My house has been invaded by ants. Not the big, nasty carpenter ants, but the tiny, black, almost-can’t-see-em sugar ants: we get them every June. It usually only lasts for a week or two: they congregate around the kitchen sink, for the water and the dropped crumbs, and I clean like a crazy woman and buy some ant traps, and they eventually disappear. Why June? I have no idea. Is this when they have a big population spike after the long, cold winter? Does it finally get dry enough outside that they have to go searching for water and they particularly like the piquant flavor of my kitchen tap? Or is it…. Strawberry Season?
Because, honestly, I can’t blame them. The smells coming out of my kitchen over the last couple of days have been nothing short of Pied Piper-esque. I’m surprised we don’t have deer, raccoons and chipmunks lining up on the back deck, whimpering at the kitchen window. First there were 12 and 1/2 pounds of very red, very ripe, very delicious Jones Family Farms strawberries, likely the very last of the season. Then there was a batch of my favorite strawberry rhubarb jam (soon to be updated with Pictures That Don’t Suck (Much)™). There’s been a batch of Ferber-esque whole berry preserves, macerating and simmering once a day (recipe to follow!). And then, there was this cake: the end-all, be-all of strawberry aroma. Seriously: this puppy bakes for an hour and the strawberry smell during that time is so outrageous that it is quite literally unbelievable. I think I recruited every ant in greater NY Metro, and maybe even some from Jersey, to the ‘hood.
I first saw this cake over at Smitten Kitchen where Deb managed to get her hands on some local berries over a month ago (yes, I am a slacker. But she also lives much closer to Jersey. Everything grows faster there: it’s the chemicals.) Deb got the recipe from Martha (natch) who is also in the ‘hood, so it already feels local! Of course, I had to make some changes: I gotta be me, after all. When “normal” people (i.e. Deb @ Smitten, and my friend Kim) tell me a recipe is too sweet, I generally assume it will be way too sweet for me. So I cut the sugar in the original recipe in half (from 1 cup to 1/2 cup), knowing it would likely affect the cake’s structure, but willing to trade off height & fluffiness for a not-too-sweet cake. As it turned out, my cake was a bit dense and very moist; more like a pie, or crumble, really, but it was not too sweet. In fact, I think it could use just a bump up in sweetness, so I am recommending 3/4 cup sugar in the recipe (although I will say the lack of sweetness is making me feel better about having a piece for breakfast this morning). Also, this seems to be a cake that can hold its own with a heartier, whole grain flour: if you’ve been wanting to experiment with some whole grain flours, but haven’t been ready to take the plunge, I think this is the recipe for you: the structure is very forgiving, it is so berry-packed that it is nearly impossible for the cake to turn out dry, and the sweetness of the berries and the slight yogurt tang will marry well with a hearty, flavorful flour. If you still have strawberries in your neck of the woods (I’m looking at you, Canada) give this one a shot. The smell alone is worth it.
- 3/4 cup (about 3 and 1/2 oz) whole white wheat flour
- 3/4 cup (about 3 and 1/2 oz) whole wheat pastry flour
- 1 and 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 6 tbsp (3 oz) butter, softened at room temperature
- 3/4 cup raw sugar, plus 2 tbsp for sprinkling (I used 1/2 cup, but think the cake could use a little more sweetening and structure)
- 1/2 cup yogurt
- 1 large egg
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 lb strawberries, rinsed, hulled and sliced in half if large
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (325 degrees convection). Butter a 10-inch pie pan (or a 9-inch deep dish pan).
- In a small bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar, beating on high with an electric mixer for about 3 minutes. Add yogurt, egg and vanilla; blend until just combined. Gradually add flour mixture and beat just until smooth.
- Spoon batter into prepared pie pan and smooth with a spatula. Sprinkle berries evenly over top, pressing down lightly to even out the top of the cake. Sprinkle 2 tbsp of sugar evenly over the berries.
- Bake cake in the 350 degree F oven for 10 minutes, then lower temperature to 325 degrees F (300 degrees F convection) and continue to bake until the middle is firm, the top is golden brown, and a tester (inserted in the most berry-free middle spot) comes out clean, about an hour. Cool in pan on wire rack. Decorate with a dusting of powdered sugar and/or serve with whipped or ice cream.
- Martha’s original recipe specified all-purpose flour, milk instead of yogurt and 1 cup + 2 tbsp of white sugar. Deb at Smitten Kitchen recommended 7/8 cup + 2 tbsp of sugar.
- While I routinely sub in some whole wheat pastry flour as a substitute for AP flour, I think this cake could handle the heartier grains. Next time I would make it with 100% white wheat, or a mix of white wheat and spelt or hard red wheat.
- Buttermilk is a natural substitute if you are out of milk or yogurt.
- Seems like it would work with any melty berry or cherry, no?
For up to two days at room temperature, loosely covered with a clean kitchen towel. Wrapped in an ant-proof barricade of plastic wrap, you’ll likely need to re-crisp in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes.