Monday, July 6, 2009

strawberry buttermilk cake

After Con Queso unveiled her perfect strawberry shortcake, I racked my brain for alternative uses for the strawberry. I considered a classic strawberry pie, or an Anglophilic Eton Mess, or a strawberry marscapone tart, but my heart just wasn't in it. You see, my affection for strawberry shortcake is such that to attempt any other strawberry dessert just felt self-defeating—a doomed race for the runner-up.

And so instead I decided to lower my expectations.

I chose this Strawberry Buttermilk Cake because it seemed like a cake comfortable with its own limitations. Between the virtuous composition (I know, only in the world according to Paula Deen and Ina Garten would half a stick of butter and one egg be considered virtuous, but they certainly don't scream hedonism) and the easy-as-pie preparation, this cake fell safely into the "everyday dessert" category. It seemed like the kind of cake you could snack on in the afternoon, or dress up with a dollop of whipped cream on a weeknight. The kind of cake that's not looking for any superlatives.

And indeed, having made the cake, I can confirm that it is all of those things. What I'll also say, and what I didn't expect, is that it's deeply satisfying, too. With its sunken strawberry craters and crunchy sugar coating, this cake certainly doesn't taste "everyday." I don't think it's usurped shortcakes on my strawberry hierarchy, but it's a pretty awesome substitute.

Strawberry Buttermilk Cake
Adapted from Gourmet

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar, divided use
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 large egg, at room temperature
1/2 cup well-shaken buttermilk
1 cup fresh strawberries, halved

Preheat oven to 400 degrees with rack in middle. Butter and flour a 9-inch round cake pan.

In small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

With an electric mixer, cream butter and 2/3 cup sugar until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes, then beat in vanilla. Add egg and beat well.

At low speed, add flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with buttermilk. (Begin and end with flour). Mix until just combined.

Spoon batter into cake pan, smoothing top. Scatter strawberries over the top [I placed mine in concentric circles] and sprinkle with remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar. [I know, it looks like a lot. Just go with it.]

Bake until cake is golden and a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool in pan 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack and cool to warm, 10 to 15 minutes more. Invert onto a plate.


  1. I will stand witness to the Greatness that is this cake. In the car, the day after, it was perfect, as I suspect it would be with a smudge of creme fraich nastiness. While I agree that the shortcake is ultimately the better dessert, this was so unexpectedly good and satisfying.... it will absolutely be a staple in my June repertoire's going forward.

  2. No love for strawberry rhubarb pie, mock turtle? Strawberry and rhubarb are nature's Heidi and Spencer: uninteresting if left alone but overwhelming when presented together. The community of pie pollsters seem to be conspiring to hide America's love for it by cleverly omitting it from their surveys, but they can't suppress the affection from the comment sections that follow: