Cooking With the Times: Strawberry Spoon Cake

Jun 21, 2021

I’ve been picking so many strawberries this season that my fingertips should be stained red. That said, I’m on the hunt for some recipes that utilize these rubied beauties. Historically, my go-to strawberry dessert has been whipped cream and…that’s it. Impressive, I know. And though you can’t go wrong with this classic duo, sometimes strawberries deserve more. Strawberry Spoon Cake sounds hard to a novice baker like myself. However, The New York Times insists it’s super easy. Let’s see for ourselves.

As both writer and reader, I enjoy perusing The New York Times. Once subscribed to the NYT email list, readers receive weekly drool-worthy pics of their featured recipes in the Cooking section. Needless to say, I now subscribe to NYT Cooking as well.

It all started with a feature of Marcella Hazan’s simple but incredibly delectable tomato sauce. If you’re not familiar, read this homage piece from the New Yorker titled “Don’t Throw Away the Marcella Hazan Tomato-Sauce Onion.” I’m a huge fan of all things Italian, and making tomato sauce from scratch has been on my adult to-do list for an embarrassing amount of time. The task lingered, along with homemade bread and braised short ribs. It was only when I came across an NYT Cooking recipe declaring the infamous sauce as perhaps the Italian cooking writer’s easiest recipe that I had to bite. And to my surprise and delight, it truly was easy to make (and equally slurp-worthy)!

I now regularly try recipes from NYT Cooking and have not been disappointed yet. You can imagine my delight in discovering a Strawberry Spoon Cake Jerrelle Guy describes as an “unfussy cake with a top layer of jammy strawberries…so gooey it’s best to serve the whole thing with a spoon.” After all, I’ve dedicated the month of June to delicious strawberry activity. This includes finding new recipes in which freshly picked berries shine.

So I gave the recipe a try. And like Marcelle Hazan’s tomato sauce, this spoon cake is both straightforward and impressive on an “expert in the kitchen” level…I neither kid nor exaggerate when I say this. It will be my dish-in-hand for this year’s summer gatherings, and I can’t wait to try it with raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, snozzberries… Any juicy fruit will do. When peaches are in season, in the batter, they’ll go!

But of course, the original strawberry version will always be my favorite. And I have a feeling you’ll agree. Here’s my experience.

buttery, aromatic, and cobbler-like…

Part of me wants to keep this recipe a secret from my family and friends. Like I said, the dish will inevitably show up for summer get-togethers, and I’d love for them all to think I’ve upped my chef game. However, my poker face is on par with my novice-level baking. Fresh strawberries, basil, and a handful of pantry staples are all you’ll need. Prep fruit, whisk together an egg-less batter, and throw your beautiful dish in the oven. It’s that simple.

The results amazed me. As the spoon cake fluffed and crisped in the oven, my house turned French patisserie. The butter mixed with brown sugar mixed with strawberries…aromatic perfection. And as good as it smelled, it tasted even better. The cake’s texture is fluffy, tasting pure and buttery. The strawberries, caramelized and bubbling out of the oven, give it the right amount of sweetness. And I got to use up my freshly picked berries from Fulton Farms, adding to the dish’s charm.

Of course, you’ll want to spoon the cake out warm with a scoop of your favorite vanilla ice cream. Also, incorporating snips of fresh basil, as the recipe suggests, adds another level. The fragrance of this herb mingling with those warm, jammy strawberries still lingers in my memory, making this one of my favorite summertime desserts. In short, it’s a dish that desperately wants to be strawberry shortcake, but dare I say- it’s even better.

Get the recipe here at NYT Cooking.


  • Greasing the pan. I’ve tried this recipe twice now. The first time I greased the pan with butter, as the recipe suggested. The second time, I ran out of butter and opted to use olive oil. Both cakes browned at the edges nicely, with a clean flavor. However, the latter does give you hints of that olive oil flavor. And I actually preferred it!
  • More bake time for more cake time. If you double the recipe (like I did), you’ll want to add time to the bake. I added 10 minutes, and it was perfect.
  • Expect thick batter. I was surprised by the thick texture of the batter. When I poured the strawberry mixture on top, I was expecting it to sink into the batter. Instead, it sat on top yet came out beautifully.
  • Presentation is everything. This is such a beautiful cake, albeit rustic. It deserves an equally beautiful presentation, from the baking dish to the plate you spoon it out on. I chose blue for a summery look.

Henry David Thoreau says, “Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth.” Take it from Thoreau and give this recipe a try, using whatever juicy fruit the earth will give. And of course, let me know how you liked it in the comments.

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