Make this delicious strawberry summer cake with fresh, in-season berries
Jessica Webster | AnnArbor.com
I had a rare lazy Saturday morning this weekend. My 9-year-old son, who normally wakes up at the crack of dawn bursting with excitement, was still snoring at 8:30. I sat down with a cup of a coffee and my computer and caught up with email and Facebook.
A post from Zingerman's Bakehouse immediately grabbed my attention. "Strawberries are in at the market!"
There may have been other words that followed those, but if there were, I missed them. My mind was already racing with possibilities. I don't know about you, but for me the arrival of fresh local strawberries is the first best sign of the beginning of summer.
Like so many things, my love for strawberry season goes back to my childhood. Every June my mother and our family friend Esther Folts would get up early and drive to a local U-pick berry farm. We’d spend hours on our knees, locating and picking perfectly ripe strawberries. My knees and fingers would be stained red by the time we loaded the car with buckets and buckets of berries.
The fun would continue when we got back to our house. Mom and Esther would set up on the picnic table under the giant oak tree in my back yard. They would spend all afternoon sipping iced tea and chatting, while washing, paring, slicing and sugaring berries.
I made tents with picnic benches and a tablecloth, pretending I was a pioneer like Laura Ingalls Wilder, and snuck handfuls of strawberries when I thought no one was looking.
Then for the rest of the year, the freezer would be stocked with tantalizingly sweet strawberries, ready to top a sweet cream biscuit or a bowl of ice cream.
I have been especially looking forward to this year’s strawberry season after reading a tempting post from Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen, one of my very favorite food blogs. In addition to being an incredible food photographer, Deb writes about food in a way that always makes me want to cook. Her description of the smells this cake makes as it bakes is what sealed it for me.
And oh does it smell good. That whole pound of berries that barely fits in the pan just turns to jam, and it’s all you can do to wait out the hour-plus it takes to bake.
The cake will keep at room temperature for up to two days, loosely covered. But chances are good you won’t have much left to keep once you’ve pulled this beauty out of the oven.
Strawberry Summer Cake
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for pie plate
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon table salt
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 pound strawberries, hulled and halved
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 10-inch pie pan or 9-inch deep-dish pie pan, This cake would also work in a 9- or 10-inch springform or cake pan.
Whisk flour, baking powder and salt together in a small bowl. In a larger bowl, beat butter and 1 cup sugar until pale and fluffy with an electric mixer, about 3 minutes. Mix in egg, milk and vanilla until just combined. Add dry mixture gradually, mixing until just smooth.
Pour into prepared pie plate. Arrange strawberries, cut side down, on top of batter, as closely as possible in a single layer (though I had to overlap a few to get them all in). Sprinkle remaining 2 tablespoons sugar over berries.
Bake cake for 10 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees and bake cake until golden brown and a tester comes out free of wet batter, about 50 to 60 minutes. (Gooey strawberries on the tester are a given.) Let cool in pan on a rack. Cut into wedges. Serve with lightly whipped cream.
Jessica Webster leads the Food & Drink section at AnnArbor.com. You can reach her at JessicaWebster@AnnArbor.com.