According to Wikipedia, the term streusel (a German word meaning “something scattered or sprinkled”, from the verb streuen, akin to the English verb ‘strew’) refers to a crumb topping of butter, flour, and sugar (traditional German) that is baked on top of muffins, breads, and cakes. The original recipe used fresh blueberries; I substituted strawberries — not because I do not like blueberries, I do actually, but because I already had strawberries in the fridge. I asked my husband to buy a pack of frozen blueberries but the cake was done by the time he got home. So maybe I’ll bake a blueberry streusel cake today since the strawberry streusel cake is almost gone.
This cake which I baked last night is proof that baking is not as exact a science as many like to claim. A lot of people who can bake say that baking recipes have to be followed to the last comma or the baked product will be a failure. I know some who say that if you mess up with the procedure, you had better throw everything away and start over again. Well, that may be true with some recipes but not all.
If you look at the original recipe at Joy of Baking, you will notice that there are two sets of ingredients — one for the streusel topping and another for the cake. I had my MacBook in the kitchen while baking this cake and the cats kept climbing up the table. I shut the lid of the computer thinking I could remember the amounts of all the ingredients. I was so distracted that I used 1/3 cup of flour and 1/3 cup of sugar for the cake. Only AFTER the batter had been mixed, when I realized something must be very wrong indeed because the batter was too thin, did I check the recipe again and discovered my mistake. The 1/3 cup of flour and 1/3 cup of sugar were for the streusel topping, not the cake (obviously, I made the topping after mixing the cake batter and not before as the recipe in Joy of Baking said).
Considering how much butter (margarine, even for baking, has been banned in the house for several months now), eggs and other baking ingredients cost these days, I wasn’t going to throw out the watery cake batter. I measured the additional 2/3 cup of flour and, flustered, wondered how to measure the additional sugar to make a total of 1/2 cup. I ended up approximating the additional sugar needed and dumped flour, then sugar, into the thin batter and mixed. And because I forgot to buy vanilla extract again on the last trip to the supermarket, I omitted vanilla from the recipe altogether.
The cake still turned out perfectly — soft, smooth and moist, and the streusel topping, crunchy. Moral lesson: never be afraid to make mistakes in the kitchen; everything is a learning experience.
Strawberry streusel cake
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter allowed to soften at room temperature
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1/3 cup milk I used fresh milk, the pour-and-drink kind
- 200 grams fresh strawberries stems removed
For the streusel
- 1/4 cup cold unsalted butter cut into very small cubes
- 1/3 cup all purpose flour
- 1/3 cup white sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon powdered cinnamon
- Place the butter in a large mixing bowl. Some will remain stuck on the wrapping. Take the wrapping and rub the remaining butter on the bottom and sides of an 8-inch springform pan.
- Measure the flour, baking powder and salt into a separate bowl. Stir to combine.
- Beat the butter with a wire whisk. Add the sugar and continue beating until the mixture is light in texture. Add the egg and beat until well incorporated (no egg steaks remain visible). Add the flour and milk, alternately and in batches, to the butter-sugar mixture, starting and ending with the flour. If you make a mistake at this stage like I did, I already described my salvage operation above.
- The batter will be thick. You will have to scrape it off the mixing bowl to spread it on the springform pan.
- Roughly chop the strawberries. Set aside.
- Make the streusel topping by mixing the ingredients marked with * together until the texture resembles coarse crumbs. I mixed the ingredients using my hand. I do this when I mix flour and butter together (like when making pie crust) because I really cannot tell if the texture is right just by looking at it — I like to feel the texture so I use my hand.
- Scatter the chopped strawberries on top of the cake. Then, add the streusel topping, filling the gaps between the strawberry pieces and making sure that no cake batter remains visible. Bake in a preheated 170oC oven for 55 minutes.
- Normally, you test a cake for doneness by inserting a sharp thin knife or a toothpick at the center of the cake. If it comes out clean, it’s done. That’s a little hard to do with this cake because the first and last thing that your knife or toothpick will hit will likely be a piece of very wet strawberry which will leave a trace on the toothpick or knife. So, look closely and try to determine whether the smudge is uncooked cake batter or strawberry.
- Cool the cake in the pan for about half an hour (less than half an hour if you live in a cold place). You may have to use a knife or spatula to loosen the cake from the pan. I know — it’s a springform pan and you’re just supposed to loosen the lock. But if pieces of strawberries touch the side of the pan, they would have caramelized and might be stuck. So, loosen the cake in places where it sticks to the pan.
This strawberry streusel cake is best served while still warm but it’s still great after resting overnight on the kitchen counter.