A simple, not-too-sweet, lemony cake topped with strawberries and fresh mint makes a light, seasonal dessert. Recipe below.
I didn’t grow up in the South, but lots of my relatives did, and they had an influence on my mother’s kitchen. In real estate terms, you could call mine a childhood with Southern exposure.
In spite of that fact—or maybe because of it—I was never a big fan of cornbread. At family gatherings, this was cause for some mild concern, but the “oh-well-more-for-me” instinct swiftly and invariably soothed it. This cornbread/cornmeal indifference followed me into adulthood, despite occasional attempts on my part to overcome it.
What put it back on my radar screen recently and actually made it stick this time was a simple piece of cake at mado. I mention mado here a lot, I know. That’s because owners Rob and Allie give me a nickel every time I do (mado, mado, mado, mado). Actually, it’s because they serve such wonderful food there. Allie’s almond-cornmeal cake was substantial but not dense and not overly sweet, a perfect foil for the sour cherry preserves and whipped cream.
What else got me thinking of cornmeal cake was the sudden abundance of red, ripe strawberries in the supermarket and fresh mint in our yard. Mixed with a little sugar, I knew they would deliver a taste of spring and the promise of summer to come. And a simple, lemony cornmeal cake would offer a delicious foundation.
Cornmeal Lemon Cake with Strawberries and Mint
Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food
1/2 cup olive oil, plus more for pan
2 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup lemon juice (from 2 to 3 large lemons)
1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
For strawberry topping:
5 cups sliced strawberries
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint (optional)
3 tablespoons sugar (or more to taste)
Make the cake. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Brush bottom and sides of an 8-inch springform cake pan with oil. In a large bowl, whisk together oil, eggs, sugar and lemon juice until smooth. Mix flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt and lemon zest in a separate bowl. Whisk into oil/egg mixture to combine.
Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake until cake begins to pull away from sides of pan and a tester inserted in center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes.
Cool cake in pan on a rack for 20 minutes. Run a knife around edge of cake and remove springform ring; leave cake and base on rack to cool completely.
Prepare the strawberries. About 20 minutes before you’re ready to serve cake, mix strawberries, sugar and mint, if you’re using it, in a bowl and set aside. Stir a few times while it macerates to coat strawberries evenly with sugar and juices. As I said, the mint is optional—I like the bit of fresh brightness it adds, but not everyone does.
Serve slices of cake with strawberries spooned on top and alongside.