I might have mentioned this before (erm, once or twice?), but I love berry season. It takes all my willpower not to come home every week from the farmers’ market with flats of every berry I can lay my hands on. And sometimes my willpower isn’t strong enough. Which is really no problem at all, because they get gobbled up so quickly around here. And there is no shortage of inspiring, beautiful recipes to use them up.
But my main gripe is that I can’t bear to cook them. It’s just that they’re so lovely on their own, that it seems gratuitous to cover them in sugar and bake them into a pie or cake or whatever they’re destined for. That kind of perfection shouldn’t be messed with. Usually by the time I overcome this obsession with just shoveling fistfuls of berries into my mouth, the berries are gone and I go crazy for melon.
But there are those in my family who insist that fruit does NOT equal dessert, so this is a fair middle ground. A simple vanilla cake that you can whip up in minutes, with very little cleanup or fuss. And most importantly, pillows of lightly sweetened, freshly whipped cream and tall piles of fresh berries. If you want something that won’t have you stuck in the kitchen on a beautiful summer day, but also has major “Wow!” factor… this is it.
Now, to be fair, you could dollop big fluffy clouds of whipped cream and heaps of summer berries straight onto a table and it would be perfectly heavenly. I’m not really arguing that. But cake is cake, and cake makes it a party. I’ll admit that this cake isn’t my ultimate dream cake or anything- it’s plain, pleasantly vanilla-scented, and on its own, would be entirely forgettable. But as a base for the cream and berries, or even a base recipe to add flavors to as you wish, it’s pretty great. And I can recommend it even just based on how quickly it comes together- sometimes that’s important, you know?
adapted from Food&Wine
- 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened,
- 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 3/4 cup whole milk, at room temperature
- 3 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- Assorted berries, to top
Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a 9-inch-square baking pan with foil, allowing 2 inches of overhang on two sides.
In a large bowl, using a hand mixer at low speed, mix the flour, granulated sugar, baking powder and salt. Add the 1 1/2 sticks of butter, milk, eggs and vanilla and beat at medium speed until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Spread the batter in the pan and bake for about 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean. Let cool on a rack, then cover with foil and let stand at room temperature overnight. (or you know... not)
In a large bowl, using a hand mixer,beat the cream with the sugar at high speed until firm, 1 to 2 minutes. Unmold the cake; peel off the foil. Top with the whipped cream. Pile the berries on top and serve.