Monday, May 30, 2011

Celebrating Strawberries : a Crumble + a Cake

       I've been on a strawberry high for the last few weeks. I'd been waiting, waiting for this season to come, for the day when I could smell the strawberries when I passed them in the store...when they'd again be so vibrantly red they could hardly be real. Well, the time finally arrived and I've been downing them by the pound since, tossing them onto and into everything I can manage from salads to ice cream to pies to cereal to cakes to simply gobbling them up fresh and simple by the handful. One such cake and another delicious crumble were yummy enough to share with you all here.

       Last week my sweet friend Brenna asked if I would make her a birthday cake. Of course! came my excited reply. What kind? ... Um, how about strawberry? she considered. Done and done. A very favorite cake of mine, I was thrilled to have someone to make it for. I hunted around for a good recipe, initially disappointed that every one had jello and a boxed cake mix in it. Hmpf. Then, I finally came across this winner with no artificial additions. It turned out moist and light and just sweet enough. Brenna also requested a lighter, less sweet, more whipped cream-esque kind of frosting, which I made but didn't love (the one in the picture). However, I'm a huge fan of cream cheese frosting with a strawberry cake, so I'm listing a basic recipe for it below. Delish. Let me know what you think! {Recipe below.}

       For my second ode to the strawberry I offer a strawberry-rhubarb crumble. Now, I've heard of rhubarb, and lately come across several recipes for strawberry-rhubarb pie, but let's face it, rhubarb just doesn't come around real often and I now know why. Not only does it very much resemble celery (well, purple celery), but it's straight up just not real tasty. By itself, at least. It's stringy and bitter and has a fairly unappetizing tang to it. By itself. But, when combined with sugar and strawberries and butter and lemon juice? Voila! It finds its place. So, rhubarb, I owe you an apology for my skepticism. You actually make a pretty decent pie. Thanks. It's true. This dish turned out so great. The topping is impeccable. And the strawberry-rhubarb combo just right. The juices soften the crispy rhubarb stalks which end up providing a bit more substance to each bite. It's reallly good. As in, I'm having trouble keeping myself from a third bowl. That good. So, hooray for strawberries that are ripe and wonderful! Go getcha some.

ps: this recipe is infinitely adaptable to use with nearly any fruit that's in season. for one, leave out the rhubarb if you're freaked out by it. for two, feel free to swap out the strawberries for peaches or blackberries or any combo of fruits you feel like. it's very flexible. :)

adapted slightly from smitten kitchen
serves 6-8


1 1/3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons raw sugar/turbinado
zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup pecans, toasted and finely chopped
1 stick unsalted butter, melted

1 1/2 cups rhubarb (about 6 stalks), chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 quart fresh strawberries, hulled and quartered
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup granulated sugar
4 tablespoons cornstarch (up to 1/2 cup if your berries are very juicy)
1 pinch salt

1. Heat oven to 375F. To prepare topping, combine flour, baking powder, sugars, zest, and pecans, then add melted butter, stirring until you have both small and big clumps. Refrigerate for later. 
2. For the filling, toss rhubarb, strawberries, lemon juice, sugar, corn starch, and salt in a 9-inch deep dish pie pan.
3. Coat the filling entirely with the topping and place your pie pan on a foil lined baking sheet. Bake for 40-50 minutes or until the topping is beginning to look golden brown and the filling beginning to bubble. 

adapted from
yields one 2-layer cake

24 ounces fresh strawberries, hulled
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 cup milk (i use 2%), room temperature
6 large egg whites, room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups sifted cake flour (sift first, then measure it out)
1 3/4 cups sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

1. Place strawberries and 2 teaspoons sugar in blender/food processor and puree well. Set aside. 
2. Preheat oven to 350F. Butter entire inside of two 8-inch pans then line the bottom with parchment paper. Coat parchment with butter, as well, then flour the insides and set pans aside. 
3. Using a fork and small bowl, combine 1 cup of the strawberry puree with the milk, egg whites, and vanilla, stirring until blended. 
4. In large bowl, mix sifted flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt with a mixer on low speed. Add butter, mixing until just combined. It should look crumbly.
5. Add liquid mixture to the dry and beat at medium speed for 30 seconds, until evenly combined. Stop mixer and scrape sides of the bowl, stirring all together by hand for another 30 seconds. Pour batter evenly into prepared pans. 
6. Bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool cakes in pans for about 10 minutes, then invert onto wire racks to cool completely. Once totally cooled, ice** with your favorite frosting (or mine, provided below :).

enough to ice one 2-layer cake

1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted (add up to 2 c. more if you prefer a sweeter frosting)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup pureed strawberries (use some of what's left from above mix)

1. On low speed, combine butter and cream cheese, beating until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes.
2. Pour in strawberry puree and vanilla, mixing until well combined.
2. Gradually stir in powdered sugar, then beat with mixer until incorporated, scraping down sides of the bowl as needed. Add more sugar if frosting seems too runny. 
3. Ice your cake!**

**Cake-icing tip: One way to ice a cake to keep from having icing all over the plate is to cut up several thick strips of parchment (or wax paper) and set them on the plate before you put the cooled cake on it. As you ice, the parchment will catch the frosting that would be getting on the plate. And then, when you're done, just slowly pull the paper pieces out from each side of the cake and you will have a clean plate beneath! Easy as that. The picture above shows the cake before I took the paper off. 


  1. I adore you and my cake was delicious. I am so lucky to have a friend like you, especially one who can create such amazingly wonderful delights.

  2. add a picture of the inside of the cake! this sounds so delicious, lane.

  3. brenna- i'm so glad you were happy with it! :)
    court- i couldn't take one of the inside because i wanted to take it to brenna in one piece (even though i did end up taking a slice for myself before she could get to it. i'm terrible. i'll make it again soon i'm sure, though, and will snap a shot!