Aunt Bett’s Blueberry Cake

Last year my cousin Lisa gave me a copy of the Anderson Family Cookbook, a compilation of recipes from the family reunion of 1988. This was back when I didn’t have contact with this side of my family so this was a wonderful and beautiful gift, not just for the recipes that are included, but also for the memories of many summers spent with these cousins at my grandparent’s home on Briarwood Beach.

After she gave me the book I sat and pored over it, recognizing the names of the contributors and remembering the times I spent with them with great joy. Each recipe card is titled and indicates who it came from. One of my favorites is called “Cape Cod No Fuss Dinner” and it comes from “The Dads”. The instructions are simple and include only two words: Kool Kone. There are also recipes for Baked Beans, Blystone (a family name) Clam Chowder and American Chop Suey. (Hi Norma and Sandy!). They are all wonderful but the one that made me gasp in surprise and then start to cry was this one:

Aunt Bett’s Blueberry Cake.

Aunt Bett, as she was called by the cousins, was my grandmother, Elizabeth Anderson Sammons. She was called Betty by everyone else but Aunt Bett by the cousins and Gramma by my brothers and I and my cousins Len and Lisa. She was wonderful and 100% Swedish and I loved her dearly. She baked and cooked and sewed and knit and crocheted. She taught me to make Swedish meatballs and braided cardamom bread and make spritz. She was soft and warm and smelled like cinnamon and she was probably my favorite person in the whole world next to my mom. And she made wonderful blueberry cake.

I never had her recipe until I got this cook book so you can imagine how happy I was to find it there. I know this post is getting long but I hope you will indulge me. I’m going to share the recipe, along with my cousin Dick Blystone’s introduction – it will give you an idea of what an incredibly special time it was in my life when “the cousins” came to visit.

aunt betts blueberry cake for carole knits

One of the traditional “outings” each year at the Cape was picking blueberries. For one half day, the mothers would load all of the kids and all of the available containers in the cottage into one of the station wagons. We would make one stop to pick up our guide Aunt Bett and her pots, then leave the beach and travel several miles inland to a farm where you could pick berries at low rates (my recollection is 50¢ a quart). After stopping at the farm house to announce our presence, we rode over winding dirt roads to the farm’s Blueberry Patches, poured out of the cars, grabbed our containers and “hit the bushes.”

Some went to the first bushes they saw and began picking, others became scouts, searching for the best bushes, then redirecting cousins to those areas. The object of the outing was simple: try to gather enough blueberries (using the standard pick two eat one system) to fill all of the containers. If this task became boring, there were always interesting variations, like trying to find the biggest blueberry, or trying to hit the cousin at the next bush over with over-ripe berries. When the mothers had had enough, they herded us back to the cars, where we emptied our containers into big soup kettles, then drove back to the farm house to pay for the berries. One year we picked 23 quarts! Then it was back to the beach, where the blueberries, little by little, found their way into pancakes, muffins and cakes and always into the mouths of the harvesters.

Aunt Bett would usually take her berries and bake several cakes for us to enjoy which we would devour the same night they were delivered to the cottage. To this day it remains my favorite dessert.

Aunt Bett’s Blueberry Cake

3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup shortening
1 egg
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup milk
2 cups floured blueberries

For the topping:
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup softened butter

Preheat the oven to 375°. Mix sugar, shortening & egg in large mixing bowl. In separate bowl, sift flour, baking powder & salt. Stir in milk. Add to large bowl and mix. Fold in blueberries, spread into greased 9″ square pan. Mix topping & sprinkle on top. Bake for 45 min or until toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean.

Eat. Sigh. Remember.

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  1. Jo-Ann says

    What a delightful gift! The blueberry cake sounds wonderful, I may have to attempt it this summer.

  2. Karen says

    This recipe is a real treasure, Carole! My maiden name is Anderson and my favorite summers were spent in a small town in PA with my grandparents. It seemed like the whole town was Swedish!!! Instead of blueberries, I picked blackberries with my grandpa and my grandma made the most delicious pies. Unfortunately, I did not inherit her pie-baking skills!!! Thank you for sharing your recipe!

  3. says

    The cookbook must mean so much to you. It’s a true treasure! Your memories of your grandmother are embodied in the blueberry cake. If I ever come to visit I’d love to have you bake a cake for me. It looks amazing!

  4. Robby says

    Great story! And this cake will be whipped up very soon here. I hate to ask, but have you made the cake with butter instead of shortening? I know they have some significantly different baking properties, so curious.

  5. says

    Your post made me teary-eyed, and made me think of my grandmother who was so special to me. I can’t wait to try that cake. Thank you for sharing this :-)

  6. Jeanne E says

    Carole, I loved this story – family cookbooks filled with recipes, stories and memories are still by far the best cookbooks around and how nice you have one from your family!! I, too, remember blueberry picking at the Cape and my grandmother’s blueberry pies, etc. You truly have a treasure. I will try this one for sure and hope that will give us more recipes with their stories in the future! Thank you for sharing.

  7. says

    Thanks for the memories shared by so many of us. My grandmother, Elizabeth Ostlund Anderson, originally from Dalarna in Sweden figured prominently in my early life.

    She considered it a free crop, all those ripening berries out in the woods and we spent many bug-slapping hours out there with my mom, bringing the berries home to Gram.

  8. says

    Family recipes are the best. They just have so many memories and so much love attached. So glad you got this one with all the rest.
    I am Norwegian and DH’s mom was Swedish so I know many of the recipes of which you speak!! :) Cardamom rocks!

  9. Manise says

    What a gift! The story is wonderful in keeping those memories alive. Very happy for you!