I remember as a child barely being able to wait for strawberries to come into season. It meant that the end of school was coming, and strawberries welcomed the much-anticipated summer. Picking strawberries also creates a little bit of nostalgia for me. As a girl on the way home from school, we would stop and pick our own strawberries (I am sure eating just as many that went into the basket). I remember sitting at the kitchen counter watching my grandmother make jars and jars of strawberry jam as the entire house was perfumed with its syrupy sweetness.
Now as an adult, I still count down the days for May to come so that I can go and pick strawberries. And strawberries tend to find their way, whether savory or sweet, into every meal. You have to be careful though. Strawberries have a higher water content than other berries, which makes them trickier to bake with. But other than a classic strawberry shortcake, this is one of my favorite strawberry desserts! You can bake in a large baking dish, but I prefer the individual portions baked in little mason jars.
Warm Strawberry Crumble Cake (Serves 8)
For the filling:
3 lbs. strawberries, hulled and halved
½ cup sugar
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
2½ Tbsp. cornstarch dissolved in 2½ Tbsp. of water
1 tsp. vanilla extract
For the crumble:
½ cup lightly packed light brown sugar
½ cup plus 2 Tbsp. flour
Pinch of salt
4 Tbsp. butter, cubed and chilled
For the cake:
2¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
¾ tsp. salt
1 stick butter, softened
1¼ cups sugar
3 large eggs
1½ tsp. vanilla extract
¾ cup buttermilk
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Make the filling: In a large bowl, toss the strawberries with the sugar, lemon juice, cornstarch slurry and vanilla 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.
Make the crumble: In a medium bowl, mix all of the crumble ingredients with your fingers until a coarse meal forms; press into small clumps.
For the Cake:
Mix the dry ingredients: In a medium bowl, whisk the flour with the baking powder and salt.
Cream the butter: 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 and scraping to the bottom of the bowl between additions. Beat in the vanilla extract and scrape down the bowl.
Make the batter: Add the dry ingredients to the batter in 3 additions, alternating with the buttermilk.
Assemble: 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 with whipped cream or ice cream.
The fruit filling can also be made with a combination of blackberries, raspberries and blueberries.