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berry donna

Recipe: blueberry muffins (cake)

My days have been up and down. When they are down, I lay low and listen to my body and just try to recover. When they are up, I’m brimming with ideas and raring to go. Yesterday was a seriously up day for me. I was able to cook a ton of food and feel as if the kitchen was mine once again. Of course, there were a few changes to work through – like the fact that my taste has been heavily wankered, that my GI tract now rejects about 70% of what I typically love to eat (spicy, sour, salty, fatty, all that good stuff), and that I can’t eat berries. Well, I CAN eat berries, but I’ve been strongly advised to avoid eating raw berries (among other raw foods) for my own well-being.

I had bought some blueberries before my treatment began last week and Jeremy was taking a hell of a long time to finish them off. I really wanted those blueberries. And then I really wanted some… cake. And then I began flipping through my cookbooks and wondering what ingredients I had to make some cake with blueberries. I mean, if they’re cooked then I can eat them, right?

donna to the rescue

I don’t do celebrity chefs. I don’t ooh and ahh famous chef names. I just don’t pay enough attention and we also don’t own a brain rot box. [Side note: Oddly, I have been asked by several strangers if I know, am related to, or am Kylie Kwong. I had to google her to find out who the hell they were talking about.] So it was with great curiosity one evening a few years ago when I was at Nicole’s house for an awesome dinner of homemade butternut squash ravioli, that I flipped through some of her Donna Hay cookbooks. Never heard of the woman. But I loved her simple style and many of the recipes piqued my interest.

dry ingredients

I saw the delightful little blueberry muffins recipe in Donna’s Modern Classics 2. So simple to whip together and it called for lemon zest. Love lemon zest, you know.


When I last baked, I made those little lemon meringue tartelettes for the DB challenge. I felt so ill during that whole process. I mean, I felt like I wanted to keel over into the meringue and my OCD self didn’t care if I made a mess. That made me sad because I love to cook and bake – it brings me a lot of gratification and joy. The simplest thing was so labored both mentally and physically. But the blueberry muffin recipe… felt as natural as breathing!

mix up the wet ingredients

fold in the blueberries

At the last minute, I opted to make a cake instead of muffins. Maybe because washing little muffin tins makes me a little nutty and I wanted to use my flower-shaped cake pan because I paid so damn much for it in my student years.

everything feels like sunshine

Although the muffins were to bake for 15-20 minutes, this cake took about 40 minutes, but the edges were beautifully golden and crisp while the inside was fluffy, steamy, moist. Here’s the sad part: I couldn’t taste much of it. I tried. No really, I tried. I typically have a most discerning palate. My taste buds are hosed for now. The cake had almost no flavor and the blueberries blended in with the rest of it. I poked my tongue around my mouth trying to identify the lemon zest, but nada. I was bummed. Still, the making is 90% of the fun for me so it was definitely worth it. When Jeremy got home I forced him to try a slice and he quite liked it. So it was not for naught and now I can share it with you, right?

blueberry muffin cake

Blueberry Muffins (Cake)
[print recipe]
from Donna Hay Modern Classics 2

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsps baking powder (I used 1 tsp because of my elevation)
3/4 cup superfine sugar
1 cup sour cream
2 eggs
1 tsp finely grated lemon rind
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 1/4 cups fresh or frozen blueberries

Preheat oven to 350°F. Sift flour and baking powder into a bowl. Add sugar and combine. Whisk sour cream, eggs, lemon rind, and oil together in a bowl. Stir in the dry ingredients until just combined. Fold in the blueberries. To make a 9-inch round cake: spread batter into pan and bake for 40 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. To make muffins: fill a dozen 1/2 cup muffin tins about 2/3 full and bake for 12 minutes or until clean toothpick stage.

46 nibbles at “berry donna”

  1. manggy says:

    I am glad to hear you’re on a high. I hope you are resting well when you need to– maybe with a sketchbook or a Sudoku puzzle or putting little tabs on cookbooks (oh, wait– that’s me, heh heh :) but it could also be you!). Am hoping your GI and taste issues are resolved very soon.
    I love berries, and blueberry muffin-cake sounds awesome, too bad blueberries cost an arm and a leg here :/ I honestly don’t know how you guys finish all that– I’m usually satiated with just one slice and I want to give the rest away (taking my diet seriously but not seriously).

