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« Whole Wheat Almond Waffles with Blackberry Vanilla Syrup | Main | Strawberry Charlotte »

Fresh Strawberry Cake

Fresh Strawberry Cake

I have been keeping a secret from you for the last couple years. Partially out of embarrassment and partially out of the belief that I could quickly remedy the situation, I swept it under the cupboards and kept my lips sealed. The truth is that I do not know how to cook. While I know enough to fill the refrigerator and keep my stomach full, the knowledge and techniques involved in cooking often escape me. Take away my spatula and mixing bowl and things quickly slide downhill.

The ability to cook and the ability to bake are often entwined, but to me they have been two very separate activities. They feel different. Baking comes naturally to me; I understand how to turn butter and flour into something beautiful with little effort. Cooking, on the other hand, has always been a challenge. I fumble around fresh cuts of meat and vegetables, uncertain of myself.

Fresh Strawberry Cake Fresh Strawberry Cake

My method of cooking is to throw a few vegetables together with egg noodles, top it with a fried egg, and call it dinner. While I do not mind these bland, makeshift meals, they certainly are not worthy enough to serve to anyone else (in fact, my boyfriend often turns his nose up at the strange combinations that find their way onto my plate). I am miserable when it comes to seasoning food, relying heavily on salt and pepper to rescue my dishes. Other spices seem to be beyond my culinary grasp.

My biggest pitfall, however, comes with cooking protein. Every time I place a chicken breast in a hot pan or grill, I radically misjudge the cooking time. I have to cut apart the chicken to check for a pink center (which there invariably is) as all of the juice runs out. I am excellent at preparing dry chicken. Moreover, I was recently informed that I incorrectly fry hamburger, rendering it to a nearly inedible rubber consistency (to my further discredit, I had assumed this was how it was supposed to be).

I did not realize how far I had fallen until I tuned in to the last season of MasterChef. Gordon Ramsey cursed out a contestant for frying an egg incorrectly. Since the contestant's browned, rejected eggs looked just as my own (beloved) eggs, it was another indication of how little skill I possess in front of a hot stove.

Fresh Strawberry Cake

When I try to reproduce a recipe, I am fairly successful. To my own credit, I am quite good at following directions. It is when I am left to my own devices that my culinary skills seem to escape me. Recently I have been phasing processed food out of my diet which makes dinner time feel more difficult. While I do pop open the occasional can of soup or spaghetti sauce, the majority of my meals come together on the cutting board. I would love to learn how to cook, to understand vegetables and proteins as well as butter and sugar. To wield a knife and fry a fish fillet to perfection. Perhaps I just need to set aside some time to teach myself, to take away the intimidation and replace it with confidence.

Until I can cook a dinner from scratch that would make my mother proud, I think I will stick to what I know and love—baking. I like to believe this Fresh Strawberry Cake can effortlessly hide any shortcomings I may have in front of the stove.

Fresh Strawberry Cake

Fresh Strawberry Cake has a bright, natural flavor and rustic appearance. Fresh strawberries are quartered and pressed into the top of the batter, which gives the option to choose how many or few berries you would like. Whole wheat flour lends the cake a subtle nutty flavor that makes the bites without the berries positively delightful. This may be a simple cake, both in ingredients and appearance, but the flavor is quite remarkable and worth experiencing.

One Year Ago: No-Churn Blueberry Cheesecake Ice Cream and Strawberry Cream Cheese Pop Tarts
Two Years Ago: Minted Lime Licuado and Chocolate Raspberry Pots de Creme

Fresh Strawberry Cake

Yields 7-inch cake

4 tablespoons (57 grams) butter, softened
1/2 cup (112 grams) granulated sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or pure vanilla extract)
1/4 cup (30 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (60 grams) whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (120 ml) milk
1/2 pound (225 grams) strawberries, hulled and quartered
Powdered sugar, for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Lightly grease a 7-inch cake pan.

In a large bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla bean paste. Stir in the flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir in the milk. Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth evenly.

Press the strawberries cut side down into the batter, distributing them evenly throughout the cake (you can use more or less to taste). Sprinkle cake with roughly a tablespoon of granulated sugar. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until lightly golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool before slicing and serving.

Reader Comments (31)

I'm perfectly okay with you not knowing how to cook. Just please never give up baking. This is gorgeous and I am positive your mama is more than proud.
This cake is beautiful! I wouldn't worry about the cooking aspect if you can bake beauties like this. :)
You may not know how to a fry an egg by a chef's standards, but you sure can bake circles around him ;) Keep it up! I love your site and all the yummy creations you share with us all -thanks!
05.9.2013 | Unregistered CommenterNadia
I know your beautiful Mom and I am certain she is BEYOND proud of you!!! :-) Keep up the good work!
05.9.2013 | Unregistered CommenterStacy
You are too hard on yourself. If you like what you have cooked why worry? Just dont give up baking
05.9.2013 | Unregistered CommenterArchana
I think cooking and baking are two different skills, each require a another set of tools, knowledge and expert marksmanship in order to master. I am not great at cooking, but I have discovered that burning an roast or over cooking a piece of fish is just one step closure to you getting it right.
I would love to make this cake but use some almond meal too.
Just like you, cooking eludes me even though baking comes to me so naturally. The most I can do is scramble some eggs, nothing more. I wouldn't worry about it though; your baking is beautiful and really inspiring!
05.9.2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoey
If I could bake half as well as you do I would just give up cooking altogether, really. Who needs it when you can have amazing strawberry cake every day? ;)
Cooking eggs and meat perfectly is highly overrated :-) I've also been trying to cut out the processed foods and sugars but this recipe looks awesome so might have to try it.
05.9.2013 | Unregistered CommenterRachel
I don't cook or bake fancy things. But I get by. The best advice I can give you for cooking chicken is to go the bite-sized route. Chop the chicken in little bite-sized bits and only cook things over medium heat. By the time it's browned on all sides, you're good to go. If you want it more moist, toss in a cup of chicken stock and cover it for five or so minutes.

