Strawberry Cornbread Coffee Cake with Almond Streusel

Cornbread is close to my heart; it is savory, chewy, crisp on the outside and dense within. This is not that but it is a cross between coffee cake and the sweet fluffy cornbread outside the South and which I call corncake. Corncake is light, airy and sugary all the way through. I hate to admit this but it tastes good. This Strawberry Cornbread Coffee Cake is my stab at a corncake with substance — one that no one is going to mistaken for cornbread.

This baked deliciousness can work for breakfast, dessert, snack — or all three depending on your mood. I like it in the morning drizzled with a little buttermilk, in the afternoon with coffee or for dessert with lightly sweetened whipped cream. It’s versatile in other ways too. Instead of strawberries, consider figs, pineapple, peaches, or blueberries. And if almonds aren’t your nut, swap in walnuts, pecans, or hazelnuts. One of the best things about this cake is it looks stunning when baked in a skillet. Another bonus: it’s better the next day. Bake it in the evening and then let it sit at room temperature overnight; that’s my kind of breakfast. 

2/3 cup sliced almonds (or any nut you like, really)
2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold, unsalted butter, cut into pieces

Cornbread Cake
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon room-temperature butter, divided
2/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups cornmeal
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla paste or extract
1/2 cup sour cream
3 cups strawberries, hulled and halved, divided

Make the streusel: In a medium bowl, toss together the nuts, brown sugar, oats, wheat flour, cinnamon, and salt,  taking care that everything is evenly distributed. Add the butter and pinch together with your fingers until it forms a wet crumb.

Make the cake: 
Preheat your oven to 375°F and grease a 10-inch cast iron skillet with 1 tablespoon butter. In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together 1/2 cup butter and the sugar until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, making sure the first egg is fully incorporated before adding the second. From this point forward, make sure you scrape down the sides of the bowl periodically with a spatula. Add the cornmeal, roughly a half a cup at a time, until it’s just incorporated.

In a medium bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In another smaller bowl, whisk the buttermilk and vanilla. With the mixer on low, add the sifted flour and buttermilk alternately in three batches, ending with the flour. Using your spatula, fold in the sour cream and half the strawberries.

Assemble and bake: Spoon half the corn-cake mixture into the bottom of the skillet and spread it out with a spatula. Sprinkle the streusel evenly over the top and finish with the remaining corn-cake batter. Spread the remaining strawberries over the top.

Bake uncovered, in the middle of your oven, for 40 to 45 minutes. Try to let it cool a little before people go to town on it.

Yield: 8 servings