This easy-to-bake strawberry spoon cake lies somewhere between a cake and a cobbler. It bakes up beautifully and harnesses all the juices of ripe summer berries. This recipe is a variation on a classic summer fruit dessert known as “Essie’s cobbler.”
After such a long stretch of not socializing, I’m struggling to remember the ins and outs of it all. And even though I’ve dreamed of having dear friends over and serving epic dinners for more than a year, now that the moment is here, I’m feeling unsteady.
I’m also just really tired of cooking. Dreaming up menus or planning a feast feels exhausting. When catching up with folks I haven’t seen indoors since early 2020, I don’t want to be stuck in the kitchen.
Simple Menus for Summer Gatherings
The challenge then is to find ways to enjoy the summer and our vaccinated friends with ease and simplicity. I’ll be focusing on boards and spreads of snacky things that don’t require too much prep work. For mains, I’m thinking about easy dips, big fruit and cheese boards, little sides and flatbreads, or sating salads.
Dessert should be simple, but celebratory. You could make these strawberries in red wine syrup (truly, this is the easiest dessert and it has no business being as delicious as it is). I have a little catalog of simple cakes, like olive oil or strawberry cornmeal, and now, I’m adding this strawberry spoon cake to the mix.
Strawberry Spoon Cake (aka Strawberry Cobbler)
This strawberry spoon cake lies somewhere between a cobbler and a more traditional cake. The butter melts in the baking dish, and then you just swirl in the spoon cake batter and a mess of juicy strawberries, and it all comes together as it bakes in the oven. This approach would work well with any kind of berry or stone fruit (and is an especially good way to make use of fruits that are edging toward overripe). Baking it feels a little bit like an act of faith, each ingredient feels very separate at the beginning and then magically, it all comes together.
In researching the recipe and its countless variations, I found that it was a variation of a traditional recipe known as Essie’s cobbler. I’ll need to keep digging to find the original recipe, though I suspect a vintage lady’s magazine or church recipe pamphlet might be the source. I typically make my cobblers with the fruit underneath the cake or biscuit topping, but here, the cake batter sits under the fruit, allowing spoon cake (aka strawberry cobbler), to bake up with all the juice and flavor of the fruit without the need for added thickeners or excess sugar.
Whether you call it a strawberry spoon cake or strawberry cobbler, it’s a beautifully direct expression of summer baking and I plan to try the recipe with every fruit I can get my hands on.
This easy-to-bake strawberry spoon cake lies somewhere between a cake and a cobbler. It bakes up beautifully and harnesses all the juices of ripe summer berries. This recipe is a variation on a classic summer fruit dessert known as "Essie's cobbler." Recipe adapted slightly from The New York Times.
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter (½ cup)
- 8 ounces hulled, sliced strawberries (about 1 heaping cup)
- ⅔ cup cane sugar, or use granulated
- ½ cup whole milk
- ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons cornmeal
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Set butter in an 8-inch square baking dish and set in the oven. Let butter melt completely and get a little brown on the edges, about 8 minutes. Then remove from oven and set aside to cool briefly. Tip the dish carefully to coat all the sides with butter.
Meanwhile, mash strawberries with a fork and toss with ⅓ cup sugar. Set aside.
In a small dish, stir to combine the milk and remaining ⅓ cup sugar.
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and sea salt. Fold wet ingredients into the dry.
Carefully spoon batter into baking dish with hot butter (it may spit a little bit). Smooth out batter as best you can, it will be separate from the butter and that’s ok. Spoon the strawberries and all their juices on top – they should be somewhat evenly distributed over the center of the cake.
Bake 30 - 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just a few crumbs attached.
Cool 30 minutes, then slice and serve with vanilla ice cream.
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