This is my all-time favorite cake. Hands down. It’s light and sweet and feels like a plate of sunshine and summer. One bite leads to one slice that leads to another within the course of a breath.
I make this all summer long, about once a week. And as one cake “only” has half a stick of butter, which is just four tablespoons and if I pretend I’m going to be able to share this with Mark, that’s only two tablespoons for me (and sure, there’s buttermilk, and we all know that full fat is best, but hush, I’m telling you about my cake love) and that feels like a reasonable and sensible afternoon treat.
I didn’t expect to love this cake so much. It was my introduction to baking with buttermilk and that tang, combined with lemon zest and juice, brings this sweet treat to a well-balanced place. You could cut down on the sugar in the cake a bit if you’d like, but don’t cut down on the shower of it on the top. That sugar creates a crisp top and helps the berries lean towards jam (though they don’t go that far here).
It is also an unassuming looking cake. Each and every time I serve it, people take it with a gentle smile that’s prepared to hide their disappointment but they are all quickly won over with their first taste.
You can double the recipe during prep and bake in two pans. And, if you have more than four people coming for a slice, I suggest you do so.
1 cup (130 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) baking powder
1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 stick (56 grams) unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup (146 grams) plus 1 1/2 tablespoons (22 grams) sugar, divided
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 lemon - zest and juice (about one teaspoon but more is fantastic for a more lemony flavor)
1 large (57 grams) egg
1/2 cup (118 ml) well-shaken buttermilk
1 cup (5 ounces or 140 grams) fresh strawberries, cut into quarters or more if you've got really big strawberries
Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in middle.
Butter and sugar a 9-inch round cake pan.
Whisk together dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and set aside.
Beat butter and 2/3 cup (146 grams) sugar with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, then beat in vanilla, lemon juice, and lemon zest.
Beat in egg.
On low speed incorporate flour and buttermilk in batches: mix in ⅓ of flour mixture. Then add half the buttermilk. Mix in the second ⅓ of the flour mix. Then the rest of the buttermilk. End with the last of the flour, stopping when it’s just combined.
Pour batter into the prepared cake pan, smoothing the top.
Top with strawberries.
Rain the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons (22 grams) sugar over the top.
Bake until cake is golden on the top and the center is set (a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean), 20 to 25 minutes.
Cool in pan 10 minutes.
Turn out onto a cooling rack.
Devour in the morning, evening, afternoon.
You can play with any fruit here. Raspberries, blueberries, strawberries work on their own or mix them together. The lemon brightness this to a whole new level.
To prepare your baking pans, try using sugar instead of flour. It keeps the cakes from sticking and, especially here, keeps with the crunchy sugar topping.