In my ongoing quest to squeeze more dessert into the daym—also known as operation "take the caftan, leave the bikini"—I've been casting about for a nice non-coffeecake breakfast cake involving strawberries. So far, my favorite one is this easy brown sugar cake from Sally Schneider's The Improvisational Cook, which I baked up in a muffin tin. I split each cakelet and filled it with a schmear of improvised brown sugar cream cheese frosting and a spoonful of strawberries for a brunch dessert that doesn't feel too terribly over-the-top to indulge in midday.
There's no improving on real strawberry shortcake, of course, but these cakelets are their own brand of delicious. (And, unlike biscuits, they need not be baked at the very last minute). The tender brown cake, which can be baked instead as a 9-inch round (35-40 minutes at 350°), is also excellent with no adornment at all. But if you do want to put it all together, a pound of strawberries, chopped and tossed with a spoonful of sugar, will be the right amount. Strawberry shortcake calls for the most precious and fragrant fruit you can find, but here
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 plus 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 large eggs, preferably room temperature
- 1 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/4 cup whole milk mixed with 1/4 cup plain yogurt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons plain yogurt
Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease and flour a standard 12-cup muffin tin (you can use a bit of the melted flour and a teaspoon or two of the flour to do this).
Put the flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl and whisk well to combine thoroughly.
Crack the eggs into a bowl and whisk until blended and frothy. Whisk in the sugar and beat until well blended, about 1 minute.
Whisk the flour mixture into the egg-sugar mixture, using as few strokes as possible and stopping just before the two are fully combined. Then whisk in the milk-yogurt mixture, the melted butter, and the vanilla. Pour the batter into the muffin tin; each well will be a little more than half full.
Bake for 15 minutes, or until a tester emerges clean. Set the muffin tin on a rack for 1 minute and then use a knife to flip each cakelet sideways in its well to cool completely.
Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting
-makes barely enough for 12 cakelets-
Beat all ingredients together until uniformly combined, soft, and fluffy. Use immediately or store in refrigerator.