Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Strawberry fields forever: Part II

I don't know what's been going on these last couple of weeks but Holland is starting to feel a lot like Greece as far as the weather is concerned. The temperature is sky high and the sun is beaming relentlessly on everyone's face, creating freckles on noses, turning cheeks bright red and making Dutch women extremely happy because elke dag is Rokjesdag (every day is Skirt Day).






Rokjesdag (Skirt Day) is the first day of the year in Holland when the temperature is high enough for women to wear mini skirts and sandals and bare their legs to the world and, to be truthful here, I don't get what the big deal is. The weather is good, you wear your mini skirt. The weather is bad, you don't.






I mean, in Greece we just wear our skirts and go about our days and don't have to dance in the streets to celebrate it. You need to understand that, in Athens, when temperatures are higher than normal for the season, we're just worried that a heat wave will hit us and that we're going to have to cling to our air conditioners to avoid a heat stroke.






Instinctively, this uncanny heat doesn't make me wanna wear skirts and flip flops but go to Media Markt and buy another fan.






What this heat also does to me, is turn me into a maniacal consumer of anything fresh and fruity. It makes me want to enjoy all that early spring has to offer—peas, spinach, artichokes, strawberries, asparagus— cooked in every imaginable way.






It is a special moment for me when I spot the first strawberries of the season at the market. It's almost like when you're at a party and you make eye contact with a guy you really like and then he comes over to talk to you. Well, it's like that with me and strawberries. I want to ask them what they're doing later.






So, last week, I got a kilo of the most beautiful strawberries I have ever seen. Big, juicy, redder-than-red strawberries that were not too sweet but were ideal for my favorite everyday cake; strawberry cake with cinnamon.






I have been making this cake for years and it's always been a big hit with anyone who has ever tasted it. They all ask me for the recipe and now is the time for me to share it. This is the type of cake that is easy to make, that doesn't require any crazy ingredients and has a taste that is absolutely amazing.






It is full of succulent strawberry chunks that ooze out of the cake when you take a bite. It has a deep cinnamon-y flavor without being too sweet and it's so aromatic, so moist, so delicate that I feel I have to warn you; it is hard to restrain yourself and not eat a couple of slices back to back. Then again, I guess that's not such a bad thing.












Everyday Strawberry Cake

This is not a complicated affair but rather simple and quite quick, just as an everyday cake should be.

You just need to make sure you coat the strawberry chunks well with the batter before emptying it into your pan so that they don't sink to the bottom during baking.






Yield: 1 cake

Ingredients
120 g unsalted butter, at room temperature (plus extra for greasing the pan)
150 g sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
4 medium-sized eggs
260 g all-purpose flour
1 ¼ tsp cinnamon, ground
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
125 g crème fraîche, sour cream or Greek strained yoghurt (full fat)
220 g fresh strawberries

Special equipment: a loaf pan (23 x 9 x 8 cm), stand or hand-held mixer, sieve


Preparation
Rinse the strawberries under cold running water and cut off the stems. Chop the strawberries into bite-sized pieces.

Butter the inside of the loaf pan, line it with baking paper and butter again.

Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon together over a bowl.

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

In the bowl of the stand mixer or in a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed with the paddle attachment or with your hand-held mixer, until softened and creamy, for 1-2 minutes. Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy.
Add the vanilla extract and the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.


With your mixer working on low speed, add 1/3 of the sifted ingredients and once incorporated, add half of the crème fraîche, sour cream or yoghurt. Incorporate and then add another 1/3 of the sifted ingredients. Incorporate and add the rest of the crème fraîche, sour cream or yoghurt. Incorporate and add the last 1/3 of the sifted ingredients.
Mix only until combined and not more!

With a spatula, stir the strawberry chunks into the batter gently, being careful not to crush them, but at the same time making sure you cover them completely with the batter so that they don't sink to the bottom of the pan during baking.

Transfer the batter to the prepared loaf pan and place it on the middle rack of the oven. Bake the strawberry cake for about 50 minutes, until it has taken on a golden brown color on top and a knife or cake tester inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean.

Place the pan on a wire rack so the cake can cool and then remove the cake from the pan.

Keep the strawberry cake for 3-4 days at room temperature, lightly covered.







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18 comments:

  1. What a beautiful cake, Magda. The strawberries in it must make really moist and delicious.

    Hope you are doing well.

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  2. A truly gorgeous cake Magda but then I wouldn't expect anything else from you. It was very warm in Berlin a couple of weeks ago and again on Monday but since then it's turned cold and rainy. I feel sad for the blossom being dashed. I love a proper spring, not an early summer and discovering the joys of each season at the market. Funny the skirt wearing thing in Holland but I wear skirts all year round (although not minis in winter!).

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  3. Beautiful cake! Those strawberries are pure glory. Happy skirt day :-)

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  4. I look outside, and its definitely not mini skirt weather here in England (and thats ok, cause I dont like my legs too much), but this beautiful cake does look like a plate of sunshine. Beautiful!
    *kisses* HH

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  5. Yes I noticed it was well: warm and nice weather make people from the North of Europe behave in a slightly weird way, as if they were a bit drunk. When it was sunny in Wales everyone drove as if they were sleeping, it was dangerous!

    I never baked cakes with strawberries inside, I always thought their delicate flavour would be lost. But you convinced me to try.

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  6. I had fun watching the video, it made me want to dance, not necessarily in the middle of the street with bare legs. Those strawberries are so beautiful and the cake looks so wonderfully moist and full of spring.

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  7. We've had a recent spell of warm, sunny weather here in the UK. I totally identify with the women of Holland - the first day that's hot enough to wear flip flops and a skirt is wonderful! When I lived in Italy I cracked out my flip flops in early April and got a lot of strange looks. Living in Northern Europe makes you value every last drop of sunshine!

    Oh, and the cake looks gorgeous :)

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  8. Gorgeous strawberries. The cake looks so tasty! The video was fun! I've sworn off long pants myself for the season, even if the temperatures keep fluctuating!!

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  9. Hi Magda--Isn't it wonderful when you get your hands on the first real strawberries of the season! I make a strawberry bread very similar to yours--the Greek yogurt imparts such a nice tang, and keeps the cake moist.

    Great tip about coating the berries so they don't sink to the bottom while baking. Enjoy abundant sunshine!

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  10. Hi, Magda,

    Happy Skirt Day, ineed! I wonder how this plays out in Scotland! :) I think this cake will make a wonderful Easter treat - and yours and ours are the same Sunday again this year! How rare!

    Thanks for the recipe, the gorgeous photos and the tip about the berries!

    David

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  11. Magda
    This reminds me of the English who get into their bikinis and sunbathe when there is a single ray of weak sun around! You just appreciate more what is doled out to you more parcimoniously; anyway, your cake is a keeper and next time I am trying it (I just made a cake too)I love strawberries but never made them into a cake!

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  12. I've never combined strawberries and cinnamon, but I know I'll like it. Thanks!

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  13. Strawberries & cinnamon...., sounds glorious :)

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  14. How fun to hear about life in Holland. The Strawberry loaf is perfect!

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  15. Mmm I can just imagine how perfect this loaf is for spring. Lovely!

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  16. Your strawberry cake/bread looks similar to one I make. It is such a treat when the garden berries start producing.

    -Brenda

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  17. I have an award waiting for you! Come over and pick it up!

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