Sure you can skip the extra two toppings, in fact I almost did, but my busy hands and run-away mind couldn't help but wonder what they would add to the cake.
Here's what I found: The syrup gives the ensemble a nice fruity punch — a real fresh strawberry bite. Without the syrup, it's not bad — not all! — but the strawberry is just a bit more muted. As for the meringue, it's like having a fluffy cloud of frosting. So yes, while the meringue topping may almost make this into a more traditional cake, it doesn't take away from the the other components.
All this said, your palate, your preference. Use the base recipe and keep it traditional, or add the extra toppings. Either way you go, make this Strawberry Upside-Down cake recipe your starting point.
Strawberry Upside-Down Cake
Serves 6 to 8
1/4 cup brown sugar
4 ounces strawberries, sliced (about 5 to 6 medium-sized berries)
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1 stick unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk
For the strawberry syrup:
8 ounces strawberries, diced (about 10 to 12 medium-sized berries)
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
For the meringue:
3 large egg whites
2 tablespoons sugar
Preheat oven to 350°F. Generously grease an 8-inch cake pan with butter. Sprinkle the brown sugar on the bottom of the pan and arrange strawberry slices over top.
To make the batter, place the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl and whisk to combine. In a separate large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Beat in the eggs one at a time, followed by vanilla extract. Mix in half of flour mixture, followed by the buttermilk. Mix in remaining flour mixture just until no more dry flour is visible; do not over-mix.
Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan over strawberries. Bake until a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean of wet batter (a few cake crumbs may be visible), about 45 to 50 minutes. Let the cake cool for 5 minutes, then run knife along edge of pan and invert the cake onto a cake plate.
To make the strawberry syrup, combine the diced strawberries, sugar, and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook until the mixture is reduced by half and thickened, about 5 to 7 minutes. Drizzle this syrup over the strawberries on top of the cake.
To make the meringue, place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Beat the white until soft peaks form, then gradually add the sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks from, about 1 to 2 minutes. Spread or pipe the meringue on top of the cake. Use a kitchen torch and toast meringue.
• Using Pasteurized Egg Whites: Substitute 3 ounces (about 7 tablespoons) pasteurized egg whites for the raw egg whites in this recipe. Add 1/4 teaspoon Cream of Tartar when you begin whipping.