The markets around here are brimming with gorgeous strawberries. Unable to resist their juicy goodness, I without fail come home with way too many berries for a two-person household. When this madness happened again this weekend, I decided that I had to find a delicious way to use up multiple pints of berries.
Food & Wine came to the rescue with a recipe that combines berries with what I love most in desserts: moist, buttery cake and a sweet, crispy crumble. Eaten warm, this strawberry crumble cake is like a hug in the sun.
For the filling:
- 3 pounds strawberries, hulled and halved (8 cups) -- I used about 6 cups fresh berries and 2 cups thawed frozen berries
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch dissolved in 2 1/2 tablespoons of water
- 1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
- 1/2 cup lightly packed light brown sugar
- 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- Pinch of salt
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed and chilled
- (I also added a pinch of cinnamon and nutmeg.)
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
- 1 1/4 cups sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup buttermilk
To begin, make the fruit filling: Preheat the oven to 350°. In a large bowl, toss the strawberries with the sugar, lemon juice, cornstarch slurry and vanilla seeds and let stand until the berries release some of their juices, about 30 minutes. Pour the fruit filling into a 9-by-13-inch glass or ceramic baking dish set on a sturdy baking sheet.
Then make the crumble topping. In a medium bowl, mix all of the crumble ingredients with your fingers (or a pastry cutter) until a coarse meal forms; press into small clumps. (I prefer using the pastry cutter because I find that this keeps the butter cold. For the same reason, I keep the prepared crumble in the fridge until I'm ready to bake.)
Then make the cake. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour with the baking powder and salt. In a large bowl, using a handheld electric mixer, beat the butter with the sugar at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well between additions. Beat in the vanilla extract and scrape down the bowl. Add the dry ingredients to the batter in 3 additions, alternating with the buttermilk.
Spoon the batter over the fruit filling, spreading it to the edge. Sprinkle with the crumb topping. Bake in the center of the oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes, until the fruit is bubbling, the crumb topping is golden and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out with a few moist crumbs attached. Transfer to a rack to cool slightly. Serve the crumb cake warm or at room temperature.
Food & Wine says you can make this dessert ahead of time and refrigerate overnight. I put it in the fridge for two nights, let it come to temperature a few hours before serving, and warmed it up in a 225 degree oven. The textures of the cake were still perfect: crispy crumble on top, soft cake layer in the middle, and a syrupy berry base.
Consume with vanilla ice cream or a glass of ice cold milk. Smile at the thought that summer is upon us.