Warm Strawberry Crumb Cake

warm strawberry crumb cake

I found this recipe for crumb cake on a cold Chicago day that made spring seem like a dream that would never come true. I thought about it every day. Strawberries, strawberries, strawberries. I tried other recipes that seemed more appropriate for my climate. Strawberries, Strawberries. I wanted delicious fresh spring berries that were freshly picked, deep red, and perfect. Strawberries.


I couldn’t wait. I did something stupid and bought 4 pounds of giant, unnatural looking strawberries at a supermarket. Even as I did it, I knew it was a mistake. I knew I should be patient, but I was desperate. I carried my giant plastic container of strawberries home and hoped for the best.

They were terrible. Well, not exactly terrible but they were the most uninteresting strawberries I had ever eaten. Flavorless. Disappointing. Now I had 4 pounds of mediocre strawberries taking up half of a shelf in my fridge and was kicking myself for not just waiting a few weeks for the real deal.


I decided to proceed with the recipe as planned and secretly thought I could trick all of you. You wouldn’t know what the strawberries tasted like and I am sure they would photograph well despite their lack of flavor. I would be able to salvage something from this whole experience.

By the time these strawberries were tossed with sugar and a vanilla bean, roasted in the oven with a crumb cake topping and served with some freshly whipped cream—they were surprisingly wonderful. I was shocked. And that means that this recipe is wonderful because if it can turn a really lousy bunch of strawberries into this very excellent dessert, imagine what it will do with your strawberries?!! Your strawberries which you waited to buy from your market fresh from the farm and bursting with flavor?! Your version of this crumb cake will be even better than mine, and mine is pretty amazing. So, when you find those perfect strawberries, you now have something to do with them.


Some interesting strawberry facts I learned on the internet (which may or may not be true):

  • There is a strawberry museum in Belgium.
  • Strawberries are members of the rose family.
  • On average there are 200 seeds on a strawberry.
  • If you split a double strawberry in half and give the other half to someone they will fall in love with you. (I think this one is true…)

Warm Strawberry Crumb Cake (adapted from a Gerald Craft recipe in the April 2009 issue of Food & Wine)


  • 3 pounds strawberries, hulled and halved (8 cups)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch dissolved in 2 1/2 tablespoons of water
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped

Crumb Topping

  • 1/2 cup lightly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • generous pinch of salt
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed and chilled


  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk

Make the Filling: Preheat the oven to 350°. In a large bowl, toss the strawberries with the sugar, lemon juice, cornstarch slurry and vanilla seeds and let stand until the berries release some of their juices, about 30 minutes. Pour the fruit filling into a 9-by-13-inch glass or ceramic baking dish set on a sturdy baking sheet.

Meanwhile, Make the Crumb Topping: In a medium bowl, mix all of the ingredients with your fingers until a coarse meal forms; press into small clumps.

Make the Cake: In a medium bowl, whisk the flour with the baking powder and salt. In a large bowl, using a handheld electric mixer, beat the butter with the sugar at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well between additions. Beat in the vanilla extract and scrape down the bowl. Add the dry ingredients to the batter in 3 additions, alternating with the buttermilk.

Spoon the batter over the fruit filling, spreading it to the edge. Sprinkle with the crumb topping. Bake in the center of the oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes, until the fruit is bubbling, the crumb topping is golden and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out with a few moist crumbs attached. Transfer to a rack to cool slightly. Serve the crumb cake warm or at room temperature. (It will keep overnight in refrigerator. Reheat before serving.)

***Since I was not confident in my strawberries, I cut this recipe in half and it worked well. This was great with unsweetened whipped cream but I think it would be even better with ice cream. Maybe some black pepper ice cream?

29 comments to “Warm Strawberry Crumb Cake”

  1. I’m not a dessert person, but I WANT some of this right now! With the unsweetened cream to tame it! YUM It looks SO good!

  2. PS- I also want a taco

  3. It kills me to receive food magazines in the mail—always too early, before the ingredients they focus on are truly in season. This looks lovely, a change from my standard crisp…bookmarking now!

  4. what is with those unnatural, huge strawberries popping up in the supermarkets right now? they’re scary looking!

  5. they are there to trick us into buying them! (or at least they tricked me)

  6. Oh delicious… i’m thrilled about all the ginormous strawberries! I think they’re delicious!

  7. This cake looks wonderful! The seasonal strawberries will be here before we know it, and I can’t wait to try this out with them. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Yes, berries can be saved! Lemon juice and sugar usually do the trick, but nothing’s wrong with covering them with cake. Yum.

