Julia's Strawberry Crumble Cake

Nothing says winter like an aromatic-infused spiced fruit. Encase that sweet, stewy goodness in folds of butter cake with a crumbly, crunchy topping and you have an unbeatable winter treat.

This recipe from Julia Busuttil Nishimura combines all those delicious, comforting flavours and textures into one perfect morsel that can be served in perfect tea-time squares, or cut up like a slice for school lunchboxes. *chef’s kiss*

Julia Busuttil Nishimura

The tart notes of the cooked strawberries tangle harmonically with the creamy richness of the butter. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files.

Nuts and pepper provide earthiness and spice. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files.

Cooking the strawberries brings out their natural sugars and creates a stewy flavour. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files.

The top is dusted with crumbly, nutty oat topping which will turn golden and crunchy once baked. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files.

The end result can be served like a slice, perfect for school lunchboxes. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files.

The crumbly oat topping is reminiscent of a German streusel. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files.

The radiant Julia Busuttil Nishimura. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files.

Julia Busuttil Nishimura
3rd of August 2021

This recipe is a variation on a spiced rhubarb cake from my second cookbook. It is one I cook often, as I love making cakes with hidden layers in them. It makes a simple cake seem extra special. This one is super easy to prepare and can really be varied depending on what fruit is in season, or even made with a layer of jam instead, which is great for those moments when your fruit bowl is bare.

The first layer is a golden nutty cake base. It has ground hazelnuts, which I roughly pound in the mortar and pestle and also a good amount of butter which is melted and then simmered until nut brown. The strawberries make up the second layer, which are just coming into season again!! Stone fruit works really well here too and will give you a slightly juicier cake. I like to add some freshly ground black pepper, as it goes really well with strawberries, but feel free to play around with the spices. Ground cloves, cinnamon and cardamom are all lovely additions too.

The top layer is an oat-y crumble mixture which is buttery and not too sweet. It’s almost like a German streusel topping, just with oats added into the mixture. Once cooked, the cake is golden all over and the fruit is soft. I like to cut them into bars  which makes this cake feel more like a slice – perfect for afternoon tea!

The final cake will have three distinct layers. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files.


(Serves 10-12)

150g unsalted butter
150g raw sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla paste or extract
Zest of a lemon
½ tsp ground cinnamon
50g (⅓ cup) roasted hazelnuts or almonds, coarsely ground
180g (1 ¼ cup) self raising flour

Strawberry filling

500g strawberries, trimmed and roughly chopped
2tbsp raw sugar
1tbsp plain flour
½ tsp black pepper
½ tsp ground ginger

Oat Streusel topping 

210g rolled oats
3tbsp raw sugar
1 tbsp plain flour
Pinch of sea salt
170g chilled unsalted butter, cut into cubes


Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease a 21cm square cake tin with butter and line with baking paper.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan and simmer over a low heat for about 4 minutes until nutty and brown. Set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, beat the sugar, eggs and vanilla until pale. Stir in the butter, followed by the lemon zest and the ground hazelnuts or almonds. Sift in the flour and mix until combined. Spoon the batter into the prepared tin and spread out evenly. Set aside.

For the filling, combine the strawberries in a bowl with the sugar, flour and spices.  Toss to coat then scatter this mixture evenly onto the cake batter.

To prepare the topping, mix the oats with the sugar, flour and salt and then add the butter. Toss to coat all the butter pieces and then, working quickly, use your fingertips to roughly rub the butter into the dry mixture until incorporated. You should be able to press the mixture into large clumps. If it is too crumbly and not holding, add some extra butter and work into the mixture.

Crumble the oat topping evenly over the rhubarb and bake for 40-45 minutes until the top is golden and a skewer comes out clean when inserted in the centre of the cake. Allow to cool then slice into pieces and serve.

What else I’m cooking with:

New season peas and broad beans. Added simply to a lemony risotto at the very end and topped with a big grating of pecorino.

What else I’m eating:

The Jungle Spice Pork sausage banh mi from Anchovy!

Click here to download recipe printout!

Click here to download recipe printout!

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