Summer brings to mind the outdoors: picnics, hikes, jumps in the pool. That is, if you live someplace where it gets warm during the summer. For those of us in San Francisco, summer can be the coldest time of year. There are flocks of confused tourists wondering how their vacation to California got so chilly. And the locals love to whine about it, too. People like to repeat a quote that’s wrongly attributed to Mark Twain, but funny nonetheless: “the coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.”
The benefits of San Francisco far outweigh its unfortunate weather. But sometimes I need to add a little more summer to my world. And when you want to bring that summer feeling inside, eating seasonal food is the perfect conduit. For a recent “girl’s night” potluck, I looked for recipes with strawberries. They’re in-season right now so they’re really juicy and fresh – plus you’re likely to find them on sale. I thought strawberries and lemons sounded nice together: the tang of the lemons, the juice of the berry. When I saw this “cake bar” recipe on Pinterest, I knew I’d found my winner.
This recipe was the perfect find. Light, refreshing, with just the right amount of tang. It’s a cakey texture but the bar format makes it much more versatile than a regular cake would be. The cake looks lovely drizzled with the lemon glaze, plated for each person you’re serving. But it also looks right at home being served from the pan, and I think it’d hold up well for a standing event as long as the glaze had some time to settle. My friends and I ate this after a delectable meal that included a cheese course, salad and delicious salmon. I was a little worried people would be too full for dessert. but my fears were unfounded. My friends probably don’t want me to tell you this, but we ate the entire thing, save 1 tiny little piece… and there were only 4 of us at dinner. Don’t judge us, though. Just make this cake and you’ll see that it’s so good, you’ll want to eat it all too.
Strawberry Lemon Cake Bars with a Lemon Glaze
Source: Edesia’s Notebook
Yield: 9 bars, though serving sizes always depend on how you cut so this could easily make more than 9 pieces if you wanted it to
Suggested equipment: No special machines or equipment needed
Total Time: ~1.5 hours, including cooling time
Cook Time: 35-50 minutes. Mine took longer to bake than the recipe suggested, but that usually happens with my oven
Italics below are my own comments on the Edesia’s Notebook post. I broke the directions into a few more steps, too
- 1 cup butter, room temperature
- ¾ cup sugar
- 1 egg
- 2-3 tbsp lemon juice (from about 2 lemons) (My lemons were pretty small so I ended up using 3 lemons overall for this recipe. I always suggest buying more lemons than you think you will need, just in case you don’t get enough juice or zest. And I always go by the measurements of juice/zest vs. the recipe’s approximation of how many lemons you need!)
- 1/4 cup lemon juice and 2 tbsp lemon juice, divided (from about 1.5 lemons) (this means you will use it in two different steps so make sure to measure out just what you need at the appropriate time)
- 2¼ cups flour
- ½ tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp salt
- ¾ cup fresh strawberries, diced (I upped this to 1 full cup because I thought the berry ratio looked a bit sparse)
- 1 cup powdered sugar
Step by Step Directions
- Preheat oven to 350° and coat an 8×8” glass baking dish with baking spray
- In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar together
- Add egg, lemon zest, and ¼ cup lemon juice. Stir until combined.
- In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
- Add dry ingredients (the flour mixture) to wet ingredients (the lemon mixture) and stir until just combined.
- Gently fold in strawberries (be gentle so the berries don’t get too smushed)
- Press dough into the bottom of the pan.
- Bake for about 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean
- Let the cake cool all the way before icing it
Make the glaze
- Combine the powdered sugar and remaining 2 tbsp lemon juice
- Pour over cooled bars (I decided to keep my glazing on the light side, but I brought the extra glaze to dinner and let people add more if they wanted to. They really, really wanted to.)