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Summer Fruit Desserts: Cornmeal Skillet Cake

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Summer Fruit Desserts on

 Summer Fruit Desserts

When it comes to summer fruit desserts my go-to recipe is a batter cobbler I learned from my grandmother. When I was a little girl nearly every summer I went camping with my grandparents in their motor home. Over the years we traveled from Georgia all the way to Newfoundland on the East Coast to Saskatchewan in the Northwest. We visited Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, the Petrified Forest, and Niagara Falls — and everywhere in between. If the weather was nice, my grandfather and I would walk the woods and forage for berries once we made camp. He and I would return with stained hands and mouths and present a precious bucket or bowl to my grandmother. She would use our harvest to prepare a cobbler in her cast iron skillet in the simple, compact kitchen of the camper. I remember enjoying bowls of buttery crust mixed with warm fruit and rivulets of melting vanilla ice cream while sitting at the picnic table listening to the crickets and watching the glow of the fireflies. My grandmother’s simple cobbler seemed to be the finest dessert imaginable. So, cobbler is more than just a dessert to me; it represents special memories with family members that I dearly love. 

Summer Fruit Desserts on

Dump and Stir Cake

The other day I decided to break out of my box and try something new after we’d picked up a quart of fresh local strawberries. I’m not usually a fan of cooked strawberries so I didn’t want cobbler and, honestly, felt too lazy to make Strawberry Shortcakes. Whenever I need baking advice I look to Dorie Greenspan for inspiration. I came upon her recipe for Cornmeal Skillet Cake with Strawberries and used it as a jumping off point to create my own recipe. We loved it! Cornmeal Skillet Cake is somewhere between a cobbler and cake. Unlike a cobbler, the fruit is served on the side. And, unlike most cakes, the batter is quickly assembled in a bowl without a mixer or worrying about creaming the butter and sugar, adding the ingredients in thirds, or folding in egg whites. It’s a sweet and sturdy version of a yellow cake and would be delicious with strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, or sliced peaches. It’s going to be your new favorite dessert to serve with summer fruits.

Summer Fruit Desserts on

Summer Fruit Desserts

While I am excited about the addition of Cornmeal Skillet Cake to my summer fruit dessert repertoire I want to share a few others, too. Here’s my Blueberry Cornmeal Cake from my Southern Living column “Cooking with Virginia.” Being a Georgia peach myself, here’s my recipe for Peach Upside Down Cake that’s currently being featured in Southern Living’s Special Collector’s Edition of their Best Cakes and Pies. You can check out this video of my grandmother’s Blackberry Cobbler on Martha Stewart Living Television and the lighter version of Blueberry Cobbler in Garden & Gun. Lastly, I am certain you will love my recipes for Peach Ice Cream and Meringue Pillows with Strawberries, both of which can easily be adapted for use of other fruits.

Summer Fruit Desserts on

Lighten Up, Y’all

There’s something about summer fruit desserts that call for a creamy topping like whipped cream or crème fraîche. Mama always reaches for the Cool-Whip, but I have never been a fan of “non-dairy whipped topping.” These days I most often make a sweetened yogurt I call Vanilla Cream as a dessert topping. Now, it’s not a replacement for whipped cream — it’s something different. My combination of low-fat yogurt, confectionary sugar, and vanilla and more healthful than whipped cream. You’ll find the recipe included in the recipe for the Cornmeal Skillet Cake. I hope you enjoy my selection of recipes. If you create any of these delicious dishes please tag me on social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest) — and thanks for having me at your table!

Bon Appétit, Y’all!

