Summer. We, here in the chilly north, try to take full advantage of this extraordinary season. As far as seasons go, winter is our star player. It lasts about six months, stealing as much time as it can from it's neighbors, autumn, and sometimes completely obliterating spring, which are both beautiful seasons up here but much too short. Summer, however, is when everything happens. There are outdoor concerts, festivals galore, restaurants with outdoor seating, and vacations and day trips planned for every household. In my family, we go to Keuka Lake, to a special spot that has seen generations of us enjoying the healing waters of Keuka.
One of my favorite weeks on Keuka Lake is the one that brings a week-long visit from my aunt and uncle and cousins. Spending time with this family is like spending time at a mental health spa. They're all so open and easy. (4 out of 5 of them either work in, worked in, or aspire to work in the mental health field, so you get the picture.) They all talk about stuff and make you feel good about yourself. It's really very refreshing.
These are the cousins I grew up with. We are the fab four. Brett, who is a year younger than me, creamed me at my very first snowball war when we were kids. He's fascinating, has visited parts of the world I didn't even know existed, and always knows how to be goofy enough to get me to laugh. Lorelei is my soul sister. Even though she cut all the hair off my favorite Barbie doll when she was 4, I have forgiven her, and there's nothing we can't say to each other. Evan is the youngest, but could very well be the most mature of us all and is the easiest person to be around. He and I have had the most interesting and memorable discussions during our long car rides home from the university we both attended. And together we have formed a dynamic bocce team (family tournaments only), and even though we've pretty much lost every game we've played, I wouldn't change it.
Since it was my cousins' week at the cottage, I wanted to bring a special dessert. Inspired by the summer berries in the supermarket, I decided to try this recipe from Smitten Kitchen.
I decided since strawberries are healthy, this should be considered a health food (like my logic?), so I went ahead and made it with half whole wheat flour. I also followed Smitten Kitchen's advice and used a smidge less sugar than called for. It turned out delightful. (But it would have been even better with whipped cream or powdered sugar on top!)
As soon as I brought this summer cake the lake, I went right to work photographing it. Here is my lovely picture:
Now, I suspected that one of my family members would lend their creative talents to the photo shoot and I was not disappointed. My dear aunt, AJ, came to my rescue with this lovely setup:
Beautiful! We're done, right? Wrong. She had even more great ideas:
Now doesn't this look tempting? But you don't have to take my word for it. Here's what my family had to say:
Maverick (my uncle): "Scrumptious with a light fruity taste."
Evan: "I keep looking at it and telling myself 'No, Evan no.'"
A.J.: "Sweet strawberry season...Mmm. It's good."
Mom: "A dessert you can eat." (Thanks, Mom.)
So, go ahead and make a Strawberry Summer Cake for yourselves before it's too late!!!
Strawberry Summer Cake
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for pie plate
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I used a blend of all-purpose and whole wheat flour)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 cup (I used about 7/8 of a cup) plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pound strawberries, hulled and halved
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 10-inch pie pan or 9-inch deep-dish pie pan.
Whisk flour or flours, baking powder and salt together in a small bowl. In a larger bowl, beat butter and 1 cup sugar until pale and fluffy with an electric mixer, about 3 minutes. Mix in egg, milk and vanilla until just combined. Add dry mixture gradually, mixing until just smooth.
Pour into prepared pie plate. Arrange strawberries, cut side down, on top of batter, as closely as possible in a single layer. Sprinkle remaining 2 tablespoons sugar over berries.
Bake cake for 10 minutes then reduce oven temperature to 325°F and bake cake until golden brown and a tester comes out free of wet batter, about 50 minutes to 60 minutes. Let cool in pan on a rack. Serve with whipped cream or powdered sugar on top.