Monday, July 25, 2011

Fresh Strawberry Cake

Do you get sucked into buying the 4-pound case of strawberries and then find that they are already starting to spoil after just two days? And still have a fridge full of jam made to use them up quickly from the time before when you did that? Sure, fresh strawberries are excellent on green salads, made into a compote with oranges and orange liqueur for shortcakes, tossed with balsamic vinegar over ice cream, and just straight on their own! That's why I'm always sucked into buying them by the caseload, because there are so many delicious ways to use them. But that's only when they're fresh and good. When they start to go downhill, they need to be frozen, or cooked. So I came up with this strawberry cake to help get another couple days out of the bountiful loads of berries coming through my kitchen this month.

The first cake I thought of for a base to play with was Dorie Greenspan's French Yogurt Cake. But that has nuts in the batter and wasn't quite what I wanted in this case. But it did lead me to consider Ina Garten's Lemon Yogurt Cake which is ultimately what I modified to create the strawberry version below.

I absolutely love how this turned out. While it's not very elegant, it is still quite versatile, being moist and dense enough like a coffee cake to eat for breakfast, but sweet and cakey enough to really feel like dessert. The cardamom and strawberries together are a unique combination; spiced, but sweet, and tart. My preferred serving would be to take it to a picnic and serve in squares straight from the pan with whipped cream.

Strawberry-Cardamom Cake
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

1 cup yogurt (I used Dannon Vanilla Light & Fit, but I'm sure plain, lowfat or regular fat yogurt would be even better)
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup vegetable oil

12-15 small/medium ripe strawberries, washed, hulled. and halved or quartered depending on size

pomegranate molasses

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together dry ingredients - flour, baking powder, salt, and cardamom.
In a separate bowl, blend yogurt, sugar, eggs, vanilla, and oil. Fold in dry ingredients just until incorporated.
Pour batter into lightly greased 9x9" glass baking dish. Arrange strawberries atop batter, cut side down, in a decorative pattern, filling as much of the top as possible but without overlapping the berries.
Bake 30-35 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Meanwhile, prepare glaze (recipe below).
While cake is still hot, use a pastry brush to brush strawberry compote glaze over top of hot cake. Return to oven for about 5 minutes, just to set the glaze.
Serve cake warm, or cool in pan on rack and serve with whipped cream or ice cream.

Strawberry Compote
I made a strawberry compote using up the remaining berries that were about to get too ripe. You can scale this recipe to taste and to make as much or as little as you want. I used the rest of the compote in spoonfulls on top of puff pastry. It would also be delicious as tart filling, or over ice cream. You could also strain it to make a sorbet.

1 1/2 - 2 cups washed, hulled, and quartered strawberries
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
2 tablespoons balsamic vineagar

Mix all ingredients together in heavy saucepan. Mash berries with potato masher or fork. Cook over medium heat, stirring regularly, until sugar is dissolved. Bring to a boil and cook uncovered until desired thickness. Compote will thicken slightly as it cools.

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