  9. This looks scrumptious. It reminds me of my favorite easy, easy, eaaasy “crumble” recipe:

    1 c. packed brown sugar
    1 c. all purpose flour
    1 stick butter
    3 – 4 c. of your favorite fruit (I like mixed berries)

    Mix the flour, sugar, butter together w/ a for. Put the berries in an oven safe dish & cover w/ “crumble.” Then bake until golden in a 350F oven — about 30 minutes. Serve with alone or w/ ice cream & eat up!

  10. Dawn in CA says:

    April 29th, 2009 at 1:06 pm

    Looks yummy. What size pan did you use for the 1/2 recipe? Was the baking time the same? Thanks. :)

  11. Hey Dawn: I used this weird pan I have that is like 7×10. I think it would work in an 8×8 square too. I also think it would be cool as individual cakes in ramekins!

  12. The berries might have been big and ugly, but this looks beautiful. Whenever I get bad strawberries I toss them with some good balsamic and just a teeny bit of suar.

  13. Strawberries and balsamic are so good!

  14. made this last night…. so good!

  15. Great! It is so good. I even liked it as leftovers….

  16. Looks a bit like a crumble. Beautiful!

  17. This was super easy to make. I made it with supermarket strawberries last night, I left out the vanilla bean (who wants to spend $10 on that) and just added a teaspoon of vanilla extract to the cornstarch slurry. It was a super big hit with my guests, lots of clean bowls.

  18. Glad it was a hit. It is really satisfying. I’m also glad to hear it worked well with vanilla extract in place of the bean. A good way to save some money…

  19. This sounds amazing, love strawberries!

  20. Will you make me some, pretty please, with strawberries on top?

  21. This was so, so, good. It’s so tempting to never try another strawberry dessert recipe again. But then you go and post a strawberry pie? Oh my.

  22. Another new favorite of mine from your site! It was a huge hit at a birthday dinner, and I can’t wait to make it as a sort of coffee cake for my next big brunch gathering. :)

  23. One of your blog followers turned me on to this recipe (Thanks Ngoc!) I also halved it because there were only 3 of us. I didn’t have cornstarch, but a flour slurry seemed to work just fine. I also macerated the strawberries with balsamic instead of vanilla. And since I didn’t have buttermilk on hand, I subbed in plain Kefir. The cake came out so delicious. I’ll definitely be making it again.

  24. Made this with decent grocery store strawberries. Halved the recipe but still used 2 whole eggs. Divided up between 4 Emile Henry mini pie pans – pretty. The strawberries mounded up over the top of the pie pans. I spread the batter on top and covered with streusel – gorgeous! Well, the extra 1/2 egg made the batter a bit runny and when it began to heat up in the oven, much of the streusel slid off the mountain of berries and dripped onto the sheet under the pie plates. I was devastated. My gorgeous little pies were ruined – a mass of cooked berries and gloppy topping with only part of the lovely streusel!

    Happy ending – they were ugly, but wow were they yummy! :) Thx for the great recipe. Will definitely make again in a larger pan that will contain the streusel.

    btw – was reading Esio Trot by Roald Dahl to my 5-yr-old son and one of the words in magical tortoise language (everything spelled backwards) was Doof. Thought of this blog. Always great to have a connection with Roald Dahl.

  25. Hi Joanna,
    Glad your cake ended up okay. Thanks for the Roald Dahl fact, it is always great to have a connection to him!

  26. Update: Made this again in the appropriate vessel. Perfect. You rock.

  27. I made it for family bbq. It looked so good. My favorite part was the cake….everyone commented on how good the “cake” was. My issue was the strawberries, even with the sugar, they were so tart and I mean tart. I couldn’t enjoy it. The berries looked and smelled good in the container, but when baked, they turned super tart. I just don’t understand it. Next time I’ll add more sugar. I used strawberries from 3 different containers too. Because the cake was exceptional, I’d like to try making this with apples or blueberries as well.

  28. Hey Marg- Very strange! Did you taste the strawberries before using them? Maybe they were especially tart? I’ve never really had a strawberry that tart and didn’t have that problem with this recipe. You can also cut down on lemon juice next time if your strawberries aren’t very sweet.

  29. Thanks for a wonderful recipe Tim. I made this for my berry loving friend’s birthday and it was a huge hit. Strawberries, blueberries and raspberries are in season in Australia at the moment so I used some of each and the cake worked perfectly. I can’t wait to make this again!

What do you think?