Its tender, golden crumb makes this cake a good foundation for a sort of unstructured strawberry shortcake. Serve it in wedges with a puddle of juicy crushed berries and soft whipped cream. In summer, enjoy it with blackberries, raspberries, peaches, or a combination of ripe fruits from the farmers' market. It wouldn't hurt to flavor the whipped cream with a little rum or brandy.
For the Cake:
- Unsalted butter and cornmeal for preparing the pan
- 1 1/4 cups sifted cake flour
- 6 tablespoons yellow cornmeal
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 baskets (1 pint each) strawberries
- Sugar to taste, plus 2 teaspoons
- Fresh lemon juice
- 1 cup heavy cream
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch round cake pan with 2-inch sides, then dust with cornmeal, shaking out excess.
2. In a bowl, stir together the cake flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt.
3. In an electric mixer, beat butter until creamy. Add sugar gradually and beat, scraping down sides of bowl once or twice, until creamy and light. Add eggs one at a time, beating will after each addition. Add lemon zest.
4. Combine milk and vanilla extract. With mixer on low speed, add dry ingredients in three batches, alternating with milk. Beat just until blended, scraping down sides of bowl once or twice. Spread batter evenly in prepared pan.
5. Bake until top is golden brown and firm to the touch, 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool in pan 20 minutes. Invert the cake onto a rack, then reinvert onto another rack. Cool to room temperature, then transfer to a serving platter.
6. Hull the strawberries. Put half of them in a large bowl and crush with a potato masher. Slice the remaining strawberries and add to the bowl. Sweeten to taste with sugar. Add enough lemon juice to give the mixture a refreshing tart edge. Cover and chill.
7. Just before serving, whip cream to soft peaks with 2 teaspoons sugar.
8. Cut the cake into 8 portions and transfer to serving plates. Divide the berries and the cream evenly among the portions.