  2. a. grace says:

    first of all, it breaks my heart that you couldn’t taste your creation. :( it looks great, though, and i love your pictures (action shots are spectacular). thanks for sharing!
    secondly, i too poo poo celebrity chefs. for the most part (i do love me some anthony bourdain, but does he count?), i think they’re a good-for-nothing group of hooligans. :)

  3. peabody says:

    I need one of those high days.
    I never heard of Donna Hay until I entered Hay, Hay it’s Donna Day. Now I do have several of her cookbooks.
    You muffin cake looks like a great breakfast treat.

  4. linda says:

    Sorry that you couldn’t really taste the muffin cake. But good that you have energy to bake!
    I love Donna Hay, I have the same book you have in the picture and I think it’s wonderful.

  5. Sarah says:

    That looks so yummy! I am going to have to try it…lemon and blueberry is a match made in heaven! Sorry you couldn’t taste it, it looks great!

  6. Bridget says:

    I hadn’t heard of Donna Hay until I started reading food blogs.

    Here’s to high days! And the return of taste buds!

  7. Lynn says:

    Your muffin cake looks delicious. A stroke of genius to turn your muffins into a cake! I’m sorry you weren’t able to taste it. I hope your health issues are resolved soon!

  8. brilynn says:

    A shame that you didn’t get to enjoy the flavour as I’m sure it was wonderful! But at least you were able to play around in the kitchen!

  9. Mary says:

    Well your cake looks marvelous. It’s a bummer your taste buds are on the fritz. I hope things get better soon!
    And I had no idea who Donna Hay was until I started blogging too.

  10. VB says:

    Sorry to hear that u didn’t quite like yr cake. I cannot agree more with u with regards to blueberries when used in cakes/muffins/bakes…other than looking really pretty, they are pretty useless taste-wise. I hv also done with blueberry puree and find that it is not obvious to the palate. I am sure the texture is good with the sour cream though. I don’t care who the chef is, as long the food/cake is good, that’s what matters.

  11. michelle says:

    I love to bake, and somehow never heard of Donna Hay until just last week. I’m pretty sure I need to acquire some of her books, stat.

    Blueberry cake can be awesome. The blueberry buckle recipe from Cook’s Illustrated in particular is to die for. I’ve brought it to parties along with totally decadent chocolate-mocha layer cake, and the buckle goes first every time!

    Us vs. Food

  12. Amy says:

    Love your photos. Better luck on your next try at blueberry cake. Here is a question. What do you do if you con’t like something you have spent time making? Do you still eat it or give it the old heave hoe?

  13. Maja says:

    I love your blog, every single thing you make is explained nicely and the photos are always fantastic, so is your presentation of the food, simply beautiful. It really makes me sad to read you’re not feeling all that well, so i wish you all the best, may your taste budds recover soon and your health even sooner! All the best from Slovenia, Maja (pronounced maya :))

  14. Stickygooeycreamychewy says:

    Jen, I know it sucks right now, but things will get better. You are made of tuff stuff! Just keep your toes pointed forward.

    What a clever idea to make a cake instead of muffins. So much prettier. It looks great and the pictures are gorgeous, as always.

    Take care.

  15. DocChuck says:

    Well, I hope your days get better soon. Since blueberries, in my opinion, are one of the gifts from the culinary “gods”, you did them good with your recipe.

    Here in Maryland, my wife E and I often drive up to Maine for the sole purpose of buying 10 pounds or so of their “wild” blueberries for the freezer . . . not to mention that we always pick up a lobster or three ;>)

    Blueberry cake it will be for breakfast next week. Thanks!

  16. Hillary says:

    That looks like heaven!!!

  17. Shell says:

    Oh my – I do hope your taste buds return soon – That cake is calling to me – I may have to make it.
    I do hope you healing thoughts. Stay warm and rest up. I love to read your blog – but remember to take care of you!

  18. Amanda says:

    My condolences to your taste buds. I agree with you on the “brain rot box”. We don’t have one either. But, I do miss Anthony Bourdain! Celebrety chef or not, he is the greatest!

  19. Kevin says:

    Blueberry muffins/coffeecakes are one of my favorite breakfasts. I like to pour the juice from the lemon on them after they bake and then sprinkle on some sugar and broil it until the sugar just form a crunchy crust.

  20. Seth says:

    Made this today, but didn’t have blueberries so I put in cranberries and Kiwi.


    Also use lime instead of lemon zest.

