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.