Cornmeal Lemon Cake with Strawberries and Mint: Simply the taste of spring

by Terry B on May 5, 2010

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
Serves 8

For cake:
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.


{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

The French May 5, 2010 at 6:26 am

Just finished slamming a blueberry cornmeal cake which was crazy, but this sounds AMAZING. Strawberries, lemon and mint…you’re killing me:)

Robyn May 5, 2010 at 9:34 am

Mmmm… Love the combo.

altadenahiker May 5, 2010 at 2:55 pm

Mado. There, now you’re up to 30 cents.

Krista May 5, 2010 at 4:15 pm

Lovely! I love cake that tastes like CAKE instead of sugar. :-) Mmm, this fits the bill beautifully. :-)

Carolyn May 5, 2010 at 4:47 pm

I’m a sucker for not-too-sweet desserts and a dedicated lover of cornbread, polenta, and olive-oil baked goods, so I really can’t wait to try this. Also, mado.

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) May 5, 2010 at 6:01 pm

There’s a bowl of lemons on my kitchen counter, and the first shoots of mint in the garden…. now, maybe, cornmeal somewhere? I’m off to the pantry!

Ronnie Ann May 5, 2010 at 6:33 pm

I’m with Krista and Carolyn…desserts where the flavors are NOT hijacked by sugar are my fave. This looks simple, elegant and so ridiculously good. And oh that pic…once again, I join the chipped-tooth brigade.

Holly Day May 5, 2010 at 10:15 pm

Lemon juice, strawberries… those ingredients sold me! I’m going to try your recipe at home this weekend, looks and sounds too yummy to not give it a try!
Thanks for sharing!

Melissa May 6, 2010 at 1:40 am

That picture is sooo beautiful. You have got to teach me your secret! The cake sounds great. I love the texture that cornmeal adds to a cake. Laurent will love this, also. Can’t wait to make it for him. He can’t wait for me to make it for him!

Shauna May 6, 2010 at 1:44 am

Oh, Heavens! I must try this one!
Thank you, Mr. T!!

Dani H May 6, 2010 at 2:06 am

Yes, please….. Oh, you’re not actually offering a slice? This looks and sounds absolutely scrumptious! I’m not a big fan of cake {as we’ve talked about before ~ we agree about the frosting} but I do love cornbread! My favorite way to eat it is in large chunks with milk poured over it. Truly, Terry, this sounds divine! Maybe for Mother’s Day brunch on Sunday. Thanks for another inspiring recipe. Have a lovely weekend, and Happy Mother’s Day to Marion.

Terry B May 6, 2010 at 2:57 am

The French—And you with the blueberries. They’re one of my favorite fruits. I’m sitting here going all Pavlovian just thinking of them.

Thanks, Robyn!

And thank you, Altadenahiker! If this keeps up, I’ll give you a commission.

Thanks, Krista!

Carolyn—Yeah, the olive oil was another thing I liked about this recipe. Not only makes the cake healthier, but adds to the not-too-rich, not-too-sweet quality of it, I think.

Ah, Lydia, your fabled pantry of more than 250 ingredients. I have to guess it’s bigger than some people’s kitchens!

Thanks, Ronnie Ann! I have to imagine there are armies of people out there who crave desserts on the less sugary side.

Holly—Report back if you try it. I’d love to hear what you think.

Melissa—This cake reminded me of some of the lovely treats you served at Vella. When we’re driving around on weekends, we still wistfully think of our many visits there.

You’re welcome, Shauna!

Thanks, Dani—and Happy Mother’s Day to you too!

Alta May 6, 2010 at 1:45 pm

Yummy yummy indeed! I’ve only recently come to love cornbread, and this would be a lovely, lightly sweet treat!

Duchess May 6, 2010 at 2:35 pm

that just looks so damn lovely!

Cynthia Fox-Giddens May 6, 2010 at 2:43 pm

This cake sounds heavenly and the photo is right on. I don’t bake much, but this is worth a try. Yummy!

cara @ City Girl Chicago May 6, 2010 at 3:24 pm

This sounds absolutely scrumptious! I run a feature on my blog called Tasty Tuesday, and I’m looking for chefs / cooks / and those somewhere inbetween to submit their favorite recipes so I may feature them and their post on a Tasty Tuesday. Interested? :) It would be great to have you!

Oohfood May 6, 2010 at 3:52 pm

This is such a nice recipe! I love that it has cornmeal in it, and the strawberries and mint is such a nice combo. Think this will feature at our next picnic!

mollie bryan May 6, 2010 at 5:05 pm

I’m a product of a Southern exposure childhood, as well. I know exactly what you mean. Lemon. Mint. Cornmeal. Strawberries. Mmmmm.

Wizzythestick May 7, 2010 at 2:37 am

I love a cornmeal cake any day. It goes so wonderfully well with fresh tangy fruit ooooh and maybe a dollop of sour cream:-)

Sunny May 10, 2010 at 1:29 am

This looks fantastic. I’m a sucker for baked good with olive oil and/or cornmeal. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for some rhubarb when the Green City Market opens this week — think I’ll make this cake with orange zest (and maybe some thyme?), and do a strawberry-rhubarb compote too.

Terry B May 10, 2010 at 2:34 pm

Thanks, everyone, for the great comments! We were on the road for a loooong and busy weekend, so I didn’t have a chance to keep up with replies.

melissa May 16, 2010 at 12:50 am

i just made this cake today, and it is amazing. better than i imagined! so lemony and light, crunchy from the cornmeal. yum.
only notes are that i baked at 350 because my oven tends to run hot, and it only needed 30 minutes, could have been less even as the bottom is a bit dark. overall this recipe is a keeper and i am imagining up new toppings for it, and also thought next time i may add poppy seeds.
thanks for sharing!

Terry B May 16, 2010 at 3:47 am

Thanks, Melissa! The poppy seeds sound like a great addition—we’re always fans of the taste they add.

Michael Cavinta May 18, 2010 at 4:47 pm

Cooking with cornmeal is always the best thing to do in cakes. In this cakes, thank you for sharing this great lemon cake recipe with strawberries. I have always loved lemon cake and would surely try out your recipe by this weekend. It is very easy to follow and the ingredients are easily available. It would also go well with a cup of hot coffee, beans ground from my new grinder coffee Kudos!

Natalie May 18, 2010 at 11:18 pm

How fresh and light that looks… awesome!

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