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Fresh or frozen, strawberries shine in an easy cake

Recipe:  Serve this fruity creation with a spoon

Top this easy baked dessert with a scoop of ice cream.

Top this easy baked dessert with a scoop of ice cream. Kathy Morrison

OK, confession time: I always buy too much of whatever spring or summer fruit is in season. Strawberries, blueberries, apricots, cherries, peaches! But I justify it by thinking "I'll freeze the rest and have fruit for baking in winter."

Then, while we enjoy the fresh fruit in season, the excess fruit get buried in the back of the freezer in a 2-cup or 4-cup container. Until the next year, when the fruit's season starts again, and I realize I never used the frozen stuff.

Hence the strawberries I pulled out of the icy depths this weekend. Just in time for California strawberries to start showing up at area farmers markets. Sigh.

But I found an easy and yummy recipe that I think actually works better with frozen fruit. Strawberry spoon bread is from the New York Times Cooking site, but commenters there note that the style of cake goes way back, and is sometimes called "Lazy woman's cobbler." OK, I accept that, if lazy equates to "get in and out of the kitchen quickly."

The ingredients are all pantry items, and there are no eggs. (The recipe easily could be converted to vegan with vegan butter and oat or almond milk.)

Another commenter confessed to messing up the baking time and temperature, but said the mistake led to an even better version of the cake. I followed the idea and agree!

Any juicy type of fruit will work here, including packaged frozen fruit that often is used in smoothies. In my freezer I'm eyeing a bag of frozen apricots next.

Strawberries in measuring cup
The berries macerate in brown sugar and just a
bit of lemon juice.

Strawberry spoon cake

Serves 4


1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

1-1/2 cups hulled strawberries, fresh or frozen (defrost ahead of time)

1 teaspoon lemon juice

2/3 cup brown sugar, divided

1/2 cup whole milk, room temperature

1 cup unbleached flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt


Heat oven to 325 degrees. Place the butter in an 8-inch baking dish (round seems to work better) and put the pan in the warming oven so the butter will melt.

In a medium bowl, mash the strawberries (with any liquid from defrosting them, if they've been frozen). Add the lemon juice and 1/3 cup of the brown sugar. Set aside to macerate while you make the cake batter.

Remove the baking pan from the oven. Swirl the melted butter around in the pan to cover the sides, then pour the butter into a medium bowl. Don't scrape down the pan -- the remaining butter will act as the grease for the cake.

Finished cake in dish
The strawberries form a jammy top to the cake
when baked.

Stir the remaining 1/3 cup brown sugar and the milk into the butter until well-combined. Add the flour, baking powder and salt, stirring until just smooth.

Scrape the batter into the baking pan and spread it evenly. It will be thick. Carefully spoon the macerated berries and all the liquid over the top of the batter.

Bake 20 minutes at 325 degrees, then turn up the heat to 350 degrees and bake for 15 more minutes. The fruit will be quite jammy, and a toothpick inserted in the cake center should come out clean.

Cool for about 5 minutes before serving. This is excellent warm or at room temperature. Spoon into bowls and serve with ice cream or whipped cream or even Greek yogurt.


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Garden Checklist for week of May 19

Temperatures will be a bit higher than normal in the afternoons this week. Take care of chores early in the day – then enjoy the afternoon. It’s time to smell the roses.

* Plant, plant, plant! It’s prime planting season in the Sacramento area. If you haven’t already, it’s time to set out those tomato transplants along with peppers and eggplants. Pinch off any flowers on new transplants to make them concentrate on establishing roots instead of setting premature fruit.

* Direct-seed melons, cucumbers, summer squash, corn, radishes, pumpkins and annual herbs such as basil.

* Harvest cabbage, lettuce, peas and green onions.

* In the flower garden, direct-seed sunflowers, cosmos, salvia, zinnias, marigolds, celosia and asters.

* Plant dahlia tubers. Other perennials to set out include verbena, coreopsis, coneflower and astilbe.

* Transplant petunias, marigolds and perennial flowers such as astilbe, columbine, coneflowers, coreopsis, dahlias, rudbeckia and verbena.

* Keep an eye out for slugs, snails, earwigs and aphids that want to dine on tender new growth.

* Feed summer bloomers with a balanced fertilizer.

* For continued bloom, cut off spent flowers on roses as well as other flowering plants.

* Don’t forget to water. Seedlings need moisture. Deep watering will help build strong roots and healthy plants.

* Add mulch to the garden to help keep that precious water from evaporating. Mulch also cuts down on weeds. But don’t let it mound around the stems or trunks of trees or shrubs. Leave about a 6-inch to 1-foot circle to avoid crown rot or other problems.

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