Strawberry Cake With Barley
Posted on June 17, 2014 by Viji
Through out the winter, Navya was so worried about her strawberry plants in the backyard. Once they lost the green leaves, she was afraid they might never come back. Mother earth couldn’t keep her sad for too long. In spite of the very cold weather in early spring, tender green leaves began to appear on her strawberry plants and she was dancing around joyfully. A few weeks later she started picking her own fresh, fragrant, red, juicy strawberries, every morning.
One such morning, I saw her leaving quite a few strawberries in the bird bath which was right in the middle of the strawberry patch. Before I even got a chance to ask, she said,”I saw a bird trying to pick one berry but it couldn’t. So I have collected some and kept them in the bird bath. When the birds come to drink, instead of the water, they can have as many strawberries as they like. Since these are so juicy they wouldn’t need any water anyway.” It was so beautiful to know how much she cared for all those little birds!
I dropped her off at pre-school and had exactly two hours before picking her up, and I had to make her birthday cake. Her strawberries in the bird bath were so inviting, that there was only one cake that came to my mind,”our favorite strawberry cake”. Ever since we came across this in Smitten Kitchen, both the kids have never asked for any other cake, for any occasion. Life couldn’t be easier for me either. It is so simple, beautiful, not-too-sweet, and a very thin cake loaded with fresh strawberries – a cake that I have made again and again, never feeling guilty!
After coming back from school, first thing Navya wanted to know was whether I made a cake for her. She was simply ecstatic to see her favorite strawberry cake on the very same bird bath where she had kept those strawberries for birds before she leaving to school.
I thoroughly enjoy playing around with the ingredients of this cake. I have tried various combinations of flours – whole wheat, quinoa, almond, millet, barley. These days I make it using just barley flour. I also have replaced the egg with “chia seeds” a few times. Most thrilling variation as of now for me is the use of “freshly squeezed sugarcane juice” in place of sugar. The only sugar used is the “Sucanat(dried sugarcane juice)” to sprinkle over the strawberries in the end. Irrespective of the ingredients used, the cake disappeared within the first few minutes of taking it out from the oven, every single time.
- 1 cup barley flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 4 tbsp butter, softened and at room temperature
- 1 egg, at room temperature, lightly whisked
- 1/2 cup fresh squeezed sugarcane juice ( I used three one foot long pieces of sugarcane) or 1/2 cup sugar plus 1/2 cup milk or almond milk
- 25-30 very ripe strawberries ( the smaller the better), hulled and halved
- 2 Tbsp sucanat (or sugar) to sprinkle on the strawberries
- 1-2 Tbsp of freshly squeezed orange juice, to sprinkle on the strawberries
To extract the sugarcane juice:
Remove the thick outer skin using a strong knife and chop the sugarcanes into small pieces. Blend them in a juicer/blender. All you would see would be a large mass of fiber; no juice. Take small portions of this ground fibrous mass in between your palms and squeeze very well into a bowl. Repeat until all the fibrous mass is squeezed and all the juice is extracted. Now using a very fine strainer, filter the clear juice out. It might sound like too much work; actually it is a lot of fun. Once you have 1/2 cup of the juice kept aside for the cake, rest you can drink.
Preheat the oven to 350° F. Butter a 9 inch pie pan.
In a large bowl, beat the butter. Add the barley flour, baking powder, salt and the lightly whisked egg and mix gently using a wooden spoon. Add the sugar cane juice and mix until smooth.
(If using sugar, whisk the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar for a couple of minutes. Mix in egg, milk and 1 tsp vanilla (optional) until just combined. Add the flour mixture and mix until just smooth)
Pour this batter into the pie pan and spread to cover the bottom. Arrange the strawberries with the cut side down on the batter in a single layer. Sprinkle the sucanat and the orange juice over the berries.
Bake the cake for 10 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 325° F and continue to bake for about 35-40 minutes or until the cake turns brown and a tester comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a rack. Cut the cake into wedges and serve, plain or with whipped cream.