Friday, April 15, 2011
Warm Strawberry Crumb Cake
Strawberry sighting! After a long and wet winter season, suddenly we have the arrival of the first strawberries of spring and not a moment too soon. Bright red, plump, fragrant and juicy, strawberries are a welcome burst of brightness after a long stretch of rain clouds. For me, asparagus and strawberries are the first anticipated bites of spring and I’m enjoying both in great quantities right now. Primavera!
Strawberry shortcake is usually the order of the day as warm weather unfolds. This simple cake is another perfect way to enjoy the same elements but with some different textures. The strawberries are baked into a warm jammy lusciousness, tucked safely underneath a delicious cake batter and a crumb topping. It’s part gooey fruit, part dreamy delicious moist cake and part little layer of crisp and crust. Best eaten warm, it’s a really terrific spoon dessert that will add to your favorite spring fruit memories. You’ll see.
- The original instructions call for baking the cake at 350 degrees for 1 hour and 15 minutes. My cake was done in about 50 – 55 minutes. Whenever I'm not sure how long to bake something, I usually start checking it around what I think is a reasonable time for the pastry to set and then just keep checking it in 2 - 5 minute intervals depending on the first test. With experience, you'll be able to tell just how much longer a cake needs to bake based on your first test. So check it around the 40 minute mark and see what you think. With this cake you'll be able to tell when to test it by the delicious aroma wafting through your kitchen. A toothpick should come out with just a few moist crumbs attached.
- Taste your strawberries to determine how sweet they are and adjust the sugar in the fruit mixture accordingly.
- The recipe calls for this to be baked in a glass pan or ceramic dish. I’m guessing that’s to avoid any chemical reaction of metal cake pans and the highly acidic strawberries.
- The baked fruit is thickened just a bit with a cornstarch slurry, which is a mixture of equal parts cornstarch and cold liquid.
- If you don’t have a vanilla bean handy for the fruit mixture, use about 1 1/2 – 2 teaspoons vanilla extract.
- I also added the grated zest of half an orange to the strawberries.
- I made a half recipe and used individual ramekins, which produces 4 – 6 servings, depending on the size of your ramekins. For a half recipe, I used 1 egg plus 1 egg yolk. I also used an ice cream scoop to distribute the batter evenly. Baking time is about 20 – 25 minutes.
- For convenience when halving recipes, keep these equivalencies handy: 1/4 C = 4 Tablespoons; 1/3 C = 5 Tablespoons + 1 teaspoon; 1 Tablespoon = 3 teaspoons.
- This is good on its own but also nice with a dollop of whipped cream or crème fraîche.
- This would also be a great dessert with any berry or really just about any fruit.
Warm Strawberry Crumb Cake
adapted from Food and Wine magazine
Serves 8 to 10
3 lbs strawberries (about 8 cups)
1/2 C sugar, to taste
2 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 1/2 T cornstarch dissolved in 2 1/2 T of cold water
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
zest of half an orange (optional addition)
1/2 C lightly packed light brown sugar
1/2 C + 2 T flour
Pinch of salt
2 oz (1/2 stick) cold butter, cut into small cubes
2 1/4 C flour
1 T baking powder
3/4 t salt
4 oz (1 stick) butter @ room temperature
1 1/4 C sugar
1 1/2 t vanilla
3/4 C buttermilk
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Hull and halve the strawberries. Combine the cornstarch and cold water.
Toss the strawberries with the sugar, lemon juice, cornstarch slurry, vanilla seeds and orange zest, if using. Let stand for about 30 minutes or so, until the berries release some of their juices. Pour the fruit mixture and juices into a 9"x 13" glass or ceramic baking dish set on a sturdy baking sheet to catch any drips as the fruit bubbles up.
For the Crumb Topping, mix all of the ingredients with your fingers until it looks like coarse meal and then press into small clumps.
For the cake batter, whisk the flour with the baking powder and salt.
Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing thoroughly between additions. Scrape down the bowl and add the vanilla extract. Add the dry ingredients to the batter in 3 additions, alternating with half the buttermilk and beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Mix until just about blended. Finish mixing by hand using a rubber spatula.
Spoon the batter over the fruit filling, spreading it to the edges of the pan. Sprinkle the batter evenly with the crumb topping.
Bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes or until the fruit is bubbling, the crumb topping is golden and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out with a few moist crumbs attached. (Mine baked in much less time. Check it at about the 40 - 45 minute mark or when the aroma begins to intensify.)
Transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly. Serve warm or at room temperature. Cheers to spring!