Nigella Lawson's Strawberry Streusel Cake Has Tricks Up Its Sleeve

May 19, 2016

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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.

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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.

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Top Comment:
“Could make any fruit flavor and maybe after blending fruit add extra chopped strawberries. We loved it!”
— Picholine

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.

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!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Nancy Fairless
    Nancy Fairless
  • Picholine
  • Carmen Ladipo
    Carmen Ladipo
  • Amanda
  • lacrema
I used to work at Food52. I'm probably the person who picked all of the cookie dough out of the cookie dough ice cream.


Nancy F. May 23, 2016
I just made this cake using fresh raspberries and raspberry preserves.
Picholine May 22, 2016
Just made this and it is wonderful. Could serve as a coffee cake or dessert with ice cream. Could make any fruit flavor and maybe after blending fruit add extra chopped strawberries. We loved it!
Carmen L. May 19, 2016
Still dreaming about this cake
Sarah J. May 23, 2016
Me too. Me, too.
Amanda May 19, 2016
This looks great! Do you think you could freeze it successfull?
AntoniaJames May 20, 2016
In my experience, streusel toppings don't do well in the freezer. That's because they are so nubby, there are lots of little pockets where ice crystals can form, even when the cake is wrapped tightly. The result is a soggy streusel - not what you want.
Others may have had a different experience with this cake, however, so I'll let them chime in. ;o)
lacrema May 19, 2016
I've got a bunch of rhubarb mush leftover from making rhubarb syrup. This is the perfect recipe to use it on!!
EmilyC May 19, 2016
This looks SO good -- can't wait to try it. I have 8-inch and 10-inch springform pans, and then standard 9-inch cake pans. What would you recommend?
AntoniaJames May 19, 2016
Well, you don't need to email for the details of this cake I posted here about 5 years ago, which was a finalist in the "your best recipe with pears" contest:
It uses precisely the same method - one which I admired as a young child, when I made my mother's version (no pears involved, fewer spices, etc.), which she probably clipped from a newspaper or magazine back in the 60's. In the dead of winter, when citrus and storage apples are the only fruit available, I've been known to make it with frozen mango chunks, and frozen nectarine slices. Versatile, yes! ;o)
Shelley M. May 19, 2016

Could I sub frozen strawberries? (all I got). Perhaps add a bit more cornstarch.
AntoniaJames May 19, 2016
Thaw them for about 24 hours and drain really well. You'll be surprised how much water will be released. Your instincts for adding cornstarch are good ones. Or perhaps some fine tapioca - an old-fashioned ingredient often used in super juicy pies . . . . ;o)