August 4, 2009

Strawberry Shortcake, Perfect for a Picnic

We celebrated another birthday this week! For some reason this past week I went a little crazy in the kitchen and baked something almost every night. Some for my own pleaseure and the rest were either challenges or birthday cakes. I really do love doing it, but baking all night after a 9 hr day sometimes is quite exhausting. The crazy week ended with me baking 4 cakes on Friday (luckily my day off) for a tasting on Saturday and the birthday. For this birthday I got a simple request for a cake. Nothing in particular - just birthday cake. She must trust me.... I sent her some images of berry tarts and cakes and she picked strawberry shortcake. I really wanted to invent a giant biscuit shortcake but didn't have enough time to experiment in case of disaster. Instead, I used a couple of recipes as a base to create an interesting bright citrus cake with some delicious strawberries on top.
I found some tasty strawberries from our local Coop, small enough in size that they would slice nicely and ripe enough to give up their juices. I am not a fan of recipes that require gelatin for berry toppings. I understand the point of it but find it sort of repulsive and unnecessary for fruit to stick together like glue. It will kind of do this naturally if you add some sugar and macerate them (it would be best to substitute with a good strawberry jam heated to a pourable consistency). I liked the way the cake turned out, unfortunately it had started to melt by the time we cut into it (melt in the whipped cream sense). Our birthday girl didn't mind and managed to take down two slices. For a tiny thing she sure can eat dessert! It is always nice to make fun cakes for friends. Especially when you get free reign to make up you own recipe!
Strawberry Shortcake
1/2 C butter
1/2 C sugar
zest from one lemon
1 1/2 C flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs + 2 egg yolks
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 C whole milk
1 1/2 lb strawberries, sliced
squeeze of lemon
1 1/2 C heavy cream
1 T powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
For the Cake:
In the bowl of a mixer zest the lemon over the sugar. Rub together with your fingers until the sugar is fragrant. Cream the butter and sugar. Add in eggs one at a time then the vanilla. Whisk together flour, powder, salt. Add 1/3 dry mix into the butter mix. Add 1/2 the milk, continue alternating flour and milk ending with flour. Pour into a parchment lined, buttered and floured 8" pan. Bake at 350* for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the top comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 mins then turn onto a wire wrack to cool completely.
For the Strawberries:
Slice thin and place in a glass bowl. Spoon a little sugar over the top and a squeeze of lemon. Stir to coat, cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
For the Cream:
Whip with an electric mixer, add in powdered sugar about half way through. Continue whipping until fluffy and soft peaks form. Add in vanilla.
To assemble the cake:
Cut into two layers (don't forget to peel off the parchment!) and place the bottom layer on a cake stand or board. Spoon about 1/2 the strawberry mix onto the cut side of the cake. Add 1/2 the whipped cream and smooth with a spatula. Place the next layer on cut side down. Smooth remaining whipped cream on top. I recommend refrigerating the cake for 30 minutes to keep the cream cool but if you can't no worries. Just before serving, spoon the rest of the berries on top. If your cake has to travel to the park like mine and you can't wait to add the strawberries just make a little well for the strawberries to sit inside so the juice doesn't leak out all over the cake. Cut and serve.

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