Something changed over the weekend. I’m more rested, my fridge is fully stocked after a week of not much cooking, and I finally shook a nagging cold, but I’m not talking about any of those things. This change was much more impercetible. I slipped from spring—with its hope and newness and unpredictability—into summer. Sweet summer.
I’ve been edging my way to the summer state of mind for a while now, so it’s hard to say for sure when exactly the switch happened. But if I had to guess, I’d say it was Sunday night, as I gripped a juicy burger with both hands and sunk my teeth in. It smelled and tasted like every barbecue I’ve ever experienced—the smoke of the grill, sandaled feet, late sunsets, laughter. Like that, summer arrived.
Of course, the weather—true to form—is not quite ready to join me in this transition from one season to the next. This particular burger was eaten inside, while bundled in a sweater, as the freshly-planted flowers on our deck shivered away, out of sight. But, as far as I’m concerned, summer is here and I am ready.
If the burger started off the summer switch, then it was this strawberry cake that sealed the deal. It’s basically a tidier version of strawberry shortcake—the biscuits and strawberries baked up together into a single layer cake. Sidled up next to a scoop of ice cream, I couldn’t have cared less about the sub-summer temperature blustering around outside. With each bite, I sunk deeper and deeper into summer. This one’s going to be a great one—I can tell already.
This cake, with its moist crumb and strawberry-dappled faced, gets sparkle and a hint of a crunch from a sprinkling of raw sugar. Don’t skip this step—it was my favorite part. Don’t skip the vanilla ice cream (or at least some freshly whipped cream) either.
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, plus more for pie plate
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 pound strawberries, hulled and halved
2 tablespoons raw or sanding sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 10-inch pie plate. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt together into a medium bowl.
Put butter and 1 cup sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to medium-low; mix in egg, milk, and vanilla.
Reduce speed to low; gradually mix in flour mixture. Transfer batter to buttered pie plate. Arrange strawberries on top of batter, cut sides down and as close together as possible. Sprinkle raw/sanding sugar over berries.
Bake cake 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees. Bake until cake is golden brown and firm to the touch, about 1 hour. Let cool in pie plate on a wire rack. Cut into wedges. Cake can be stored at room temperature, loosely covered, up to 2 days.