Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Strawberry Season


One of the best things about early summer is the onset of strawberry season. We are fortunate to have a strawberry patch in our garden. We are even more fortunate that the birds seem to be leaving it alone this year. This time of year finds us looking for creative ways to use our strawberries beyond just sweetening them and serving them over vanilla ice cream. Don't get me wrong, fresh strawberries and ice cream are a wonderful treat. Just the same, I enjoy identifying new strawberry-related treats. Here is a recent sampling of berries from the garden.
This particular recipe allows me to use a torte pan that I have had for well over 20 years now.  Although I enjoy "pretty" desserts, my efforts more often than not come out looking like a preschool art project gone very bad. If I can manage to keep the cake from sticking in this pan, however, I can typically succeed in putting together something that at least looks nice. At the same time, if the center does stick a little, a little extra fruit or filling can cover a multitude of flaws rather nicely.
I have also mentioned in some of my posts that our family enjoys Southern cooking. I have been known to say that if we were to relocate, it would have to be to the South where the people are friendly and the food is always good. This cake capitalizes on our love of down home Southern cooking by including cornmeal as one of its ingredients. It is essentially a sponge cake. The inclusion of corn meal adds to its texture and flavor. Here are the ingredients and instructions:

Cornmeal Cake with Strawberries
Ingredients:
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup milk

Instructions:
  • Cream together the butter and sugar in a medium sized mixing bowl using medium speed
  • Beat in the vanilla and eggs until well mixed using medium speed
  • Stir the flour, baking powder, salt, and cornmeal together in a small bowl.
  • Mix in the flour mixture and milk alternately to the butter, sugar, and egg mixture using low speed
  • Pour the mixture into a prepared torte pan or 9-inch cake pan. I like to use non-stick baking spray that includes flour. 
  • Bake at 350ºF for 30 minutes or a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean
  • Allow to cool on a wire rack
  • Invert cooled cake onto a plate (feel free to cross your fingers that the cake won't stick to the pan)

Here is a picture of my cake, which, fortunately, didn't stick this time.

Now it is time to prepare the berries. I don't exactly measure the berries but just cut up what looks about right or what I have available from my strawberry patch. For those of you who like to measure, a typical volume of cut up berries is probably in the neighborhood of 2 cups. I like to put my berries in a somewhat shallow pan and sprinkle them with about 1/4 cup of sugar and let them sit while the cake is baking and cooling. This lets the sugar penetrate through the berries and I don't have to stir them too aggressively and break them up.
Once the cake has cooled, I will gently stir the berry/sugar mixture and pour it over the cake.
The final step is to slice up the cake and serve it with a dollop of whipped cream. I like going for the real stuff mainly because it just plain tastes better. A common saying around our house is that, "Mama doesn't do fake."
Here is how I prepare my whipped cream:
Using the wire whisk on my electric mixer, I beat 1/2 cup of whipping cream until stiff peaks form. I then add a couple of tablespoons of powdered sugar and about 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla.
Happy Summer Everyone!