Strawberry Cake for the Fourth or Anytime

If you put a little whipped cream on this strawberry-studded cake and garnish it with blueberries, you could call it Fourth of July Cake, and I like the idea of coming up with one that doesn’t need frosting. Or you can just eat it anytime for dessert. Actually, it would be good with more strawberries dumped on top, with their juice soaked into it. And I suppose the whipped cream is a good idea because there is something divine about the combination of cream and strawberries.

Normally in strawberry season I just gorge myself on fresh berries. On a sunny day, I can stand in the strawberry patch and smell ripening berries. On a good day, I stand in one spot and pick a quart without moving.

We have been devouring them dipped in sour cream then in light brown sugar. That has been dessert several nights in a row now. But a week of rain, plus the daily afternoon deluge we have had, turned the strawberry patch into a soggy mess, and I am desperate to use the berries before they rot. I suppose it is a nice kind of problem to have. I’ve made jam, frozen lots of them, and whirled quarts into puree to freeze for sorbet for another time.

So I am feeling a little profligate about them, and when Toby suggested a cake, I thought, why not? Normally I would resist the idea of burying all that delectable, juicy, sweet-tart strawberry-ness in batter. It would be like adding water to a sixty-dollar bottle of wine.

I looked on the internet for a recipe since my berry crisis came up just this week and there wasn’t time to ask you all for your ideas and recipes. I found several, and the one that follows is an amalgam of them. If you have a better one, please share.

Strawberry Cake
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup (1 stick) butter
1 ¼ cup sugar
1 egg
2/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 scant quart of strawberries, hulled and halved
Cinnamon sugar to sprinkle, optional

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a ten-inch cake pan. Sift together the flour, baking powder, nutmeg and salt. Beat the butter and sugar together until it is fluffy, then add the egg, milk, and vanilla and beat. Gradually add the dry ingredients beating just enough to make a moderately stiff batter. Pour the batter into the pan, and place the halved berries on top. Sprinkle cinnamon sugar over the top of the cake if you wish. Bake for 60-70 minutes or until a tester inserted comes out clean.

Yields a ten-inch one-layer cake

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About Sandy Oliver

Sandy Oliver Sandy is a freelance food writer with the column Taste Buds appearing weekly since 2006 in the Bangor Daily News, and regular columns in Maine Boats, Homes, and Harbors magazine and The Working Waterfront. Besides freelance food writing, she is a pioneering food historian beginning her work in 1971 at Mystic Seaport Museum, where she developed a fireplace cooking program in an 1830s house. After moving to Maine in 1988, Sandy wrote, Saltwater Foodways: New Englanders and Their Foods at Sea and Ashore in the 19th Century published in 1995. She is the author of The Food of Colonial and Federal America published in fall of 2005, and Giving Thanks: Thanksgiving History and Recipes from Pilgrims to Pumpkin Pie which she co-authored with Kathleen Curtin. She often speaks to historical organizations and food professional groups around the country, organizes historical dinners, and conducts classes and workshops in food history and in sustainable gardening and cooking. Sandy lives on Islesboro, an island in Penobscot where she gardens, preserves, cooks and teaches sustainable lifeways.