A tribute to summer’s end

October 20, 2009 at 20:46 | Posted in Recipes | Leave a comment

Here in Italy, we have had quite a warm beginning of the Fall season: temperatures were still quite high from the beginning of September all the way through mid-October. That is when, all of a sudden, the freezing cold weather came down to us, prompting heavy coats and warm clothes. Razor blade chilling winds sweeping around leaving you with a terrible cold and a runny nose.

That is when I have fun remembering all things Summer!

I am pretty much the only “serious” baker in the family, and I happily perform my duties whenever a birthday or a celebration comes up. Of course, I also bake just for the fun of it, but doing it for a special occasion definitely adds to the flavor!

Cakes Galore Cover

For my mom’s birthday (in late June), this year I have decided to do something fruity and light: my choice went to the Strawberry Shortcake from “Cakes Galore“, a wonderful book by Valerie Barrett.
It was my very first time doing a Shortcake, and wasn’t quite sure how it would turn out.
Thankfully, it turned out pretty well, and was well received by all the guests at the birthday party!


Here is a nice shot of the cake…

Strawberry Shortcake 1

The only thing I would do differently next time, is that I would try and shape top and bottom layer a bit better, so that the filling would spread more evenly. I have also noticed that after it is baked, the dough does tend to become a bit dry: what I did was soak both layers with the juice released by the cooked strawberries to make everything softer!

The RecipeStrawberry Shortcake from Cakes Galore by Valerie Barrett

2 + 2/3 cups self-rising flour
1 + 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
Generous 3 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup superfine sugar
1 cup buttermilk, plus extra for brushing
Granulated sugar, for sprinkling (I used brown sugar)
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pound strawberries, halved

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease and flour a baking sheet (Since my oven isn’t that big, I had to prepare 2). Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Rub in the butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
2. Combine 5 tablespoons of the superfine sugar and the buttermilk in a bowl, then add this to the flour mixture. Mix to form a smooth dough, but do not overwork at this stage. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and divide into two balls, one slightly larger than the other. Roll out each ball of dough to form a round about 1 inch thick.
3. Place the dough rounds on the prepared baking sheet. Brush off any excess flour. Brush the tops with buttermilk and sprinkle with granulated sugar (I used brown sugar – love that caramel flavour it gives the cake!). Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool completely.
4. For the filling, whip the cream in a bowl until soft peaks for, then whisk in the powdered sugar and vanilla extract, mixing well. Set aside.
5. Put the strawberries in a saucepan with 2 tablespoons of water and the remaining 3 tablespoons of caster sugar and heat gently for 2-3 minutes to soften the fruit. Remove the pan from the heat.
6. Spoon the whipped cream onto the larger of the cooled shortcake rounds and spoon over the warm strawberries and juice. Top with the second shortcake round and serve immediately.
I topped the cake with a few sliced fresh strawberries – thought it looked really nice!


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