Virginia Willis

Cornmeal Skillet Cake on

Cornmeal Cake

Serves 8 to 10
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time50 mins
Total Time1 hr
Course: Dessert
Keyword: strawberry
Servings: 8
Author: Virginia Willis


For the cake:

  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup fine yellow cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the berries:

  • 1 quart fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced, for serving
  • 1 tablespoon sugar, or to taste
  • 1 tablespoon strawberry liqueur, optional

For the vanilla cream:

  • ½ cup plain 2 percent Greek yogurt
  • 3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract


  • Heat the oven to 350 F. Place the butter in the skillet and transfer to the oven. Heat until the butter is lightly browned, 8 to 10 minutes. 
    Meanwhile, combine all the dry ingredients. Set aside. Combine the eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla extract. Set aside. 
    Remove the skillet with the butter from the oven to cool slightly. Pour the melted browned butter into the dry ingredients. Add the reserved egg-buttermilk mixture. Stir to combine. (The batter will be thick.) 
    Spoon the batter into the skillet and transfer to the oven. Bake until golden brown and the cake is starting to pull away from the sides of the skillet, about 30 minutes. 
    Meanwhile, combine the strawberries. Taste and add sugar, as needed. Drizzle over the strawberry liqueur. Stir to combine and set aside. 
    Combine the yogurt, confectioner's sugar, and vanilla extract. 
    To serve, once the cake has cooled to warm use a serrated knife to slice into wedges. Serve with strawberries and vanilla cream.  

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Strawberries, Raspberries, and Blackberries by Virginia Willis

Blackberry Cobbler by Ellen Silverman

Blueberries by Jona Willis

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Virginia Willis

Georgia-born French-trained Chef Virginia Willis’ biography includes making chocolate chip cookies with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, foraging for berries in the Alaskan wilderness, harvesting capers in the shadow of a smoldering volcano in Sicily, and hunting for truffles in France. She is talent and chef-instructor for the digital streaming platform Food Network Kitchen. Her segments feature authentic and innovative Southern cooking. She was the celebrity chef at the Mansion at Churchill Downs for the 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby. Virginia has spoken at SXSW, cooked for the James Beard Foundation, and beguiled celebrities such as Bill Clinton, Morgan Freeman, and Jane Fonda with her cooking — but it all started in her grandmother’s country kitchen. Recently, her work has been inspired by her weight loss success story, Virginia has lost 65# and kept it off for over 2 1/2 years! “If a French-trained, Southern chef can do it, you can, too.” She is the author of Fresh Start; Secrets of the Southern Table; Lighten Up, Y’all; Bon Appétit, Y’all; Basic to Brilliant, Y’all; Okra; and Grits. Lighten Up, Y’all won a James Beard Foundation Award of Excellence in the Focus on Health Category. Lighten Up, Y’all as well as her first cookbook, Bon Appétit, Y’all, were finalists in the Best American Cookbook for the International Association of Cookbook Awards and were also named by the Georgia Center of the Book as “Books Georgians Should Read.” She is the former TV kitchen director for Martha Stewart Living, Bobby Flay, and Nathalie Dupree; has worked in Michelin-starred restaurants; and traveled the world producing food stories – from making cheese in California to escargot farming in France. She has appeared on Food Network’s Chopped, CBS This Morning, Fox Family and Friends, Martha Stewart Living, and as a judge on Throwdown with Bobby Flay. She’s been featured in the New York Times, the Washington Post, People Magazine, Eater, and Food52 and has contributed to Eating Well, GRLSQUASH, Culture, Garden & Gun, and Bon Appétit, and more. The Chicago Tribune praised her as one of “Seven Food Writers You Need to Know.” Her legion of fans loves her down-to-earth attitude, approachable spirit, and traveling exploits. Her culinary consulting company, Virginia Willis Culinary Enterprises, Inc specializes in content creation, recipe development, culinary editorial and production services, cookbook writing, media training, spokesperson and brand representation, and public speaking. Virginia is on the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Blue Ribbon Task Force, the Atlanta Community Food Bank Advisory Board, as well as the Community Farmers Market Advisory Board. She is a food and hunger advocate for No Kid Hungry and a premier member of the No Kid Hungry Atlanta Society. She a member of The James Beard Foundation, Chef’s Collaborative, Georgia Organics, and Southern Foodways Alliance.

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