13 July 2008

Savour the Season: Strawberries

Somehow, even though we're in the midst of smog alert season complete with the type of humidity that lets every ion of petrol-emitted pong hang in the air like undershirts on the neighbour's washline, everything seems to smell a little better this time of year.

No wait, it's the two kilos of local strawberries I picked up at the farmers' market.

It's amazing how these sweet and juicy little berries can fragrance a space, transforming it from soulless, bean-counter approved and cinder block-reinforced to something that seems a bit more human and a lot more comfortable.

June and July are when the local strawberries ripen, giving all of us a quick boot to the backside as a reminder of what strawberries should taste like. All year long we get imports that don't quite cut the mustard in several respects (flavour, texture, price) so when the local producers and farmers appear with punnets, baskets and flats of fresh and tasty berries, more than a few of us tend to go a little berry happy.

My mindset is such that fresh, ripe fruit generaly doesn't need to be fussed with. Just wash and eat. Maybe with sweetened whipped cream or with some ice cream. I really don't want to cook the fruit. Apart from the temperature,
Beelzebub has a nefarious history and present with any food that I really, really, really want to turn out well.

All that said, a good quantity of summer fruits will end up bottled and dosed out by the spoonful. Yes, I'm slowly taking over my parent's freezer with fruits I want to turn into jams and jellies. But that's a few weeks out.

So when faced with a dinner invitation and the realisation I offered to make dessert, I gazed into my basket of berries. It became very obvious: a strawberry sandwich cake. My version is two layers of Victoria Sponge, sandwiching a layer of strawberry sauce and strawberry cream, topped with more strawberry cream and halved, hulled berries. Very simple and very pretty.

Most strawberry cream cakes I've seen use either a whipped cream or a pastry cream filling--the snow white contrasts beautifully against the red of the berry. The strawberry cream I use is based on a cream cheese icing, but made pink by using strawberry sauce. Apart from being a bit girly, the cake's berry quotient is boosted slightly. The cream is looser than a standard frosting, so it's better for a filling or to just ice the top of a cake.

Strawberry Cream
240g cream cheese
60g softened butter
60ml strawberry sauce
50-100g granulated sugar (to taste)

Cream together the cream cheese and butter. Mix in the strawberry sauce. Add as much sugar as you think it needs. Let it sit in the fridge for about 20-30 minutes to stiffen a bit before you use it.


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giz said...

I (cough cough) can so (wheez wheez) relate you your description (sneeze) of the smog (oh gawd, I can't breathe) in the city. Although I'm out in the burbs, some days driving into downtown it's hard to even see the CN Tower for smog.

The saving grace in all of this is your use of strawberries that makes my day just a little bit sweeter.

(pass the inhaler)

K and S said...

what a nice way to savor the season :)

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

You've done those lovely strawberries proud!

glamah16 said...

At least your trying to save the summer with the freezing and preserving. But wise to enjoy it all fresh while the time lasts. That cream looks delightful. I imagine it would be good on waffles too.

KJ said...

I am with you. I can't bear to cook beautiful ripe berries. They are already perfection. So I think I would love this cake. It looks divine.

Anonymous said...

That looks great, but what I really love is the simplicity of it all!

Anonymous said...

Absolutely fabulous!

I want to bake like you when I grow up. :-)


Anonymous said...

Thank you for that recipe. I have to make a birthday cake in a few weeks time, and a strawberry cake was the request. I'm going to use your recipe.

I've been reading your blog on and off now for several months, and always enjoy it. Apologies for the anonymous post, but I don't blog on blogger. BTW, thank you for the heads up about Stephen Fry's blog, I've been enjoying his blessays and podcasts. I've been a fan of his for a bit over twenty years.

Mares from Michigan

Shaun said...

Jasmine, honey ~ It is always a delight to savour a dish that celebrates seasonality. While most of us foodies purchase our fruit and veggies from farmers' markets, it is always a rapturous moment to see the connection between the food on the plate and the atmosphere. Summer really does = strawberries. Glorious!

NKP said...

Good Morning, Jasmine.
What a lovely confection you have created with your berries. I hope to try to do some canning for the first time this summer. I have to get over my fear some day!
I too look forward to these days where we can walk past the offerings from Mexico and California and breathe in the sweet perfume of Ontario strawberries.
There is a blogging award for you on my site today. Have a great day.

Anonymous said...

I'm a strawberry season birthday and the cake you made is basically what I had every year at my party growing up. Sweet nostalgia!

Gigi said...

Jasmine, fabulous cake! It screams summer and delicious.

jasmine said...

Hello all

Alas the berries are no more.

Mares: hope you looked at the strawbery sauce recipe.

Natashya: Thank you so much!