Spring is here! And suddenly there are strawberries everywhere. Big fat juicy ones, just leaping off the shelves into my basket.
Beautiful right? I wanted a good recipe to make good use use of these babies. And wow. This is a good one. A simple, foolproof, old fashioned delight. Somewhere between a pudding and a cake, light and sweet, with a crispy top and an oozy bottom.
Now, I'm not usually that keen on cooked berries. I don't really like fruit compotes and fruit pies are not really my thing. My attitude up until now has been 'Please don't spoil my lovely berries by cooking them to a pulp' or simply, 'Hand over the punnet and no one gets hurt." But I've been won over to the dark side. This cake is the bomb. The strawberries sink into the batter and turn into pools of gooey jam. The cake expands around the berries, becoming light and fluffy, while the top gets golden and crisp. Because it cooks slowly the flavours have time to mingle and you end up with a heavenly dessert (and a heavenly smelling kitchen) that has an ol' time feel to it.
Adapted (only slightly) from a Smitten Kitchen recipe, who adapted it (only slightly) from a Martha Stewart recipe:
200g of plain flour
1.5 tsp baking powder
Good pinch salt
200g caster sugar (plus 2 tbsp for dusting top)
1 large egg
125ml whole milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp lemon zest
Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Butter a 10 inch cake tin. Sift flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy - an electric whisk makes this easier, but I just used a hand whisk. Stir in the egg, milk, vanilla extract and lemon zest. Slowly add the flour and mix until smooth. Don't over mix the batter but make sure it's nicely combined and shiny.
Put the mixture into your greased tin and flatten with a spatula. Place the strawberries in a single layer, cut side down on the batter. Make sure the strawberries sit as close together as possible - mine were a little bit too spaced apart and sank a bit too much. If your strawberries are super-large (like mine were) you might want to cut them into quarters. Sprinkle the top with 2 tbsp of sugar - this will help the strawberries turn gooey and give you a crispy top.
Allow to cool for at least 30 mins (or you'll end up with a molten strawberry mess) and serve with creme fraiche or whipped cream. Heaven.