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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 Sept. 25

This week's warm break will revive summer crops such as peppers and tomatoes that may still be trying to produce fruit. Pumpkins and winter squash will add weight rapidly.

Be on the lookout for powdery mildew and other fungal diseases that may be enjoying this combination of warm air and moist soil.

* Late September is ideal for sowing a new lawn or re-seeding bare spots.

* Compost annuals and vegetable crops that have finished producing.

* Cultivate and add compost to the soil to replenish its nutrients for fall and winter vegetables and flowers.

* Plant for fall now. The warm soil will get cool-season veggies and flowers off to a fast start.

* Plant onions, lettuce, peas, radishes, turnips, beets, carrots, bok choy, spinach and potatoes directly into the vegetable beds.

* Transplant lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower.

* Sow seeds of California poppies, clarkia and African daisies.

* Transplant cool-weather annuals such as pansies, violas, fairy primroses, calendulas, stocks and snapdragons.

* Divide and replant bulbs, rhizomes and perennials.

* Dig up and divide daylilies as they complete their bloom cycle.

* Divide and transplant peonies that have become overcrowded. Replant with "eyes" about an inch below the soil surface.

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