I celebrated my birthday this week and to celebrate I decided to make myself some strawberry shortcakes instead of the “traditional” birthday cake. I did this for a few reasons:
- I am not a fan of store-bought cake. Can’t stand the frosting (always leave a metallic taste in my mouth), among other things.
- It’s warm out and nothing says “Summer” quite like a refreshing strawberry shortcake.
- I like to cook… even if it means baking my own birthday cake of sorts. Can’t help it… just relaxing for some reason.
Check out the finished result… I think it looks more impressive than I realized (I also could have used a smaller mint sprig, but I used what I picked).
Don’t fret, the recipe and such is below. You may also note that it isn’t being served in the usual plate/bowl with the maroon border. Jess surprised me with some new dishes to take photos in so that it would look crisper on here. What do you think… did it work?
What else did I get for my birthday? Well, I got some new white bar towels and a black apron (perhaps I’ll be less messy now?) and the most important thing, I got my first All-Clad Copper-Core pan. I got the 8-inch fry pan and now I have the fun of re-learning how to make eggs. There is a huge difference between these pans and my current non-stick, so it’s like a whole new adventure. Luckily I’m up for it.
Okay, now time for the main event… cake!! The recipe, for the most part, came from Bon Appetit (via Epicurious), but I made a couple of my own tweaks to it. It officially was the first dessert I ever made that both Jess (who loves as much sugar as you can give her) and I (who isn’t super fond of cake) were able to really enjoy. Good stuff.
First, the cake batter:
- Nonstick vegetable oil spray w/ flour (if possible)
- 200 grams (1 1/2 c) Cake Flour
- 7 grams (1 1/2 tsp) Baking Powder
- 200 grams (1 c) Sugar
- 4 oz American Neufchâtel Cheese (or cream cheese), softened
- 1/2 stick (1/4 c) Butter, unsalted & softened
- 185 g (3/4 c) Whole Milk
- 2 Eggs
- 1/4 tsp Vanilla Extract
- 1 Tbs sugar (for dusting)
Now the sauce:
- 2 lb Strawberries, hulled & divided into 1lb groups
- 1/4 c Water
- 3 Tbs sugar, divided into two groups (2 Tbs and 1 Tbs)
- 2 tsp Lemon Juice (fresh, none of that bottle stuff)
- 1 tsp Grand Mariner (optional)
Finally, the whipped cream:
- 1 1/2 c heavy cream (cold)
- 1 1/2 Tbs Powdered Sugar
- 3/4 tsp vanilla extract
- Gelatin (optional)
- 1 Tbs water (optional)
Alrighty… ready to go? Hope so, cause it’s time to cook!
First, the cakes:
- Preheat oven to 350°.
- Spray a standard cupcake pan with nonstick spray.
- Sprinkle the bottom and sides of the cups with sugar (tapping out any extra).
- Whisk the flour and baking powder in medium bowl.
- Using electric mixer, beat 1 cup sugar, softened cheese and butter in a second (larger) bowl and blend.
- Beat milk, eggs, and vanilla in yet another medium bowl and blend.
- Beat the milk mixture into cheese mixture.
- Add the dry mixture to the wet mixture and beat until smooth.
- Transfer batter to prepared pan, filling cups 3/4 full.
- Sprinkle remaining 1 tablespoon sugar over top of the batter.
- Bake cake until golden brown on top and a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, about 25 minutes. If not done, check every 3 – 5 minutes.
- Cool in pan on rack. When cool, remove cakes, cover and let stand at room temperature.
Now the sauce:
- Place 1lb of strawberries into a food processor. Pulsing, process until coarsely chopped (not blended).
- Transfer to medium saucepan and add 1/4 cup water, 2 tablespoons sugar, lemon juice and Grand Mariner to chopped berries.
- Bring to boil, then reduce heat to medium and simmer until strawberries are very tender and sauce is reduced, about 5 – 7 minutes.
- Return strawberry mixture to processor and puree until smooth.
- Strain sauce through mesh strainer into medium bowl (it helps to strain in a couple batches).
- Cover and chill until cold, about 2 hours.
- After 90 minutes, quarter remaining strawberries and toss with remaining 1 tablespoon sugar in another medium bowl until well coated. Cover with plastic wrap.
- Let stand at room temperature until the sugar dissolves and juices form, tossing occasionally, about 30 minutes.
- Add strawberries to the strawberry sauce, mix well, cover and chill until ready to use.
Finally, the whipped cream.
- Microwave 1 Tbs water until boiling, then mix in 1/2 tsp gelatin until completely dissolved.
- Whip chilled whipping cream, 1 1/2 tablespoons powdered sugar, and vanilla in large chilled bowl until soft peaks form.
- Dump in water and gelatin mixture and continue to whip until it forms hard peaks. Chill.
To serve the cake,
- Cut each cupcake in half (horizontally) and place the bottom on a bowl.
- Spoon some of the strawberry “sauce” over the top, top with whipped cream, then top with the top of the cupcake.
- Sprinkle with powdered sugar (if you need it sweeter), garnish with a mint sprig (if you wish) and serve.
All done! Yum! I hope yours turns out as well as mine did… this was a hit at the house and was the perfect summer “birthday cake” of sorts.