Better Baking

My favorite desserts are always strawberry-related – especially in the Summer: strawberry shortcake, strawberry icecream, strawberries with honey and cream, strawberry popsicles, whatever. In high school, my then-boyfriend’s mother brought one of the most amazing strawberry-related desserts ever to a cook-out that was more than likely marching band related. It was cold and refreshing and had so many tasty components: frozen strawberries, jell-o, pudding, cool whip, and cake. Thankfully, she isn’t one of those Southern women who withhold recipes like they do affection and approval and she gave my mom a copy. Being that it has been oppressively hot for what feels like forever, I decided it would be the perfect dessert to bring to the Fourth of July party we went to on Wednesday. So, before getting down to business on my kick-ass American flag tank-top, I ran to the store to get the fixins for the cake and, while enjoying my morning coffee, got to baking.

Strawberry Ice Box Cake. The ingredients are simple:

For the cake:

  • 1 box white cake and everything it says you need on the box
  • 1 large (6oz) box strawberry Jell-O
  • 16 oz box frozen strawberries (chopped/halved/sliced/whatever)

For the Icing:

  • 1 box instant vanilla pudding
  • 1 cup cold milk
  • 1 medium Cool Whip (softened)

First, you bake the cake in a 9×13 pan according to the directions on the box using the 3 whole egg directions, not the bullshit 4 egg white directions. Meanwhile, mix the box of strawberry Jell-O with 2 cups of hot water until the Jell-O is dissolved. Add the frozen strawberries to the Jell-O and stir until melted/thawed. Once the cake is finished baking, poke holes all over it with a fork. I mean ALL OVER it – go nuts with the fork. Once you think you have poked enough holes, poke a few more just to be sure. Then, slowly pour the Jell-O mixture over the cake, allowing it to soak in evenly. The strawberries will sit on top of the cake for the most part, but some will sink down into it over time. Like so:

Chill several hours, or over night. Make the icing by first mixing the box of pudding and the 2 cups cold milk then, using a hand-blender (or whisk if you’ve got the stamina), add the container of Cool Whip a big dollop at a time. Evenly spread over the chilled cake and serve cold. Like this:

I enjoyed a pretty sizable piece at the party (the above picture is merely the last bite – I was so engrossed in the cake I almost forgot to document it in all its glory) and then, foolishly, left the remaining half of the cake at the party so I was unable to enjoy it for breakfast the following morning when I was suffering from a hangover-related headache and icky-belly. I trust that it went to good use though. Before Summer is over, I plan on making it again using frozen peaches and peach Jell-O. I’ll report back with delicious results.




Better Strawberry Shortcakes

Strawberry Shortcake has always been one of my very favorite desserts. But shamefully, I have never once tried to make it myself. Last week, while visiting my folks in Nashville, my mom made it for us and it reminded me just how perfect a summer dessert it really is. When I saw strawberries on the menu for our co-op this week, I decided to give it a shot. So, I did as I always do when I need a good recipe, I turned to Martha.

Martha Stewart knows whats up, y’all. I am a novice in the kitchen and every time I try one of her recipes it tastes delicious, even if it doesn’t come out quite as pretty as hers. This is the image I pinned from Martha’s website. Doesn’t it look so nice? She is out of control.

First – the strawberries. I hulled, quartered, and sweetened them and put them in the fridge to chill and get all syrupy. Then, like a good little baker, I combined all the dry ingredients first, then put them in the food processor with the chunks of cold butter. And here is where I hit my first snag. Early on – I know. Being that it is May in the South it is just hot as a crotch. I am trying to avoid busting out our AC unit because I am lazy and there is stuff stacked on top of the box. So, as you can imagine, the kitchen got rather warm as I preheated the oven to 425. So warm, in fact, that the chunks of butter did not stay cold very long and the dough started sticking to the sides of the food processor rather than resembling “coarse meal” as the recipe said it would. But it was too late to turn back. I added the milk and processed until “just moistened” and ended up with some pretty wet dough. Any normal individual would have accepted defeat and just plopped the dough in gobs onto the baking sheet but I decided to press on and follow the recipe. Martha knows best, after all. I floured my hands, and dumped the dough onto a very floured surface in an effort to keep it from sticking to absolutely everything. Then, I shaped it into what was supposed to be an 8″ x 4″ rectangle but turned out to be more of an awkward oblong shape more or less the size of a Cabbage Patch Preemie Doll. I floured a sharp knife, which did absolutely nothing as far as keeping the dough from sticking to it, cut the loaf into 8 pieces, transferred them to a baking sheet, and put them in the oven.

Now, the recipe says to bake these bad boys for 25 to 30 minutes. But, my apartment has a pretty amazing kitchen and my oven is all sorts of busted. The bottom coil broke off (seriously, just broke off while I was baking a loaf of bread) a few months back and was replaced by our landlord with a super-strength coil that puts the top coil to shame. So, now I have to bake everything on the top rack and for about half the suggested time. About 12 minutes later my shortcakes came out looking like this.

I know what you’re thinking and you’re right; that does look like a butt.

While the shortcakes cooled, I took the delicious cream we got from Maple View Farm and whipped it into a frenzy with a little bit of vanilla and sugar. And voil√° –¬† delicious strawberry shortcakes made by yours truly. I will say though, my mom always makes shortcakes from Bisquick and they turn out just as scrumptious (if not more so) without all the nonsense of using the food processor, “shaping” the dough, and making a huge, floury mess. Making shortcakes from scratch made me feel pretty fancy but, in the future, I’ll avoid all the hullaballoo and make them the way my mom does.