Memories of Spring and Strawberry Shortcake lead to a 2 layer Strawberry Shortcake made using the reverse creaming method for a cake that is soft and tightly crumbed.
Food is inextricably intertwined with our selves. It is energy for our bodies, carrier and creator of our deepest emotions. A smell can send us back to places, times, and events long past.
Isn’t it odd though how that memory road only goes one way?
With no effort at all the smell of a food or dish will transport me back to the past and the memories so strongly bound to it. All too often, however, I can remember a meal, but the actual flavor of the food escapes me.
Except for strawberries.
Strawberries, real springtime, locally grown strawberries, small and sweet, juicy with flavor (not large and hard, shipped under-ripe and tasting of little, like the strawberries in supermarket). Memories of these strawberries are so many for me and touch so many parts of my life that I can close my eyes and taste one!
A very early memory is of the annual May Festival at our church in Connecticut. This memory has to be from when I was no more than four or five as it takes place at the old church before the new one was finished in 1961.
My father, because he was a physician, had been given the unenviable task of manning the “Guess My Weight Booth”. It was fraught with the possibility of offending a hefty parishioner so he guessed reliably low but then he had to weigh the person so the secret would come out! It was such a simple game, cheap and easy to run, but the laughter and fun was as real as any a more sophisticated fair could produce.
Nearby my mother volunteered at selling strawberry shortcake. The smell of the buckets of strawberries provided by a local farm pulled one in and the sight of the small white bowls of vanilla cake piled high with strawberries and finished with a heaping spoonful of freshly whipped cream were a sure sell. We had to be sure to get there early or miss out on the treat altogether.
It starts with cake. Some people like to use biscuits for the base but I prefer the extra hint of vanilla and softer texture a cake provides. In the past I have used a pound cake for its dense crumb which hold up to the strawberry juices. This time I was looking for a layer cake, hoping for a more spectacular appearance.
I decided to try the reverse creaming method.
Begin with the flour, sifted with baking powder and salt.
Next, beat in the butter along with some vanilla and a little milk just to moisten it. This results in a thick batter, almost like a cookie dough.
I used clear vanilla because I was looking for a nice white finish. It’s not necessary. Regular vanilla work just as well. Clear vanilla, besides the obvious benefit of being clear, has a slightly milder flavor than the dark extract. You can buy Clear Vanilla Extract online if you are interested.
Finally. beat in the eggs, remaining milk and oil. Stop once or twice to scrape the bowl and don’t over-mix it. There will be small lumps in the batter.
The finished cake will not rise as much as a sponge cake. It will be dense like a pound cake with a tight crumb.
Let the cake cool in the pan.
Assemble the cake up to four hours before you serve it.
Whip cream to soft peaks and flavor with just a little sugar (it doesn’t take much) some vanilla.
Spread one layer of the cake with cream and top with sliced strawberries. Add the top layer and spread cream right to the edges. Pile whole strawberries high on top and finish with a dollop of cream.
Store the cake in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Leftovers (if any!) will keep tightly covered in the fridge for one to two days.
2 LAYER STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE
For the Cake
- 2 ½ c cake flour
- 1 1/3 c sugar
- 2 tsp baking powder
- ½ c 1 stick butter, room temperature
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 1 c milk
- 2 eggs
- 4 tbsp canola oil
For the Topping
- 2 c sliced strawberries
- 2-3 c whole strawberries
- ¼ c orange juice
- ½ c sugar
- 1 ½ c heavy cream
- 1 tbsp powdered sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla
Make the Cake
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
- Grease and line two 8” cake pans with parchment paper. Grease the parchment paper.
- Sift the cake flour. Baking powder sugar and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer. (Do not skip this step). Add the butter in small pieces, the vanilla and ½ c of milk.
- Mix on medium speed for one minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
- Whisk ½ cup of milk, the eggs, and the oil together until well mixed. Add to the cake batter in two installments, mixing for about 15 second each time. Scrape the sides and bottom of the mixer bowl. Do not overmix. There may small lumps left in the batter.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake 20 minutes until done. The cake will come away from the edges of the pan and a tester will come out clean. Cool completely in the pans.
- The cake can be made the day ahead. Cover tightly and store at room temperature. The cake can be assembled up to four hours before serving. Once assembled store in the refrigerator if you are not eating right away.
To assemble the Cake
- Have the whole strawberries and the sliced strawberries in two separate bowls.
- Put the sugar and orange juice in a small saucepan and bring to a full boil. Immediately remove from the heat and pour in equal amounts over both bowls of strawberries. Toss lightly to mix.
- Whip the cream on high until it forms soft peaks which flop over when the whisk is lifted from the bowl. Mix in the sugar and vanilla.
- Spread half of the cream on the bottom layer. Cover with sliced strawberries followed by the second cake layer. Spread most of the rest of the cream on top of the cake. Mound the whole strawberries in the center and finish with a large dollop of the remaining cream.
- Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator for up to four hours.