It's gotta be hard to make a living if you're a bear. Just imagine being a 250-pound black bear with nothing to eat in the summertime but huckleberries—it would take forever to get full. No wonder they do nothing but eat all day. The hubby and I went huckleberry picking for the first time ever last Sunday, and we gave up in less than three hours. We were hot and tired, our backs hurt, we were covered in bug bites, and all we had to show for our labors was barely a pound and a quarter of berries. If we were bears, we would be poor, skinny bears indeed.
But seriously, our trip to the Sawtooth Berry Fields, in the Indian Heaven Wilderness in the shadow of Mt. Adams, was fantastic, and I must say our haul of wild huckleberries has inspired me to get baking! Huckleberries may be tiny, but they pack a ton of flavor. And since they aren't particularly juicy, they don't sog out baked goods. They're everything a blueberry wishes it could be. I'd only ever had them once or twice before, but now that I know, I'm using huckleberries wherever blueberries are called for—huckleberry muffins, huckleberry pancakes, huckleberry waffles…you get the idea. I'm actually thinking that the huckleberry may be the one berry best suited to baking. Hmmm, better to test that hypothesis…
5 ounces (1 ¼ sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing the pan
9 ounces cake flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
10 ounces sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
8 ounces sour cream, at room temperature
6 ounces huckleberries
Powdered sugar, for dusting
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Butter a 9×3-inch round cheesecake pan, line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper, and butter the parchment. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
In a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat together the butter and sugar on high for 3 to 4 minutes, or until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time until thoroughly combined and then beat in the vanilla extract. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture, then ½ of the sour cream, then 1/3 of the flour mixture, then the remaining ½ of the sour cream, and then the remaining 1/3 of the flour mixture, mixing on low for only a few seconds after each addition until just combined, and stopping the mixer once or twice to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Gently fold in the huckleberries. Do not overmix. Transfer to the cake pan and spread evenly. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes, or until the edges of the cake start to shrink away from the pan and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack and finish cooling completely. Dust with plenty of powdered sugar, cut into portions, and serve.
Makes 1 9-inch cake, serving 8. Huckleberries have a short summer season. Small blueberries make a fine substitute if huckleberries are unavailable. If you can get your hands on it, use Tahitian vanilla, which has a uniquely floral character. Use a springform pan if you don't have a cheesecake pan.