Ripe, fresh farmers market strawberries. Dark chocolate chips. Basic, not-too-sweet buttermilk muffin batter. Put them all together and voilà! You’ve got cake (or a muffin, if you choose that pan) that’s perfectly appropriate for a breakfast or brunch. And did I mention that it’s pretty?
Because it is. Beautiful, in fact. Generally, I’m a taste-over-form kind of gal, but this cake gives me both. And look at these pictures … how amazing would this cake look on your brunch table? It’s a showstopper, that’s for sure. And with the beautiful, deep red strawberry slices on a rounded, slightly browned muffin-like top that, if you so choose, is freckled with delightfully dark chocolate chips, this brunch beauty has me looking forward to summer. Except that this summer brings nonjoyous, uncakelike things, such as full time enrollment in Barbri and the California bar exam. So really, this strawberried treat is allowing me to pretend it’s summer now and enjoy the last month and a half surrounded by bright, juicy berries dancing on a fluffy, doughy hilltop.
But I don’t just like this cake for its beautiful color, summerly aura, and carefree personality. I also like it for the jam flavor. Sliced strawberries sprinkled with sugar develop a deeper strawberry flavor when they roast atop this cake, not unlike homemade (but not overly sweetened) strawberry jam. And without all that fuss over canning.
This simple strawberry topping is so incredible that one of these days, when I find myself with a Costco-sized basket full of strawberries so ripe that I don’t know how to possibly eat them before they go bad … okay, that’s an impossibility. I can eat strawberries for days. Weeks, even. But the time will soon come (ahem, bar exam prep) when trips to the grocery store are rare and dawdling at the farmers market has ceased to occur, and maybe I’ll convince Jay to do a Costco run just for strawberries. And I’ll want to make this incredible muffiny cake, but just won’t have time or energy after studying for 15 hours a day. But I might have will make time to quickly slice some strawberries, sprinkle them with sugar, roast them in the oven while I go through flashcards on the wonders of wills and the tragedy of torts, and finally enjoy them with a spoon. And when I do, I’ll thank this cake for the idea.
But back to the cake … to complement the sweetness of the jammy topping, I used a very mild, not-very-sweet recipe for the buttermilk batter. Even less sweet than the Buttermilk Olive Oil Cake topped with Candied Ginger and Kumquats. But better-suited for brunch-time. Also, this batter puffs up a bit to create a really pretty, rounded top for displaying the sliced strawberries.
And don’t forget the chocolate chips. I made two 6-inch cakes and tossed dark chocolate chips into the second cake as a bit of an afterthought, but it was an incredibly insightful spur-of-the-moment addition. As yummy as the strawberry buttermilk muffin-cake is on its own, what isn’t better with a little bit of chocolate? And if chocolate chip muffins are an acceptable breakfast food now, then certainly strawberry chocolate chip muffin-cakes are even better – health-wise and taste-wise. So enjoy … and please try not to eat the delicious, jammy muffin-top off the cake, for your guests’ sake. Share the love!
Strawberry (and Chocolate Chip) Buttermilk Muffin-Cakes (adapted from Deborah Madison’s Basic Buttermilk Muffins in Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone)
Makes 2 6-inch cakes, 1 9-inch cake, or 12 muffins
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/3 c. buttermilk
1/3 c. olive oil (original recipe allows canola oil or melted butter)
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 to 3/4 c. dark brown sugar, packed
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour or whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 c. strawberries, chopped
1/2 to 3/4 c. sliced strawberries (or enough to cover the cakes’ tops)
1/4 to 1/2 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips (optional)
Preheat oven to 375F. Butter or oil cake pans.
In a large bowl, mix eggs, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla until just combined. Add sugar, baking powder and baking soda, and mix until just combined. Add flour, and mix until just combined (do NOT over-mix, but make sure there are no pockets of flour; batter will have slightly lumpy appearance). Add chopped strawberries (and, if desired, chocolate chips), and stir briefly just to disperse berries throughout batter.
Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake until batter rises and browns a bit and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, approximately 35-40 minutes for a 6-inch cake or 25 minutes for muffins. Allow to cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out and serve.