  21. Graeme says:

    That’s beautiful, Jen – And looking at the ingredients, it’s almost healthy too!

  22. jasmine says:

    Absolutely gorgeous photos. Sorry to read about your GI woes.

    WRT berries…how are you with jams and sauces?


  23. Tian says:

    Hi Jenyu!

    Donna Hay is a household name here in Aus <:

    I tried this blueberry cake recipe from Alice Medrich .. it was good .. you definitely can taste the tanginess of the yoghurt, the lemoniness (-: from the zest and of course the blueberries

  24. Christine says:

    Jen – I also bought that same book years ago when I had no idea who Donna Hay was – I just liked the rustic yet modern look of the photos. Also, her recipes included real butter and cream and chocolate, so I was down with that :) The petals/slices of your cake look like perfect servings of blueberry scones. So lovely. Oh yes, and thank you for mentioning the baking powder adjustment for elevation, it is good to know.

  25. Annemarie says:

    How terrible to not be able to enjoy foods – though I suppose the only comfort might be that if you’re having GI problems, it’s better not to be tasting things anyway so you can’t pine for what you’re missing. The muffin cake looks lovely, and I hope everything is back on track for you soon.

  26. Donna vs. Martha: Round One - Blueberry Muffins! « Confessions from the Cookie Jar says:

    […] Donna Hay Blueberry Muffins found on use real butter […]

  27. Steph F. says:

    Best wishes, hope you have many more “up” days until the time when they can all be “up.” The muffin-cake looks delicious, I have way too many frozen berries right now so this recipe will definitely be in my rotation soon.

  28. dhanggit says:

    oh this blueberry muffins made my day too :-) as always photos that make me drooooool

  29. jenyu says:

    Mark – thanks, you’re a sweetie. You’ll have to post about your tabs on your cookbooks so I can emulate :) I can’t believe everything is so expensive where you are! As for the goodies I make – I will taste them, but then Jeremy eats it and we either share with neighbors or he takes it in for his students.

    A. Grace – ha ha! you are too funny. I just don’t have much use for celebrity chefs. I think several of my favorite food bloggers are far more knowledgeable and delightful people :) thanks, love. I am okay with the taste issue (was warned about it ahead of time, but it’s still a bit of a shock).

    Peabody – hey lady, I’m with ya. If you have some favorite DH books, I’d love to know which ones. I always toy will shoving one more cookbook onto my shelves!

    Linda – thanks!

    Sarah – yup, I too love lemon and blueberry :)

    Bridget – thank you, hon. xxoo

    Lynn – I’m not actually a huge muffin fan, which is probably why I opted for cake (and the whole dishwashing thing). Thanks for your kind words.

    Brilynn – absolutely right! It’s the most fun part for me :)

    Mary – thanks. I am a sucker for DH’s photography!

    VB – ‘kay, I’m not sure what post you were reading but it wasn’t mine because I never said blueberries were useless. Hello?!

    Michelle – even if I didn’t try DH’s recipes, I could flip through her books for days on end, they are so pretty :) Oh, I love blueberry buckles (and grunts, and crisps, and…)

    Amy – typically if I don’t like something and it’s just *me* who doesn’t like it, I’ll give it away to friends or give it to Jeremy to take into his department to share. If it’s really horrendous, it usually gets the boot into the trash or I try to somehow salvage it. I also swear… a lot! Luckily (knock on wood) I haven’t had too many of those disasters lately!

    Maja – Oh, that’s such a sweet thing to say. Thank you. I will be okay when all is said and done. It’s just going to be rough going for a few months :) xxoo

    SGCC – You are just the best, lady. I would never give up knowing you are on my team. xxoo

    DocChuck – thanks! I am salivating just thinking of ten pounds of Maine blueberries! That’s some treasure (and the lobsters too). But you know, you’ve got gold right in your own backyard… Chesapeake Bay blue crabs. That’s my home (VA side). mmmmm :)

    Hillary – thank you.

    Shell – what a sweetie you are. Thank you. Hope you guys are surviving the cold :)

    Amanda – Ha ha, that’s so funny that so many folks like him. I have not been initiated yet! Is he snarky? I love snarky ;)

    Kevin – oh yes, that is a wonderful thing to do! Makes for an even more moist and lovely pastry.

    Seth – good on ya.

