Springtime Strawberry Cake

Learning to bake with no prior knowledge, and I mean no knowledge aside from adding oil to a box mix requires following a ton of recipes word for word before getting a general idea of how things work. Even after learning endless recipes, the notion of just knowing how to whip up a new creation out of thin air was still a mystery. For awhile I tried modifying recipes, which worked... kind of, but now I don't have to do that! I found a couple books that have helped me out with my need for spontaneous, cookbook-free cooking and baking: With the help of Michael Ruhlman's Ratio, I made this strawberry cake without a recipe!
With all the spring produce showing up in the grocery stores I found myself with a lot of strawberries on my hands. Impulse buy? Yes. But they are so vibrant, who could avoid streamlining towards the display of strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries? For a few days I ate these red, juicy, and occasionally oddly shaped berries straight from the carton, which was perfect for that short stretch of 70 degree days, but it didn't take long to realize that I had too many strawberries. Time for yet another attempt at strawberry cake...
Usually I end up with a soggy cake containing chunks of strawberries and very little strawberry flavor. The strawberry icing also tends to be a mess of separated liquid and what looks like coagulated chunks of powdered sugar and... maybe butter? This is probably because I always tried to add smashed strawberries to the icing hoping that it might work (it never does), but instead there is a funny chemical reaction that causes separation. I have yet to google why that happens...

This time I used Ratio and came out with this perfect little strawberry cake. It has a light strawberry flavor, a moist and spongy texture, and with the strawberries that dry out on top you that extra kick of concentrated strawberry taste - no icing needed! I'll save the icing experiments for another day.

Mini Strawberry Cake
1 egg
2 oz sugar
1 oz butter or vegan butter, melted
3 oz mashed strawberries
1/4 tsp vanilla extract (strawberry extract would be better, but I didn't have any so I used vanilla)
2 oz flour
1/8 tsp baking soda
pinch salt
2-3 strawberries, sliced for garnish

*The way this recipe works is similar to pound cake - a 1:1:1:1 ratio. That's 1 part flour, 1 part egg, 1 part sugar, and 1 part fat. What makes this different from pound cake is the technique used to make the cake (the way ingredients are mixed, the order they are mixed, etc). To keep things simple I used 2 oz, the weight of 1 egg, as my base measurement. I used half the amount of fat so the cake wasn't too dense.

Preheat oven to 350ยบ F

-Crack the egg in a medium size bowl and whip it with a whisk (...tongue twister?) until it is really fluffy
-Add the sugar and whip, then add the butter and whip the batter just a bit more
-Add the strawberries and vanilla extract - I didn't exactly whip these ingredients into the batter, but I mixed them quickly with the whisk... 
-Add the flour, baking soda, and salt, and fold in gently with a rubber spatula until it is just incorporated, do not over mix or it will become tough!
-Pour the batter into a small pan or muffin tins (makes 2-3 muffins)
-Gently arrange the strawberry slices on top of the batter and bake for approximately 25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean


Monet 4/25/12, 9:41 AM  

Oh it does look like the most perfect little strawberry cake! Thank you for sharing. I'm glad I visited your blog this morning. I hope you have a wonderful Wednesday!

Joanne 4/26/12, 8:09 AM  

I was actually thinking about how I need this book just the other day! I can't for the life of me come up with baked goods from scratch. Your cake looks fantastic! I love teh strawberries imprinted on the top.

sweet road 4/26/12, 10:50 AM  

@Monet Thanks for stopping by, I hope you find a moment to try out this cake, it really is a great little breakfast treat!

sweet road 4/26/12, 10:53 AM  

@Joanne I know, coming up with recipes can be so hard and time consuming! If you are thinking about it, I really do recommend this book... It doesn't give "recipes", but it gives you the basic ratios and explains the techniques that make each recipe so you can alter and build on the information really easily.

Miss Iffa 4/27/12, 8:26 PM  

I will try this out, it looks so impressive!

Aylin @ Glow Kitchen 4/28/12, 2:30 AM  

I love the way the strawberries look popping out at the top -- very beautiful presentation!

Louise 5/1/12, 5:15 PM  

lovely blog! and strawberries...ah to die for! love the look of this cake, looks perfect for a picnic:)


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