And I always have cumin, chili powder, honey and brown mustard on hand. Honey mustard chicken with onions and chopped bell peppers is a staple for my house.

And don't believe everything you see on TV! Fried eggs with brown bits on them are totally perfect. He's just insane.
This is filled with goodness! Lovely recipe!
This looks so incredible, I can't wait until strawberry season :)
I agree that cooking and baking have a completely different feel to them, proficiency in one has almost nothing to do with proficiency in the other! I find 'cooking' totally intuitive, whereas I am always nervous to deviate far from a baking recipe, having little idea what will happen if I adjust this or add this etc. Maybe both skills are just about practice though, when I left home 3 years ago I could hardly cook at all!
05.9.2013 | Unregistered CommenterGenevieve
It seems that everyone is thinking the same way...why worry that you are only good at baking? We all don't have talent that we want, I would love to be able to draw and paint. All I can do is draw stick figures and paint blobs. So, I am happy that I can create in the kitchen, where my sister has no talent at all for it. Stand tall and be proud that you can bake such master pieces like this strawberry cake.
05.10.2013 | Unregistered CommenterJaan L of Tx
3 cheers for you and your baking skills. im sure your mama is super proud :D
05.10.2013 | Unregistered Commenterfrancesca
oooohhh... This cake looks awesome!!! Don't worry about your cooking skills, as long as you make such beautiful cakes, you are a rock star :)

xox Amy
05.10.2013 | Unregistered CommenterAmy
As long as you're baking and sharing it with us, it's ok with me ;) <3
Cakes with huge handfuls of fresh fruit sunk in the batter are my absolute favorite! Now I think I may need to get my hands on some strawberries this weekend... :)
05.10.2013 | Unregistered CommenterEileen
i totally understand where you are coming from. i have the exact same problem. baking comes easy for me and is therapeutic. but when it comes to cooking, it's alot more difficult. and i'm horrible at cooking meat! so i usually just stick to fish, it's alot easier to tell if it's done. :)
05.10.2013 | Unregistered CommenterJenn
I think no one will care if they have cakes like this one for dessert. It´s simple and gorgeous, and that platter is wonderful too!
Gave this a try over the weekend. I didn't have enough whole wheat flour so I just used more all-purpose and it still came out great! I do want to try it with the whole wheat, made a note to get more tonight after work. Thank you for sharing!

On another note, I'm awful when it comes to both cooking and baking. Give me a recipe, I can do it and it turns out pretty well. Come up with something on my own...not so much.
05.13.2013 | Unregistered CommenterRachel
Firstly-I just tried your strawberry cake...divine flavor.
The only problem is it didn't rise at all and it is only 2cm in depth. When I was putting it into the pan I wondered if it was enough batter. Just wondering if the quantities of flour are correct in the recipe? Many thanks
05.16.2013 | Unregistered CommenterKerry
Kerry-- That's odd. Even the batter should be larger than just 2 cm before baking (mine stood up about 2 inches with the strawberries). Did you forget to add the baking powder? I've made this cake several times already and it rises nicely each time so I'm not sure what went wrong for you.
05.16.2013 | Registered CommenterKristin Rosenau
I could sit here and gaze at your photos all day. They're exceptional in every way. The mood that you create in each frame is stunning. This cake looks delicious.
I made this wonderful cake today! you can see my version (and credits to you, of course :-) ) in my little blog
ciao from italy!
05.17.2013 | Unregistered Commenterginger
Gosh, I'm always too scared to put fruit in cake in case it makes it soggy - but this looks superb.
05.18.2013 | Unregistered CommenterHannah Jade
There are many bakers who know how to cook but few cooks, or chefs, who know how to bake. You have been blessed with a talent that is not as easy as you think. You can always go out and get a good meal to go but getting a good loaf of bread or a wonderful cake is much harder to find.

Never give up and don't let your disappointments discourage you.
05.19.2013 | Unregistered CommenterRaven J.
I love how fresh this sounds! Simple is perfection sometimes.
Hmm, tried to make this today! My strawberries disappeared, but I didn't care because we ate it so fast I don't think anyone noticed :-p

You can see my attempt here:
I made this cake last night after I bought 3 quarts of strawberries at the farm market. It was wonderful! Simple yet beautiful and not to mention delicious. I have 5 children and even the baby was stuffing her face. Thanks for this wonderful recipe. I am going to make 2 next time.
06.1.2013 | Unregistered CommenterPaula
I know EXACTLY what you mean. Cooking was enough to make me hyperventilate! I finally conquered it when I started trying to meal plan - I sucked at that, too. So I discovered a cookbook called Saving Dinner (before the meal planning services were ubiquitous). I honestly just jumped in with it and trusted it. Along the way, by following very simple and explicit recipes, I learned how to cook. Her recipes have great times and have some tips throughout. I would also recommend cook's illustrated recipes because they provide fantastic timing and descriptions of steps - which is really tough for those of us who are bakers first.
06.22.2013 | Unregistered Commenterkeri
Thank you for making my life tastier! Love all your recepies!
11.14.2013 | Unregistered Commenter:D

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