Eight years ago, I wrote about a strawberry cake I’d been making and tweaking from Martha Stewart since, apparently, 2005 that felt to me like the epitome of early summer. The batter is a simple cake — butter, sugar, flour, eggs, milk. The berries are fresh, hulled and halved. There’s seemingly nothing new or revolutionary but what differentiates it from other summer cakes is the sheer volume of strawberries. There’s a full pound of berries placed on top before you bake the cake, more than easily fit. In the oven, the batter buckles around the berries, turning them into jammy puddles, especially if your strawberries are a touch overripe. The sunken berries dimple the top like a country quilt. The edges of the cake brown and become faintly crisp. If you can bear to wait half to a full day to eat it, and really let those baked berries marry with the cake, you might swear off all other summer desserts.
Clearly, I’m a fan. But I hadn’t expected on a site with many other cakes with fresh fruit in them for it to so quickly take off, ultimately joining the small club of recipes on SK with more than 1000 comments.* The only thing that’s never right about it, however, is the size. A cake like this is here to make friends, and eight wedges never last. For years, if anyone asked about making it in a 9×13 pan, I gave my default answer: double it! For most cakes, this absolutely works. But at home, it was never quite right. The cake was too thick and 2 pounds of berries never fit on top, meaning you’ll use less, and if you use less, the cake is, in my opinion, way less spectacular. I’m not sure why it took me until this summer to get it right, but I finally realized that I was scaling it wrong. The 1.5x yield of batter and berries creates the strawberry summer sheet cake I’ve always needed and finally have. I haven’t made it the original way since, and I thought you deserved an update that was more than a footnote, too.
I’ve reduced the batter effort to one bowl. Delightfully, the baking time for the larger size is a little less while the servings jump to 12 to 16 per cake. The most persnickety thing about the whole cake is arranging the berries on top and for this, but a messy, disorganized collage is the only way to go. If you have berries left when you’re done covering every speck of the cake, nudge them closer, even overlapping them by a little edge. Do not leave berries behind. Strawberries are phenomenal right now and the summer is in full, sultry swing. We need this on repeat.
* Curious what the others are? I was too. Mom’s Apple Cake, Apple Cider Caramels, Best Birthday Cake, Thick, Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies, Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake, and Best Cocoa Brownies. I apologize in advance for your electricity bill this summer if you find this list too good to pass up.
One year ago: Linguine and Clams
Two years ago: Drop Berry Shortcakes and Zucchini Grilled Cheese
Three years ago: Funnel Cake
Four years ago: Herbed Summer Squash Pasta Bake and Chocolate Chunk Granola Bars
Five years ago: Limonada de Coco and Cherry Almond Dutch Baby
Six years ago: Pickled Vegetable Sandwich Slaw
Seven years ago: Chocolate Swirl Buns and Cold Rice Noodles with Peanut Lime Chicken
Eight years ago: Rich Homemade Ricotta and Linguine with Pea Pesto
Nine years ago: Rustic Rhubarb Tarts, Scrambled Egg Toast, Strawberry Brown Butter Bettys and Shaved Asparagus Pizza
Ten years ago: Spanikopita Triangles, Neapolitan Cake, Cheese Straws and Strawberries and Dumplings
Eleven years ago: Fresh Ricotta and Red Onion Pizza, Sweet Cherry Pie, and Zucchini Strand Spaghetti
Twelve years ago: Strawberry Chiffon Shortcake
And for the other side of the world:
Six Months Ago: Plush Coconut Cakes and Baked Buffalo Wings
1.5 Years Ago: Banana Oat Weekday Pancakes
2.5 Years Ago: Chicken Wonton Soup, Crusty Baked Cauliflower and Farro and Chocolate Dutch Baby
3.5 Years Ago: The Browniest Cookies, Feta Tapenade Tarte Soleil, Chicken Chili and Leek, Ham, Cheese and Egg Bake
4.5 Years Ago: Mushroom Marsala Pasta Bake, Key Lime Pie and Make Your Own Vanilla Extract
Strawberry Summer Sheet Cake
- 9 tablespoons (125 grams) unsalted butter
- 3/4 teaspoon fine sea or table salt
- 1 1/2 cups (300 grams) plus 3 tablespoons (40 grams) granulated sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 large egg yolk
- 3/4 cup (175 ml) milk, whole is preferred but all varieties have worked
- 1 1/2 teaspoons (8 ml) vanilla extract
- 2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
- 2 1/4 cups (295 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 pounds (680 grams) of the freshest, even a touch overripe, strawberries, hulled and halved
Lightly coat the sides and corners of a 9×13-inch cake pan with butter or nonstick spray, and fit the bottom with a rectangle of parchment paper. In a large bowl, beat butter, salt, and 1 1/2 cups of the granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg, yolk, and vanilla and beat until combined. Add milk and mix until smooth. Sprinkle baking powder evenly over batter and beat into batter for 20 seconds longer than will seem necessary — this ensures it’s perfectly distributed. Scrape down the bowl. Add flour and beat or stir until just combined.
Spread batter in prepared pan. Arrange strawberries cut side down, as snugly as you can get them to fit. If you have extra, nudge them in anyway. Leave no strawberries behind. Sprinkle with remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar — it will seem like a lot but helps the strawberries get jammy and gives the cake a great texture.
Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out free of wet batter (gooey strawberries are a given and doesn’t mean it’s underbaked) — about 45 to 48 minutes. Let cool in pan on a rack. Cut into squares and serve as is, or with lightly sweetened whipped cream, if you’re Deb.
Do ahead: Cake even better half- to a full day later, when the strawberries marry with better with the cake. I like to leave the cake uncovered at room temperature so it doesn’t get sticky on top.