Of all the essential summertime desserts, I'd argue that a glossy-topped strawberry skillet cake deserves a spot at the top of your list. If not for its simple beauty and ability to wow a crowd — just look at that layer of sweet berries! — then for the tender, vanilla cornmeal cake and jammy, ginger-scented slices of strawberries.
A Zippy Twist for Strawberries
What makes this cake so irresistible — aside from the lightly textured vanilla cake — is the spiced, sweet layer of strawberries that coat the top. You can't see the ingredient that makes them stand out even more than they would on their own, but you will certainly taste it. The fresh berries are tossed with a touch of ground ginger and sugar, then left to sit while you prepare the cake batter. It adds an unexpected zing and subtle hint of spice that cuts through the sweetness of the jammy topping.
Upside-Down Strawberry Skillet Cake
Butter or cooking spray
1 1/4 cups
granulated sugar, divided
strawberries, hulled and sliced into thin rounds
finely ground cornmeal
1 1/2 teaspoons
unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 350°F. Cut out a round of parchment paper and line the bottom of a 10-inch cast iron skillet. Coat the skillet with butter or cooking spray.
Whisk 1/2 cup of the sugar, cornstarch, and ginger together in a medium bowl. Add the strawberries and stir so the berries are fully coated; set aside.
Whisk together the remaining 3/4 cup sugar, flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Add the eggs, butter, milk, and vanilla and mix with a hand mixer on medium speed just until smooth, about 1 minute. (Alternatively, whisk by hand.)
Spread the strawberries in an even layer in the prepared skillet. Pour the batter over the strawberries and use a rubber spatula to spread in an even layer.
Bake until the cake is lightly browned and springs back when lightly touched, 30 to 35 minutes.
Let the cake cool in the skillet for at least 15 minutes, then run a knife along the edge of the pan. Invert the cake onto a large plate and carefully remove the layer of parchment. Serve warm or at room temperature, sliced into wedges.
Storage: Leftover cake can be stored in a cover container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.