Goodbye Summer

It feels like summer is gone. The days are already getting shorter. In fact, today we had some weird weather and it rained for half the day. Although summer won't officially end until September 21st, Labor Day always marks the end of the summer for me.

We spent our Labor Day walking by the beach in the morning and BBQing with friends in the afternoon. I was in charge of dessert, and I wanted some sort of berry dessert before summer ended. I scrolled through my mental files of berry desserts that I liked and I remembered a cake that my good friend Yvonne made me when Miles was born. She brought me a fresh strawberry cake, and it was so good that I have thought about it many times since that day.

I set out to make the cake but then I started to second-guess myself. Was it some sort of postpartum sleep-deprived sugar craving that made me think the cake was so good? No, I told myself, Yvonne is a good baker, and that cake must have been good, even to normal, non-sleep deprived people.

So, I made the strawberry cake and I was not disappointed. This is a simple cake topped with lots of fresh strawberries, many of which sink into the cake giving it some lovely jammy pockets. Unfortunately, I only got a picture of the cake on my phone before I took it to a potluck, so it's not the prettiest picture ever.

Anyway, don't let that detour you from making the cake! For all my talk of summer ending, for those of us who live in Southern California we know that September is still really hot. That means there is plenty of time to make this cake before summer is really gone.  Here is the recipe, adapted from Martha Stewart.

Strawberry Cake

3 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature, plus more for pan
2 cups plus 3 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup milk
1 1/2 pounds strawberries, hulled and halved
Lightly sweetened whipped cream for serving, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and set rack to middle position. Butter 9 x 13 inch baking pan.

Sift together flour, baking powder and salt and set aside. Place butter and 2 cups sugar in stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Beat on medium until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla and mix on low until combined. Add the flour mixture and milk in 3 alternating increments beginning and ending with the flour.

Spread the batter in the prepared pan. Place strawberries cut side down on top of batter, placing them as close together as possible. Sprinkle the remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar evenly over the top of the cake.

Bake for 15 minutes. Then lower temperature to 325 degrees and continue to bake until the cake has become puffed and golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 45 to 55 minutes more. Let cool on wire rack. Serve with whipped cream if desired.

Cover loosely with plastic wrap and keep at room temperature for up to 2 days.

Serves 12-16

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