Sunday, May 5, 2013

Strawberry Shortcake

The strawberry shortcake assembly line.
The strawberry shortcake fundraiser for Trinity Episcopal Cathedral's Food Ministries was a success thanks to the volunteers who made it, those who purchased it and a foolproof recipe from my friend and fellow volunteer Linda.

When I was trying to decided what recipe to use (I needed a simple recipe that could be multiplied and would be easy to serve), Linda brought her Southern Living Cookbook to show me her favorite recipe. Just looking at the cookbook and recipe, there were telltale signs that it was the one for our fundraiser.
Linda's treasured cookbook.

The best strawberry shortcake recipe. When I'm not making shortcake for a crowd, I'd like to assemble the cake like the one in the book. Linda says it's a cake that always impresses her guests.

For one, the cookbook opened right to the strawberry shortcake page which let me know it was the most used recipe in the book. And two, the page was spattered which is a definite sign of a hit recipe.

Perfect looking cookbooks don't impress me one bit because that means nothing was ever made from them. I prefer cookbooks with worn spines, torn pages and notes scribbled in the margins because that means they have the best recipes.

We made nine hotel pans of shortcake, each filled with a double recipe. The resulting shortcake was a wonderful combination of a biscuit and a cake. It held up against the juicy strawberries and it had just a hint of nutmeg which I thought was a nice addition.

The Southern Living recipe calls for beating egg whites, brushing them onto the top of the shortcake and then adding a sprinkle of granulated sugar just before baking. Linda says this step adds a nice sweet crunch to the top of the shortcake. Because of a shortage of time though, we decided to skip the egg whites and just added a sprinkle of sugar. Our shortcut worked well but I still would like to make the recipe again using the egg whites.

Here's the original recipe from Southern Living:

Strawberry Shortcake
1 quart strawberries, sliced
1/4 cup to 1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened and divided
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
dash nutmeg
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs separated
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup sifted powdered sugar
whole strawberries

Combine sliced strawberries with 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup sugar. Stir gently and chill 1 to 2 hours. Drain.

Butter two 9-inch cake pans with 1/2 tablespoon butter each; set aside.

Combine flour, baking powder, salt, 1/4 cup sugar and nutmeg in a large mixing bowl.  Cut in remaining butter until it resembles coarse meal.

Combine milk, egg yolks. Beat well.  Add to flour mixture and stir with fork til soft dough forms.

Pat out dough evenly into greased cake pans. The dough will be sticky so moisten fingers with water as necessary to help. 

Beat egg whites until stiff but not dry.  Brush surfaces of dough with egg whites and sprinkle with 1/4 cup sugar.

Bake at 450 degrees for 8-10 minutes or until layers are golden brown. The layers will be thin.

Beat whipping cream until foamy, add powdered sugar and beat until soft peaks form. 

To assemble:
Place one cake layer on a serving plate and top with half of the whipped cream. Arrange half of the sliced strawberries on top.

Repeat the procedure by topping with the second layer, adding whipped cream (reserve a bit for the top of the cake) and the remaining berries. Add the reserved whipped cream to the very top and garnish with whole strawberries.

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