I was making strawberry shortcakes for
an afternoon snack lunch and I couldn’t help but be reminded of how naive I was when we registered for our wedding. I ended up with drawers full of cool tools that I never used. Over the past (almost 15!) years, and lots of trial and error, I’ve found a few very useful tools that I know I could never live without; in fact, I consider them my secret weapons.
5 Tools for Serving cakes with fresh fruit
- Microplane Zester (this thing is the best thing since sliced bread, but watch out, you’ll end up with some extra protein in your food if you aren’t wary of the harmless-looking, but sharp blades
- Round Cutter – my sister gave me a set years ago for Christmas and I’ve kept them around this whole time.
- Sharp Knives – Wusthof’s classic knives have always been the perfect mix between quality and affordable (compared to other precision made knives, Wusthof’s eyebrow raising price tag is a relief. I love my 10″ Chef’s knife and my 4″ pairing knives; between those knives and my bread knife, they are the most commonly used knives in my kitchen.) I use my 4″ Chef’s knife to cut the stick of butter into tiny pea-sized cubes that make it a cinch to cut-in quickly and effectively into the dry ingredients.
- Baking Stone – I despise
multi-level-marketingpyramid schemes, but after a few failures and disasters, I’ve found that not all stoneware was created equal. They require special care and are as heavy as heck, but the even baking power in the stones is almost as good as a convection oven itself!
- Cake Serving Dishes and Cake Plates – here are a few of the classics I think are worth taking up precious space in your pantry or china cabinet: this pedestal stand, this perfectly pink stand and this glass domed stand.
I’ve learned tips and tricks through trial and error, the Food Network and watching my mom bake. I love to bake with fruits as they are in season and yesterday’s hot and humid day called for fresh summer strawberries that were plump with juice and red with ripeness mixed with cold whipped cream with a hint of summery lemon. My all-time favorite recipe for shortcakes is from Williams-Sonoma, and the lemon zest they recommend you add to the batter is the very definition of summertime bliss; the lemon compliments the sweet strawberry slices in the best way!
I like to cut my strawberries into little chunks and pre-mix with freshly whipped cream to add to each layer; it seems to help keep the strawberries from sliding off the cake. I like to bake my shortcake in one piece and then post-baked, I cut out circle shapes and assemble the pieces to create individual strawberry shortcakes. It’s a great dessert to serve at tea parties or with your ladies-who-brunch group.
- 1 2⁄3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 Tbs. sugar
- 1 Tbs. baking powder
- 1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
- 3⁄4 tsp. salt
- 8 Tbs. (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into
- small pieces
- 3⁄4 cup buttermilk
- 1⁄2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 4 cups strawberries, hulled and cut into small chunks
- 1⁄4 cup sugar (totally optional, depending on how sweet your berries are)
- 3/4 cup heavy cream, well chilled
- 2 Tbs. powdered sugar
- 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
- Preheat an oven to 400°F.
- In a bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, lemon zest and salt until well blended. Using a sharp knife, start by cutting thin slices lengthwise, then crosswise, flip it around and cut one more lenthgwise set of cuts until you have tiny pea-sized cubes. Add the butter pieces to the mixture and mix until the pieces of butter are distributed. Add the buttermilk and vanilla and gently toss with a fork or rubber spatula until the flour is just moistened and the ingredients are blended. It will seem pretty sticky, but won't stick to your hands too much.
- Turn the shaggy dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Gently press the dough into a thick circle, about an inch and a half in height. You can bake two rounds and layer them, or using a round cutter (pre-or post-baking) create single serving rounds.
- Place the cake(s) on an ungreased baking sheet, spacing them well apart. Bake until they are puffed and golden, 15 to 18 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly or completely.
- Meanwhile, prepare the strawberries: In a bowl, toss together the strawberries and sugar (if desired) with a fork.
- To make the whipped cream, in a deep bowl, combine the cream, sugar and vanilla. Using an electric mixer, beat on medium-high speed until soft peaks form and the cream is billowy, about 2 minutes. Combine the strawberries and whipped cream.
- To serve, split the warm or cooled shortcakes in half horizontally and spoon some of the strawberries over each half. Top with the remaining shortcake halves, and repeat. Optional: shortcakes are light, buttery and a bit dry, so feel free to drizzle a lit bit of heavy cream over the top of each cake. Serve immediately.
- Adapted from the adaptation from Williams-Sonoma Collection Series, Dessert, by Abigail Johnson Dodge (Simon & Schuster, 2002).
Not a fan of strawberries? Try last year’s Classic Red Velvet Cake Recipe, (because chocolate, cream cheese, brown sugar and blueberries are a divine combination) or these delicious and feminine Rose Lemonade Cupcakes that are another summer classic cake with fresh fruit!
This post brought to you by Wayfair.com, but all opinions remain my own. Be sure to engage with me on social media and leave a comment below with your favorite summertime dessert!