It all started with a rainy day. Instead of waking up to clear skies and warm beams of sunshine, which is what the middle of July should look like, I woke up to 100% cloud cover, pouring rain, and a desperate need for the extra blanket that I had recently shoved into my closet because it had been sitting uselessly at the foot of my bed for two months. I shouldn’t complain too much, since so far we’ve had a b-e-a-uuutiful summer in this normally-gray corner of the northwest (knock on wood!) but now that I’ve gotten a taste of sunshine I crave it all the time! Sunshine allll the days. No rainy ones allowed. (I should probably consider moving.)
Aside from making me sad and cold (and in all honesty, giving our parched island a nice dose of moisture), all of that dreary rain put me in a baking mood. I had no inclination to venture outside and the kitchen was calling. We had a big container of strawberries in the fridge that I knew were approaching the end of their days, so I decided to bake them into something while they were still fresh. The only question was, what to make? Cake came to mind….not a giant frosted fancy layer cake, but a simple one-pan snack cake. I love to call cakes baked in square pans “snack cakes” because then of course they’re justified to be eaten as snacks. Or breakfasts, for that matter…
I thought about making a strawberry-lemon cake, but seeing as we didn’t have any lemons I couldn’t figure out a way to make that happen. My next idea was a vanilla bean cake with fresh strawberries, but I had just used some of my precious vanilla beans in a batch of blueberry muffins and figured I should branch out a little. Then my eyes fell upon the jar of peanut butter in our fridge and an idea was born….peanut butter cake filled with diced strawberries! Just like pb&j, but with real fruit instead of jelly. Because fresh summer fruit always trumps jelly in my mind, just sayin.
I found a recipe for a peanut butter-jelly coffee cake that I morphed into my Peanut Butter-Strawberry Snack Cake. Essentially it’s a soft, rich peanut butter cake studded with juicy pieces of strawberries and topped off with a drizzle of melted peanut butter. It can be served at room temperature or chilled, and tastes a lot like the classic pb&j that we all know and love. You can adapt this to your heart’s content, maybe using raspberries instead of strawberries, adding chopped peanuts to the cake, making a full-on peanut butter frosting, or going the true pb&j route and swirling some warmed-up jam into the cake batter.
This cake definitely brightened up my rainy day! The combination of peanut butter and strawberries may sound a bit odd, but they taste amazing together. My Peanut Butter-Strawberry Snack Cake is a great little twist on the classic peanut-butter-and-jelly, and it will leave you wanting more!
Peanut Butter-Strawberry Snack Cake
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk*
1 cup diced strawberries
3 tablespoons creamy peanut butter, for drizzling (optional)
*You can make your own buttermilk by pouring 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice or vinegar into a measuring cup and adding enough milk to equal 1/2 cup. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes to curdle, then proceed with recipe.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8″x8″ pan and set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Set aside.
In a larger bowl, use an electric mixer to combine the peanut butter, butter, and brown sugar until smooth. Add in the egg and vanilla, mixing until well-combined. Stir in the flour mixture and buttermilk in alternating increments, beginning and ending with the flour. Stir just until no flour streaks remain, being careful not to over-mix. Gently fold in the strawberries.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for 30-32 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. While the cake is cooling, melt the additional 3 tablespoons of peanut butter (I used my microwave and it took about 30 seconds, stirring after every 10). Using a spoon, drizzle the melted peanut butter over the warm cake.
Let the cake cool completely, then slice and enjoy!
(Recipe adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod)