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Fresh or frozen, strawberries shine in an easy cake

Recipe:  Serve this one with a spoon

Bowl with spoon cake and ice cream
A bit of ice cream is a terrific accompaniment
to a warm serving of spoon cake. (Photos: 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

Ingredients:

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

Instructions:

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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RECIPE

A recipe for preparing delicious meals from the bounty of the garden.

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Dig In: Garden checklist for week of Jan. 29

Bundle up and get work done!

* Prune, prune, prune. Now is the time to cut back most deciduous trees and shrubs. The exceptions are spring-flowering shrubs such as lilacs.

* Now is the time to prune fruit trees, except apricot and cherry trees. Clean up leaves and debris around the trees to prevent the spread of disease.

* Prune roses, even if they’re still trying to bloom or sprouting new growth. Strip off any remaining leaves, so the bush will be able to put out new growth in early spring.

* Prune Christmas camellias (Camellia sasanqua), the early-flowering varieties, after their bloom. They don’t need much, but selective pruning can promote bushiness, upright growth and more bloom next winter. Feed with an acid-type fertilizer. But don’t feed your Japonica camellias until after they finish blooming next month. Feeding while camellias are in bloom may cause them to drop unopened buds.

* Clean up leaves and debris around your newly pruned roses and shrubs. Put down fresh mulch or bark to keep roots cozy.

* Apply horticultural oil to fruit trees to control scale, mites and aphids. Oils need 24 hours of dry weather after application to be effective.

* This is also the time to spray a copper-based oil to peach and nectarine trees to fight leaf curl. Avoid spraying on windy days.

* Divide daylilies, Shasta daisies and other perennials.

* Cut back and divide chrysanthemums.

* Plant bare-root roses, trees and shrubs.

* Transplant pansies, violas, calendulas, English daisies, snapdragons and fairy primroses.

* In the vegetable garden, plant fava beans, head lettuce, mustard, onion sets, radicchio and radishes.

* Plant bare-root asparagus and root divisions of rhubarb.

* In the bulb department, plant callas, anemones, ranunculus and gladiolus for bloom from late spring into summer.

* Plant blooming azaleas, camellias and rhododendrons. If you’re shopping for these beautiful landscape plants, you can now find them in full flower at local nurseries.

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