    Graeme – healthy shmealthy! If it looks good… ;)

    Jasmine – I think anything cooked is fine, but I’m a total whore for fresh fruits – thus my quandry. It’s okay though, I can deal for a while at least :)

    Tian – ah, you Aussies are so lucky with your delicious Balmain bugs and all of those other amazing sea critters. *jealous* AND you have Donna Hay who makes me think of crisp white sheets on a sunny spring day. Thanks for the link!

    Christine – I like that cake pan, except it makes people think they ought to have one petal as a serving, and it’s probably enough to be two servings! ha ha. I didn’t eat that slice… I made Jeremy eat it ;) I like Donna’s style very much.

    Annemarie – you’ve got a very good point there. Last thing I want is to get sick on something I love and have bad associations when all is said and done :) Thanks for the words of hope. xxoo

    Steph – thank you and I hope you enjoy the cake/muffins – whatever you end up making!

    Dhanggit – thanks :)

  30. DianaBanana says:

    I’m so sorry about your defunct tastebuds, but from the looks of it the cake was probably meltingly delicious! I agree with you in that cooking is 90% of the fun. Even though you didn’t enjoy the taste (this time, at least), I’m happy that you had the opportunity to bake. It’s really one of the best therapies…

  31. Tartelette says:

    Beautiful cake….good for breakfast, dessert, snack, dessert, snack….hugh…I need to stop!!! You know what was the most striking to me about this post, beside finding your up-voice again? The color of those blueberries! Only you has that knack for color!

  32. peabody says:

    Donna Hay Simple Essentials: Chocolate is my favorite. I got it early from a reader in Singapore. It comes out in April and I recommend it.

  33. Julie O'Hara says:

    The tasting thing just plain sucks…I’m sorry. I wouldn’t stop cooking and baking either, though. I usually go for blueberry muffin recipes with spices and streusel topping, but this simple one is very appealing. I like the pale color and straight up lemon flavoring–it’s very Donna Hay.

  34. jenyu says:

    DianaBanana – thanks, and I totally agree with you :)

    Tartelette – ah, you’re such a sweetheart. Thanks. You always brighten my day. xxoo

    Peabody – I’ll be on the lookout for it, great and thanks!

    Julie – you know, I was sort of hoping for a crunchy top like on muffins, but the cake didn’t do it. I really love her recipes though.

  35. Lemon Blueberry Bread « Toxo Bread says:

    […] adapted from Jen Yu’s Blueberry Muffins (Cake) » baked as a […]

  36. Patricia Scarpin says:

    I have been going through your archives – wow, talk about amazing stuff!
    I love Donna. I have some of her books and subscribe to her magazine – I prefer the magazine recipes, to be very honest. Her style, photographs, everything is great. And she doesn’t seem to have a Egozilla of any sort.
    I’m stunned by what you did with her muffin recipe. Beautiful cake!

  37. jenyu says:

    Patricia – Oh, I would love to subscribe to her magazine. I hadn’t thought of that, I wonder if I can from the states? Thanks!

  38. Sophie says:

    We’d like to invite you to participate in our July berry recipe contest. All competitors will be placed on our blogroll, and the winner will receive a fun prize! Please email me,, if you’re interested. Feel free to check out our blog for more details. (Click on my name in the message to visit our blog. :)

  39. jenyu says:

    Sophie – thanks for the invite. I’m so swamped this month that I probably won’t be able to participate. But thanks for the invite!!

  40. Chris says:

    I made this last weekend for a morning football tailgate, and it was delicious–a big hit. Thank you so much for the recipe! :-)

  41. Sue Ellen Butler says:

    What I’ve seen is exceptionally done. I will be back!

  42. Mrs.Beers says:

    its my birthday and i’ve been craving blueberry muffins for months so i found your recipe but i don’t know what size pan to use! i am very much an amature baker and am going to use my family as guine pigs for this one… they have all volunteered because its blueberry… lol… please send me pan size… thanks!

  43. jenyu says:

    Mrs. Beers – a 9-inch round should work.

  44. Mrs.Beers says:

    ive actually doubled the recipe and am going for a glass… debating on the 7×9 or the 9×11

  45. Mrs.Beers says:

    thank god for mommies!… emergancy phone call later and the cake is in the oven in a 13×9 glass pan and i have a vanilla glaze ready to whip together in the last five min of baking as an icing… ill post again to let yall know how it turns out!

  46. Mrs.Beers says:

    turned out beautiful! little light on the top but still beautiful!

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