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Every once in awhile, a recipe comes along that's surprising in its efficiency, that employs smart techniques to squeeze every last drop out of a pared-down ingredient list. When each cup, teaspoon, and ounce called for has a purpose, you know the recipe comes from a true master.
So while this Strawberry Streusel Cake fetched me many a compliment in the Food52 test kitchen, I cannot take any credit—seriously: It's all Nigella. (And really, no one is surprised.)
Here, one dough does double the work (way to go, dough!): Make it by rubbing cold butter into the dry ingredients, as you would for pie crust. Reserve a half-cup of this mixture, mix it with a teaspoon of crunchy sugar, and you've got your crumb top. Boom! Done.
Take the rest of the sandy mess, mix in an egg and sour cream (or sub in another dairy product of similar viscosity—see how here), and you'll get a sticky batter you might have to tussle with—just a little—to spread into and up the sides of a spring-form pan, like a thick shortbread crust (I find that damp hands help). Pour over it a blend of fresh strawberries, strawberry jam (to concentrate the fruit flavor), and cornstarch (to stave off wateriness), then drop more of that wet batter on top. On goes the crumble you already made, and your work is over.
The cake is jammy and buttery, and it does have a distinct pie dough-y flavor (if you save pie scraps for cookies and eat them with swipes of jam, this one's for you) that's also reminiscent, somehow, of an old-fashioned cake doughnut.
Nigella says to save this cake for a weekend and normally, I'd listen to her. But here, she's created a recipe so streamlined, I think you can do it on a weeknight—you know, like tonight—too.
For the jam layer:
- 8 ounces fresh strawberries, hulled
- 3 tablespoons strawberry jam (I've also used raspberry, and I bet other types—apricot!—would be good too)
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
For the cake and crumb topping:
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons whole wheat pastry flour (or substitute all-purpose flour)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) cold salted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 1 cup sour cream
- 1 large egg
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoons Demerara or turbinado sugar
A couple of notes on the original recipe:
- Add salt! I use salted butter, but you could also use unsalted butter with 1/4 or 1/2 teaspoon salt.
- I use half whole wheat pastry flour and love the results, but you can go 100% all-purpose, of course.
- Experiment with your fruit and jams: I tried strawberries with raspberry jam (success!) and I'm interested in other mix-and-matches (blackberries with fig jam, blueberries with apricot jam...).
- Add nuts to the crumble. Or chopped candied ginger. Add raisins, plumped in hot water (or alcohol!) to the fruit filling. Swap out some of the vanilla extract for lemon extract. Throw in some lemon zest. The ideas go on.
And was I tempted to add little bits of chopped up almond paste right on top of the jam layer and sub 1 teaspoon of the vanilla extract for almond? What ever made you think that?!
But that's a good idea! I'll try it on one of the hundred future occasions that I bake this cake.
In the comments below, name the smartest cake recipe you know. Then see how long it takes me to email you for the details!