It is not summer yet. In fact, it's been raining for more than a week, and another week - the one in which, I presume, we'll be introduced to our new mosquito overlords - is promised. It's almost like summer looked at New York and said, "pbbbblt!"
But I know it's coming, because strawberries appeared at the Greenmarkets (a New York farmers' market) last week. Strawberries - the kind that really taste like strawberries - are always promised for weeks before they appear, and I go overboard when they arrive, bringing home pounds, plural, when a single box would get us through the weekend. When Monday rolls around and the strawberries are on their last legs, if you listen closely to them, they'll tell you that this cake is how they'd like to go out.
I've adapted it, only slightly, from a Martha Stewart recipe by adding the barley flour, which I have recently fallen in love with. We tend to associate whole-grain flours with heartiness and heaviness, but this is neither - it's silky and delicate, and it has a subtle creamy nuttiness to it that goes fantastically with berries. This cake works like a dream with 100 per cent all-purpose flour but if you've got barley flour, swapping it in for half the volume is beyond delicious, adding a real depth to a deceptively simple cake.
● 6 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for greasing
● 188g plain flour (or swap 94g plain flour for 75g barley flour)
● ½ tsp baking powder
● ½ tsp table salt
● 200g plus 25g granulated sugar
● 1 large egg, 118 ml milk
● 1 tsp vanilla extract
● 450g strawberries, hulled and halved
● Preheat oven to 180°C. Butter a 10-inch pie pan or 9-inch deep-dish pie pan (what I used). This cake would also work in a 9 or 10-inch springform or cake pan. The 10-inch would make a thinner cake than pictured.
● Whisk flour(s), baking powder and salt in a small bowl. In a larger bowl, beat butter and 200g sugar until pale and fluffy with an electric mixer, about 3 minutes. Mix in egg, milk and vanilla until just combined. Add dry mixture gradually, mixing until just smooth.
● Pour into prepared pie plate. Arrange strawberries, cut side down, on top of batter, as closely as possible in a single layer (though I had to overlap a few to get them all in). Sprinkle remaining 2 tablespoons sugar over berries.
● Bake for 10 minutes then reduce oven temperature to 160°C and bake until golden brown and a tester comes out free of wet batter, about 50 minutes to 60 minutes. l Let cool in pan on a rack. Cut into wedges. Serve with lightly whipped cream.
● Cake can be stored at room temperature for up to 2 days, loosely covered, but good luck with that.