Food Memory Friday: Strawberry Shortcake

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It sure has been a long time since I’ve posted a “Food Memory Friday.” Today’s recipe happens to be based on one of Robert’s favorite treats. The summer after Robert and I started dating, I was over at his house (now our house) eating dinner and mama Connie served up some strawberry shortcake for dessert. It was much different than the kind my mother made. I watched in curiosity as Robert and his dad tore up the biscuit-like cake, scooped macerated strawberries with lots of sugar on top, and then poured a generous amount of whole milk over it. I was skeptical. Just as skeptical as I think they were of me when I decided to top my strawberry shortcake (sans milk and with the cake still in its original form) with a little drizzle of chocolate syrup. “Chocolate?,”Connie questioned with a friendly smirk. Yes- chocolate. Because, is there any dessert where chocolate doesn’t belong? No.

Bert and I got to see a lot of the differences in our families as we continued to date and spend more time together. My Irish catholic side and his Amish/Mennonite side. His parents focused on teaching their boy how to put in a hard day’s work and mine focused on studying hard to get good grades and get into college. His house was always stocked with a candy bowl that I couldn’t (still can’t) avoid dipping my hand into. My house never had a regular supply of desserts. My family reunions involved adult beverages. His family get togethers featured lots of delicious Amish food. It was, and still is, an eclectic mix of two cultures that has been beneficial for both of us.

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Now here we are, sitting in the same spot enjoying strawberry shortcake that we first did over a decade ago. I like to think we’ve successfully brought pieces of both of our sides together into our little family. I’m hoping our baby rump roast will get the best of both worlds. A nice blend of feisty Irish and hard-working Amish.

And time will tell what type of strawberry shortcake he will prefer.

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Strawberry Shortcake

Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 4 tablespoons butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup low fat milk
  • 1 pint fresh strawberries
  • Additional sugar for berries, as desired
  • Whipped cream, optional

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Sprinkle in the butter and use your (clean) hands to rub the butter and flour mixture together until the mixture resembles flakes of oatmeal.

3. Combine the milk and vanilla and slowly pour into the flour mixture. Gently fold with a wooden spoon, until just combined. Drop a generous spoonful of dough onto a baking sheet, spacing about 2 inches apart. Bake for 15 minutes, or until lightly browned.

4. Remove from oven and allow shortcakes to cool. Split in half and top with berries, sugar, and whipped cream. Store unused shortcakes in an airtight container for about 2 days.

Source: Slightly adapted from Alton Brown

Vanilla Cake with Fresh Strawberry Filling and Vanilla Bean Frosting

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I’ve written about it before, and I’ll write about again. Mornings are my favorite time of day. Surprisingly, even more now with a baby. Smith is so cuddly in the morning and I love the feel of my warm, bleary-eyed little ham ball swaddled up and tucked tightly against my chest.

Numerous people have told me to cherish these moments. They say time goes too quickly. You wake up one morning and your babies are babies no longer. There will be a day when he doesn’t need me to come rushing into his nursery in the middle of the night to put his binky back in or when he doesn’t think making raspberry noises is the most hilarious thing on earth.

I try to keep reminding myself of this. That the unorganized disaster in the basement will eventually get sorted and the pile of clean laundry will find its home someday. In the meantime I will just enjoy my little boy sleeping in my arms. His long eyelashes and chubby little feet and perfect little sausage fingers. My whole world. Ahhh… there I go again.

Let me talk about this cake.

I made it for a Good Friday get together at Robert’s cousins’ house. I was thinking of making a carrot cake, but Bert crinkled his nose at the sound of it. Apparently vegetables and dessert don’t mix. Lame.  My next choice was vanilla bean. Even better, I found some really delicious strawberries at the local grocery store and decided a strawberry filling would be a great way to jazz things up.

I used a cake and frosting recipe from Sweetapolita and I was really happy with the results. As she warned, you have to be really careful not to over bake the cake. Unfortunately, I was preoccupied tending to my crying babe and I let the cake bake just a little bit too long. It was a little dry as a result; but I am sure it would have been just right if I would have taken it out of the oven sooner. I know I will use this recipe again.

On an unrelated note, I am still trying to find the best place in our house to take pictures, so I hope you enjoy the lovely front door in the background (don’t worry-I had the cake on cake stand, so it didn’t touch the floor). 😉

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Vanilla Bean Cake with Fresh Strawberry Filling

Yield: 16 servings

Ingredients

For the cake:

  • 5 large egg whites , at room temperature
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 2-1/4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3 cups cake flour, sifted
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and cut into 24 even pieces

For the frosting:

  • 3 sticks + 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 cups sifted powdered sugar
  • 3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
  • 1 vanilla bean, scraped
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt

For the filling:

  • 3 cups chopped strawberries
  • 6 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons cornstarch

Directions

1. Make the strawberry topping: In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, water, and cornstarch. Set aside. Place the strawberries and sugar in a medium saucepan and heat over medium heat, gently mashing the berries with a wooden spoon, until the mixture comes to a low boil. Add in the cornstarch mixture, bring to a boil again, and cook for 1 minute longer until thick and bubbly. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

2. Make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 8 inch round pans with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, stir together the egg whites, whole egg, 1/4 cup of buttermilk, and the vanilla. Set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, mix together the dry ingredients until combined (about 30 seconds).

With the mixer on low speed, add in the butter one piece at a time (about every 10 seconds) until the mixture is a fine mixture (about the size of oatmeal flakes). Gradually add in the buttermilk, and mix on low speed for 5 minutes. Scrape the sides of the bowl and slowly add in the egg mixture in 3 separate batches, mixing until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Stop the mixer and fold with a spatula to ensure batter is evenly mixed.

Divide the batter evenly between the pans and bake for about 25- 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake only has a few crumbs. DO NOT OVER BAKE! Remove from oven and place on cooling racks to allow cake to cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pans.

3. Make the frosting: Place the butter in an electric mixer fired with a paddle attachment. Whip on high speed, for about 8 minutes, until the butter becomes pale and fluffy.Add in the remaining ingredients and mix for about 4 minutes longer.

4. Assemble the cake: Pipe a ring of frosting around what will be the base cake to ensure the strawberry filling won’t ooze. Gently spoon the filling on top of the cake and spread evenly. Place the other cake on top and frost/decorate with vanilla bean frosting. Serve immediately or refrigerate for 1 day. Be sure to remove the cake from the refrigerator about 1 hour before serving to allow the butter in the frosting to soften. Enjoy!

Source:Cake and frosting from SweetapolitaStrawberry filling adapted from Annie’s Eats