There is a good chance that if my youngest is in the garden but is nowhere to be seen, he has found some strawberries and is gobbling them up before anyone else gets a chance to.
Every so often, I get out to the strawberries before him and tuck some away in the freezer (after I’ve had my own share, of course!). I like to use them for a variety of things (I swear I’ll be posting other recipes!) to remind me of spring, which is when the first crops come in before summer really heats up.
One of my favorites is to make an angel food cake and drape it with fresh cut strawberries that have been soaking in a little sugar to make a syrup. It’s my preferred version of strawberry shortcake. However, I’m also a huge fan of upside down cakes (though, ironically, not the pineapple kind) and wanted to try a strawberry version. I’ll confess, my first attempt was a sloppy, floppy mess. A few tweaks and trusting my gut instinct (which had told me it wasn’t going to work all along on the first one) led me to this amazing cake.
The cake itself is similar in taste and texture to an angel food cake, but with a little more substance. The strawberries are in that perfect middle ground between fresh picked and homemade strawberry jam. Yes. It’s that good.
Strawberries & Cream Upside Down Cake Recipe
For the strawberry mixture:
- 1 lb. (Update: this should have been 1 1/2 lbs., which will give more juice to soak into the cake) fresh or frozen strawberries, cut in half, or quarters if very large (the best berries for this are ones harvested when they are actually ripe which are generally not the ones from the grocery store, but the ones you either picked yourself or bought at a farm stand where you can see the field where they came from)
- 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 Tbsp. salted butter
For the cake:
- 2 cups cake flour, sifted then measured by scooping it gently with a spoon into a measuring cup
- 1 Tbsp. baking powder
- 1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 3 egg whites or about 1/3 to 1/2 cup (egg separating tutorial here)
- 1 cup cold whipping cream
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- additional whipped cream for serving (optional, but hey, why not?)
Preheat oven to 350 F. Put the butter in the bottom of a 9 inch round cake pan that is at least 2 inches deep. One with straight sides is preferred. Place the pan in the oven for about 5 minutes, or until the butter is melted and just beginning to brown.
While the butter is melting, mix the strawberries in a bowl with the lemon juice and the 1/4 cup sugar, tossing to completely mix. Once the butter is melted, swirl it around to completely coat the bottom of the pan, then add the strawberries. Distribute the berries across the bottom of the pan and be sure to scrape out all the sugar from the bowl.
Place the strawberries in the oven and cook while you prepare the rest of the cake. You want to get the juices from the berries to start to come out and get heated up, especially if you are starting with frozen berries. The amount of juice released and the time it takes will depend on their quality and ripeness. You will need to check on this mixture occasionally while you are prepping the cake batter to make sure that too much liquid is not cooked off. You can remove them from the oven once the liquid is bubbling throughout and set it aside until the cake batter is ready.
Put the sifted flour into a medium sized bowl. Add the baking powder, sugar, and salt. Whisk the contents until they are uniformly mixed. Set this bowl aside.
Place the egg whites in a clean bowl, preferably stainless steel or glass. Beat them until they are stiff and still a little shiny. You want them to hold their shape when you scoop a little out. Set this bowl aside. (Yes, this means having a few bowls to wash. Make the kids do it!)
In a large bowl, put the whipping cream and beat it until stiff. Gently add in the egg whites, the milk, and the vanilla extract. Using a spatula, gently fold the mixture together. You don’t need it to be totally smooth, just mostly combined. You want to avoid overmixing so that you keep the bubbles in the whites and whipped cream as much as possible. See the video above.
Now add the flour, 1/3 at a time, and gently fold with the spatula. Again, don’t overmix! Continue until all the flour is incorporated and the mixture is mostly smooth. Gently add the batter to the strawberries, just a little blop at a time. Smooth out the top and put it in the oven.
Bake the cake for about 35 to 45 minutes. It will look as if it will overflow the pan, but it shouldn’t. While the cake is baking, prepare a platter for turning it out onto. I avoid using glass for a hot cake, as I once had one explode from the sudden heat. Instead, I will cut out a piece of parchment paper a little wider than my cake pan and place it on a metal tray. Then once it is cooled, I will gently grasp the exposed paper and use it to help me slide the cake onto the platter I want to serve from.
The cake is done when you no longer see it jiggle in the middle. The cake will also be golden brown. Remove it from the oven and allow it to sit for about 5 minutes on a wire cooling rack. Carefully loosen the cake from the side of the pan without cutting into the cake itself. Place your platter over the cake and holding both carefully with oven mitts, flip the cake over onto the tray. Don’t remove the pan, yet! Wait just a moment for the juices to sink into the cake a little first, then carefully remove the pan by lifting straight up.
Allow the cake to cool completely, then if you wish to slide it onto a different platter for serving, you can do so (carefully!), and then you can also gently tear off the exposed parchment paper if you want. The sides might be a little rough, so you can smooth some whipped cream to dress it up if you want. This makes a lovely cake for special events or even just for fun!