Monday, June 27, 2016

Cornmeal Skillet Cake with Strawberries

Cornmeal Skillet Cake with Strawberries

If you've been searching for the perfect summer dessert, the search is over.

This Cornmeal Skillet Cake with Strawberries is amazing! Dorie Greenspan's recipe, recently published in The Washington Post, is a variation on the classic strawberry shortcake. Instead of the shortcake, the dessert's foundation is a wonderfully flavorful corncake baked in a cast-iron skillet and flavored with lemon zest, vanilla and buttermilk.

As good as that cake is, the strawberries are going to make or break this dish, so get the best ones you can, preferably ones that are local and therefore picked ripe. They'll have more flavor than strawberries raised thousands of miles away that are picked under-ripe to "ripen" during transport.

A couple key tips from Dorie: the recipe calls for baking the cake in a 10-inch cast-iron skillet, which I did. If you don't have one, you can use a 9-inch springform pan, but you'll need to bake the cake longer--more like 40 minutes. She also recommends working the lemon zest into the sugar with your fingers until the mixture is fragrant, which infuses the sugar with lemon flavor. A tip from me: I used an ISI cream whipper to make the whipped cream, which is simpler than using a stand mixer and makes it easy (and fun) for you and those you share this with to pump a little more whipped cream on top.

Cornmeal Skillet Cake with Strawberries
Adapted from a recipe by Dorie Greenspan for The Washington Post

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus more (about 2 tsp.) for greasing the skillet
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup fine yellow cornmeal
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup plus 3 tbsp. sugar
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon (I used a Microplane to grate the zest)
2 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup regular or low-fat buttermilk (I used low-fat)
1 quart (about 2 lb.) fresh strawberries, hulled (I also sliced mine into 1/8-inch thick slices)
Sweetened whipped cream (see below)

1. Preheat oven to 350 F.

2. Grease a 10-inch cast-iron skillet with the 2 tsp. of unmelted butter.

3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

4. Add the 1 cup sugar and lemon zest to a large mixing bowl. Using your fingers, combine the sugar and lemon zest until the mixture is fragrant. Whisk the eggs, one at a time, into the sugar mixture until well incorporated. Stir in the vanilla extract (you may want to switch to a silicon spatula at this point). Add half the flour mixture and stir until incorporated. Add the buttermilk and stir until evenly mixed. Add the remaining dry ingredients and stir to incorporate. At this point, the batter will be pretty thick, but it should be evenly mixed. Add the melted butter in three batches, stirring to incorporate completely after each addition.

5. Transfer the batter to the cast-iron skillet and smooth the top with a spatula. Sprinkle the top with 1 tbsp. of sugar. Bake in the oven until the cake is golden brown around the edges and starting to pull away from the sides, about 30 to 35 minutes. Test the center with a toothpick to make sure it's baked through (the toothpick should come out clean). Place the cake and the skillet on a wire rack to cool for about 30 minutes before serving.

6. While the cake is baking, sprinkle the remaining 2 tbsp. of sugar over the sliced strawberries and stir to distribute the sugar evenly.

7. To serve: cut the cake into wedges and cut the wedges in half horizontally to make a top and a bottom. Place the bottom on a plate or in a bowl. Top generously with strawberries and whipped cream and lay the top cake piece on top.

Sweetened Whipped Cream

2 tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups heavy whipping cream

In a 2-cup measuring cup, combine the sugar and vanilla extract, using a fork. Add a few tablespoons of cream and use the fork to combine it with the sugar. Pour in the remaining cream and stir to combine. Transfer the mixture to an ISI cream whipper, charge with one cream charger (N2O) and chill in the refrigerator until ready to use. Alternatively, after mixing together the ingredients, whip with a stand mixer on high-speed until thick and fluffy (don't overwhip or you'll start to make butter).

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