Monday, June 27, 2011

Strawberry Cake

I've been wanting to try making rustic deserts ever since this book showed up in my amazon recommendations a few months ago. Crumbles, pandowdies, betties, all of the deserts look so simple and so delicious (and of course the clever names significantly add to the appeal). They usually consist primarily of fruit and sugar, with some sort of cakey/biscuity/crumbly topping playing a minor role. In my book, that's just how it should be.

About a month ago, I came across a recipe that seemed to suit my purposes perfectly. It's a technically a cake, but involves a lot less cake and a lot more strawberries. Which are cut in half and set on top of the batter and covered in sugar. Then the whole thing goes into the oven, where the strawberries promptly turn into something that's a bit like jam (but fresher, and not as sweet).

I promptly bookmarked the recipe, and waited for the right time to make it. Last week strawberries went on sale at my favorite grocery store (it has amazing produce), and I decided to jump on it. Then I had to put my strawberries in the freezer, because my kitchen was way too hot to turn on the oven. It took almost a whole week for a somewhat cooler day to come along, and then I made my cake.

And the result? Well, I have to admit, I didn't expect the strawberry cake to be this good. It's honestly the best dessert I've eaten in a long, long time. It's not the prettiest, but it tastes and smells like summer. It makes the house smell like fresh strawberries, and it comes out of the oven golden-brown and singing. You have to spoon it out of the dish, and onto a plate because there are so many strawberries. My only regret is not having any vanilla ice cream to put on top.

 Strawberry Cake
adapted from smitten kitchen who in turn adapted it from Martha Stewart

6 T butter (at room temp)
1 c granulated sugar. Reserve 2 T of this for the topping (I was almost out of this so ended up using 1/2 c white sugar and 1/2 c dark brown)
1 egg
1/2 c milk
1 t vanilla extract
1 1/2 c flour
1 1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1 lb (yes, a whole pound) strawberries, hulled and halved.

Preheat the oven to 350°. 

Beat together butter and sugar (minus the 2 T you've reserved for later) until it's light and fluffy and then stir in the egg, milk, and vanilla (I don't have an electric mixer, and wasn't really in the mood to beat by hand. So I just threw the butter, sugar, and liquid ingredients into the blender and beat it together that way. It worked well).

Sift flour, baking powder, and salt into the butter mixture. Stir until just combined, and pour into a buttered ovenproof dish (A deep-dish 9" pie pan is suggested. I used my 10 1/4" cast-iron frying pan. Whatever dish you decide to use, be sure to butter it really well).

Arrange strawberries on top of cake batter, cut-side down. Try to keep it in one layer (I had to put mine so close together that they were touching, to make them fit). Sprinkle the strawberries with 2 T of sugar.

Bake at 350° for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 325° and bake for another 50 minutes or so (it might take as long as an hour). The cake should come out when it's golden brown.

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