  end, he’s written “Hero Food” (Andrews McMeel), of which I recently received a review copy. Arranged by the seasons, it spotlights the 18 ingredients that have made a dramatic difference in his life, including almonds, parsley, fish and olive oil.

It’s no surprise that blueberries — rich in Vitamin C, manganese and antioxidants –make an appearance in the book. Specifically, in “Mutti’s Blueberry Boy Bait,” a cake that his grandmother started baking for him when he was just a tot. It’s based on a recipe by a 15-year-old girl who competed in the junior division of a Pillsbury baking contest in the 1950s.

I couldn’t resist the name, which appears to be apt, given that my husband was as endearing as can be after having a slice warm from the oven.

This is a super simple cake that’s almost like baking a giant blueberry muffin in a round cake pan. It’s tender and moist. The top of the batter gets sprinkled with sugar before baking. I used demerara sugar instead of regular granulated. With its larger crystals, it provided an especially nice crunchy top.

The directions call for whipping the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Mine never got quite to that stage, most likely because you’re also instructed to add 1/4 cup sugar at the start, a rather large quantity for two egg whites. I’m guessing the weight of so much sugar makes it difficult for the whites to ever get aerated enough to form stiff peaks. So, just beat them until they’re thick and opaque as I did, and you’ll be fine.

Mullen is now chef-owner of the Spanish gastropub, Tertulia in New York. I can’t speak to whether blueberries helped give him the strength to achieve that. But I will say this is one mighty fine cake that’s sure to make anyone feel a whole lot better after just one forkful.

It's like a giant blueberry muffin in cake form.

Mutti’s Blueberry Boy Bait

(Serves 8 )

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened at room temperature

1 cup granulated sugar, plus a bit more for sprinkling (Or use some demerara sugar for sprinkling instead)

2 eggs, separated

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 cup milk

1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a round 9-inch springform pan, line with a round of parchment paper, and butter the paper.

In a standing mixer, cream together the butter and 3/4 cup of the sugar. Add egg yolks, vanilla, and salt, and mix until creamy.

Sift the 1 1/2 cups flour and the baking powder together. Add the sifted flour and the milk to the butter mixture and gently combine.

In another large bowl, beat the egg whites with the remaining 1/4 cup sugar until quite thick and opaque. Fold whites into the batter. Coat the berries with the remaining 1 tablespoon flour and add to the batter.

Pour batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle the top with sugar. Bake for 50 minutes, or until a knife comes out clean. Serve with a whole lot of love, and maybe a dollop of whipped cream.

Adapted from “Hero Food” by Seamus Mullen

More Blueberry Recipes: Uncomplicated Fruit-Topped Yellow Cake

And: Peach Blueberry Cake

And: Blueberry Coffee Cake

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  • Oooh, I could never resist a good blueberry cake!

  • This cake looks wonderful! My kind of afternoon treat.



  • What a fabulous cake! I love how blueberry-full it is!

  • Nice review! I’ve heard good things about this book – sounds interesting. The Blueberry Cake recipe certainly is! I love blueberries, and they’re just beginning to become more plentiful in the market (still a bit early, though). I wonder if it’d make a difference if you added the sugar after you’ve whipped the egg whites? I’m thinking it might, but I must admit that beating egg whites isn’t one of my strengths – I’m not a huge baker. Anyway, great recipe – thanks.

  • Oh Carolyn, this blueberry cake looks great, light and so fluffy, I am so tempted to bake this cake since I have all the ingredients handy…
    Thanks for the recipe and hope you have a great week ahead 🙂

  • I absolutely love blueberries, this recipe looks so gorgeous and delicious…would go very well with a hot cup of tea or coffee. 🙂

  • I guess it’s the blueberries, but all I can think of is how perfect this would be for a weekend breakfast or brunch. It looks delicious!

  • I’ll have to add this cookbook to my wish list…and make the blueberry recipe on the name alone 🙂

  • i love the name seamus and i love a man who can bake, so mr mullen has at least two things going for him. 🙂

  • Mmm, lovely. Bookmarking this recipe, thanks!

  • Fresh blueberries are one of the things I REALLY miss about the US. I haven’t had a blueberry muffin in ages.

    Thanks for throwing a craving on me!

  • Remember I’m not much of a baker? But I tell you, I’m making this!!! Looks awesome. I love blueberries and this cake hit my spot… I gotta get blueberries and I must act fast before they get too expensive!

  • I suffered from rheumatoid arthritis – caused by my work as a milliner (bending over the cutting table and spending hours pumping the pedal on the sewing machine) and I can tell you how excrutiatingly painful it is. If I had known eating something as fabulous as this blueberry cake 🙂 could have helped I would have baked and eaten one every day. It looks incredible and I’ve bookmarked it – this is our kind of cake!

  • It is a simple yet tasty looking blueberry cake! 🙂 Yum!

  • Pingback: Blueberry Cake | Easy Japanese Recipes at Just One Cookbook

  • waw, seems to be very tasty. a special recipe. this food in my country, Indonesia name is “terang bulan” (the light of the moon). I’ll try to add recipes from this food. special recipe.
    thank you =)

  • Made it today ! It was so god, so delicious ! Thank you for the recipe.

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