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Ripe Strawberries, Ripe!: Strawberries and Cream Cake

Strawberries and Cream Cake

I’m not really much of a fruit person, but when there were strawberries–strawberries everywhere–it felt shameful to walk away from the farmers market empty handed.

So it was that I ended up with about a pound of perfectly ripe fruit and no practical application in sight. What I did happen to have was a pint of gloriously rich heavy cream, which led pretty quickly to baking motivation, a sentiment efficiently fueled by a fear that this lovely fruit would be left to spoil as the busy week wore on. Add in our great neighbors willing to share an evening on the front porch, provide the Prosecco, and supply the plates and napkins, and a party was in process before the dessert was completely situated on the cake stand.

After reading through the comments, I decide to pour my cake batter into two pans rather than split a single layer after baking, which sped the cooking time up considerably (about 17 minutes total) and cut down on the mess. The next time I try this recipe, however, I think I’ll stick to one and see if that alters the texture favorably. This cake is firm and heavy–a bonus if your berries are very, very juicy, but mine were of the smaller and tarter variety. I think splitting the cake before baking may have only made the density more of a challenge and I found the crumb to be a shade drier than preferable. Could have all simply been a matter of user error on the part of the infrequent baker, admittedly. I’ve never claimed to be much of a Martha Stewart. More of a Mr. Wizard, if we’re frank about it.

 Strawberries and Cream Cake: Assembly

But I doubt I’ll ever be able to top the look of this cake when assembled. I had never heard of mixing in a bit of plain gelatin with the whipping cream to help it maintain its form, but that is a take away I will not soon forget. Even a couple days later, a lone leftover piece still held up well in the fridge.

And of course, I couldn’t help but belt out “Ripe strawberries, ripe!” from the iconic street scene in the musical Oliver Twist while hulling the fruit to fill this cake. My sincere apologies to all those within ear shot.

Strawberries and Cream Cake
from Martha Stewart

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar, plus more to sweeten berries
2 large eggs plus 2 large egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup whole milk
1 pound strawberries, hulled and sliced
1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
1 1/2 cups heavy cream

Butter two 8-inch cake pans and line the bottoms with circles of parchment. Butter the top of the paper and thoroughly flour the pans.

Heat the oven to 350°F.

Mix the sliced berries with the desired amount of sugar and toss gently to coat. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, measure flour, baking powder, and salt. Whisk to combine.

Using an electric or stand mixer at medium speed, cream butter and 1/2 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Scrape down sides of bowl and add eggs and yolks, one at a time, mixing thoroughly between each addition. Beat in vanilla. Reduce speed to low and add in the flour mixture (in three parts) and the milk (in two parts), alternating between the two and mixing just until combined. Divide batter between the two pans and smooth the surface.

Bake about 17 minutes. The edges of the cakes should be deeply golden and a cake tester inserted into the center should come out clean. Cool ten minutes in the pans before turning out on a wire rack to cool completely.

When ready to assemble the cake, prepare the whipped topping. In a small sauce pan add two tablespoons cold water and sprinkle gelatin over top. Heat on low just until gelatin dissolves and then allow to cool down.

Beat the cream with 1/4 cup sugar until soft peaks hold. With mixer running, drizzle in cooled (but still liquid) gelatin and continue beating until cream is once again holding soft peaks.

Place bottom layer of cooled cake on serving plate. Top with half the strawberries (I had fewer berries, so went with the slight variation you see pictured) and half the whipped cream. Top with the second layer of cake and the rest of the cream. Chill for at least one hour to allow cream to firm up and berry juices to penetrate the cake. Remove from refrigerator and top with remaining strawberries 15 minutes before serving.

Pretty in Pink Week: Market Strawberries


We’re not really a fruit household. I mean, there’s Brian’s banana-a-day habit and my endless juicing of lemons, but aside from that, it’s the rare apple or lime that crosses our threshold; like cakes and cookies, the sweets just don’t carry much traction. Give us brussels spouts or give us broccoli, but please hold the peaches, pineapples, and grapes.

Still, even a hardhearted Team Savory fan such as myself could not resist the loveliness that was the first market strawberries of the Maryland season. And when my friend Marie helpfully prompted that I could “totally put a couple in a salad,” my defenses were crushed.

At home, I did indeed find a way to work them into an arugula salad with a tangy herbed buttermilk dressing. But I also got to thinking about that colonial fruit preservation method known as the shrub. I’d kept a jar of this vinegar-laced syrup a couple summers back and put it to good use in generous glasses of seltzer (yes, my homemade seltzer contraption is still going strong!). Perhaps it was time to make some more? Yes, yes indeed.

Strawberry Salad with Herbed Buttermilk Dressing
Serves 2

2 generous handfulls of baby arugula, spinach, or greens of your choice
6 strawberries

For the dressing

1/2 cup buttermilk
1 T white Balsamic vinegar
1 T fresh chopped basil or dill (or a mix)
salt and pepper to taste

Mix all dressing ingredients.

Rinse the greens (if necessary) and hull and slice the strawberries. Plate and drizzle with the dressing.

The Strawberry Shrub

After some internet research and reflection, I decided to go with the 1:1:1 ratio of fruit:sugar:vinegar. I macerated the fruit with the sugar (now that is a satisfying feeling) and left the mixture to sit for 24 hours. At that point, I added a cup of apple cider vinegar and will now mind it, shaking daily, for seven days. Then it’s strain and refrigerate until needed. Here is a helpful post, if you’re looking for more detailed background and instructions. The last time I did this, I worked in the reverse order, first infusing the vinegar and then cooking in the sugar. So we shall see how this new experiment compares.

How Does Your Garden Grow?


The plants are in and the sun is out. Root vegetables are about to take a back seat on the menu for some time.

Clockwise from top: pea shoots, garlic patch (w/requisite flamingo–this is Baltimore, baby), chives, and our porch pansies (for color). Tomato, pepper, and lettuce plants, as well as other assorted herbs have also set up shop nicely in this year’s backyard garden.

Spring, Edible Edition


Despite the grey skies and the steady drizzle, I would not be stopped from eating spring even if I couldn’t exactly enjoy it yet. Once those bundles of just-picked Maryland asparagus and (not exactly local but close enough) North Carolina strawberries were spotted, all inclement weather was forgotten and the market scores were hauled home for a feast to celebrate the season.

Though I had been unable to really strategize as I dodged rain drops and chatted with my favorite vendors, once home with a bag of fresh veggies and eggs, a Portobello and Asparagus Quiche seemed the way to go. The bright bunch of asparagus was blanched and the tops nipped off before slicing up the rest. The spring onions and the portobello mushrooms were sauteed in a bit of oil and butter, tossed with thyme, mixed with salt and pepper, and left to cool on the back burner. And I went back to my standby savory pastry crust because I love how it puffs up around the edges of the plate.

After a freeze and a 15 minute pre-bake of the crust at 450F, I beat 5 eggs with a scant cup of whole milk and a half cup of roughly grated Parmesan (the only cheese in the house, though the combo proved to be quite tasty). Mixed in the cooled veggies and poured it all into the shell. Topped it off with the asparagus tips and popped it back into the oven, temp lowered to 325F. Mine took about 50 minutes to puff up and brown ever so slightly. It was delicious, and the sun even peeked out. Maybe it wanted a bite.

Though the strawberries could have been left well enough alone, I did have a stash of almond flour in the freezer and was making a pastry crust already, so whirling up a topping and popping it into the oven seemed like a perfectly reasonable way to finish this late afternoon lunch on a sweet note.