Recipe: Perfect Summer Strawberry Shortcake

Baking in the summer is hard for me. I don't have AC, so deciding to turn the oven on is a struggle. Add to that making frosting, which I actually really dislike doing in the first place, in a hot house and it's just never a magical experience. But we're pushing through today, because this cake is easy-peasy and comes together without much effort or cake decorating ability. And it's perfect to throw together for a summer bbq or just feed a lot of people. 

It's also perfect for eating for breakfast, which is something I always look for in desserts. This cake is totally breakfast acceptable.

What I do with this cake is make it the night before (when it's less hot in the house), let it cool on a rack, wrap it up overnight, and assemble in the morning in time for festivities. Need to make something red, white, and blue for a summer gathering? Throw some blueberries in this and DONE. This cake is a crowd pleaser.

Strawberry Shortcake

Yields 8-12 slices

1 1/2 sticks butter, softened
1 1/2 cup sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare two 9-inch round cake pans by coating in butter and a thin layer of flour.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar for 5 minutes until light and fluffy. Add in the eggs, one at a time, until combined.

In a separate bowl, sift flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt to remove any lumps and combine ingredients. Mix in half of the dry ingredients to the butter/sugar/egg mixture, then mix in the buttermilk and vanilla. Add the other half of the dry ingredients, mixing just enough to combined. Scrape down the bowl.

Split the batter evenly between the two 9-inch cake pans and bake for 25-30 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in their pans for 10 minutes, then finish cooling on a cooling rack.

Whipped Cream

Yields enough for two-layer cake

2 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 containers of strawberries 

Place your metal mixing bowl and wire attachment in your fridge 10 minutes before you begin whisking. Add heavy cream and sugar to the bowl of the mixer. Begin whisking on low, and then gradually increase the speed until medium-high until you have siff peaks (about 5-7 minutes).

To assemble the cake, place one cake on the center of a cake stand or large plate. Using a rubber spatula, spoon half the whipped cream into the center of the cake and spread towards the outside. Cutting as many strawberries as you need, slice them vertically and place in an even layer on the whipped cream. For presentation purposes, you want to them to be all the way to the edge of the cake so you can see them once you assemble the rest of the cake. Place the other cake on top, add the rest of the whipped cream, slice more strawberries to cover and then add whole strawberries, pressing them down slightly to get them to stay in place. Because this is a "naked" cake, you'll want to eat the same day as the exposed cake will dry out faster.

To get the more naked cake look, use your finger to press some powdered sugar into the sides of the cake. This helps hide imperfections and look a little more naked.

Recipe: Pimm's Cup

I think Spring might be here to stay this time around. I'm looking at the 10-day forecast and temperatures are finally staying above 60 degrees and we're seeing some sun. Thank goodness! Yesterday was the first day in a long while we saw some sun and warmer weather, and I knew I wanted to make a Pimm's Cup to celebrate. Spring says Pimm's Cup to me. On hotter days I want all the citrus and herby cocktails I can find, but we aren't there yet and a Pimm's Cup is the perfect Spring drink. Herby from the Pimm's no. 1, slightly citrusy from some lemon slices, and fruity and refreshing from the muddled strawberries and cucumber. Perfect.

The first time I had a Pimm's Cup was while visiting one of my best friends in New Orleans. We had driven out to the country for a family party and decided to stop at one of the plantations we passed. Neither of us are particularly interested in plantations tours or giftshops (I honestly feel like they downplay slavery and it makes me uncomfortable), so we found our way to the plantation bar, ordered the most southern cocktails we could think of (Pimm's Cup and a Mint Julep) and wandered the gardens for an hour. Since then I've had them multiple times, and if you're ever in Philly, Village Whiskey makes a damn good one. But here's how I like it:

Pimm's Cup

Yields one cocktail

4 oz Pimm's no. 1
2 small strawberries, cut in fourths
2 lemon slices
several mint leaves
3-4 cucumber slices
Ginger beer or Ginger ale.

In a cocktail shaker, muddle strawberries, mint, lemons slices, and cucumber slices. Add ice and Pimm's no. 1. Shake to combine. Fill a pint glass with ice and strain cocktail into glass. Add ginger beer until the glass is full, stir. Garnish with lemon slices, cucumber slices, and a strawberry. Cheers. 

Recipe: Mini Strawberry Shortcakes

Strawberry shortcakes are such a classic dessert. I guess it's something about the combination of ripe strawberries, whipped cream, and spongy cake that is quite irresistible and screams summertime and BBQs. Well it's not summertime (I'm currently looking at quite a bit of snow outside my window), but let's just pretend for a little bit? Please?

Do you know those sponge cake little bowls that they sell in grocery stores to make strawberry shortcakes in? There's always been something about them that I didn't like. They always tasted bland and slightly artificial. So I decided to make mini strawberry shortcakes my way, with a cupcake pan!

Vanilla Cupcakes

Makes 48 cupcakes

  • 1 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 c sugar
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 c flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 c buttermilk
  • 2 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a cupcake pan with paper liners.

Beat butter and sugar until fluffy and light yellow. Beat in each egg, one at a time until combined. Mix in vanilla.

In a medium bowl, sift flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet, alternating between the the buttermilk and the dry. Add the dry in 1/3s and buttermilk in 1/2s. Mix until just combined.

Fill each liner half full with batter and bake for 12-15 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Whipped Cream

Makes enough for 48 cupcakes

  • 1 c heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3 handfuls of strawberries, sliced long ways

Place your metal mixing bowl and wire attachment in your fridge 10 minutes before you begin whisking.

Add whipping cream and sugar to the bowl of the mixer. Begin whisking on low, and then gradually increase the speed until medium-high until you have siff peaks (about 5-7 minutes).

To make these into shortcakes, remove each cupcake from it's wrapper and cut with a serrated knife horizontally. Turn the cupcake so the rounded top is now the bottom. Place a healthy helping of whipped cream down on the bottom half, layer 3-4 strawberry slices on top, then a little dab of whipped cream on top of the strawberries (to hold the top on). Place the top on, then a bit more whipped cream and top with another strawberry.

You'll want to eat these mini cakes the same day they are made, or store in a airtight container in the fridge for an additional day.

Wouldn't these be perfect for a Valentine's Day dessert? I love how fancy and complicated they look, but are so easy to throw together.