August 18, 2010

Sensational Strawberries

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Kids in the South usually get out of school the end of May and go back in August.  This coincides with, and makes it easy to remember, peak strawberry season:  June to August.  Thanks to imports, strawberries are also available other times during the year.  The best ones, though, are grown locally and that season, like summer break, goes by quickly.

When choosing strawberries, look for plump red berries that have the green caps attached.  Larger berries may look prettier, but smaller berries have more flavor.  Always look at the berries on the bottom of the package. The ones on top may look picture perfect, but the ones on the bottom might be bad.

Unlike some produce, strawberries do not ripen once they are picked so make sure the berries you're buying are ripe ones.  I always smell the berries.  If the strawberry scent is faint, I don't buy them.

Strawberries need to be stored in the refrigerator and are best used within a day or two of purchase.  Before storing them, remove any berries that are damaged.  Don't wash the strawberries or cut off the green caps until you're ready to use them.  Once the caps are removed, the strawberries start deteriorating.

Since strawberries are still available, I want to share a strawberry cake recipe given to me by my husband's cousin.  The cake starts with a cake mix and is very easy to prepare.  The assembly may sound complicated, but it's actually very easy.  The following tips should make the process even easier.


Margaret's Morsels | Triple Strawberry Cake
Triple Strawberry Cake
  • When you take the cake out of the oven, let it cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes.  Remove the cake from the pan onto a wire rack, but do not flip it right side up.
  • Once the cake is completely cool, leave it on the wire rack and put it in the freezer for 30 minutes.  You don't want to freeze the cake, but want it very cold.  This makes it easier and less crumbly when you slice it into layers.
  • After you take the cake out of the freezer, flip the cake over onto another wire rack.  The bottom layer will now be right side up when you slice the cake into layers.
  • You can cut the cake into layers using a sawing motion with either a serrated knife or a piece of unflavored dental floss.  If you use the dental floss, you'll need to cut the cake at each corner on one end in order to insert the dental floss.  Hold the dental floss tightly and, starting at the opposite end, use a sawing motion as you pull the dental floss towards you.
  • Once the cake is split into two layers, slide a cake board under the layer that's on top.  This makes it easier to move and less likely to tear up.  When it's time to put this layer back in the pan, you can slide it easily off the cake board.

Margaret's Morsels | Triple Strawberry Cake
 The top layer removed from the cake.
 
  • When putting the layers back into the pan, put the wire rack or cake board at the end of the pan.  There's less chance of the cake tearing since you won't have to rearrange it in the pan.
While the cake is in the freezer, slice the strawberries and put them in a bowl with some sugar.  A good rule of thumb is to use 1 tablespoon of sugar for each cup of sliced strawberries.  You may need more or less sugar depending on the sweetness of the berries.  Stir the sugar into the berries and leave the bowl on the countertop.  By the time you slice the cake into layers, the berries and sugar will have made a syrup.


Margaret's Morsels | Triple Strawberry Cake
The strawberry and sugar mixture.

Now you're ready to assemble the cake.  Slide the bottom layer back into the cake pan.  Spoon half the strawberry mixture over the bottom layer. Put the container of strawberry icing in the microwave and heat on High for 15 seconds, or until it's soft enough to pour.  Pour the icing over the cake. The cake will look like this:

Margaret's Morsels | Triple Strawberry Cake

Slide the top layer into the cake pan and repeat the process with the remaining strawberries and the cream cheese icing.  Once the cake is assembled, keep it covered and stored in the refrigerator.  

If you have any strawberries left, you can use them as a garnish on the cake.  Put a strawberry on a cutting board.  Using a sharp knife, slice the berry from the green cap to the bottom of the berry without cutting all the way through.  Fan these cuts out and put one strawberry on each piece of cake.


Margaret's Morsels | Triple Strawberry Cake

This cake may seem like a lot of work, but it's really not hard at all.  Even if the layers are uneven or the cake doesn't look the way you want, nobody will notice.  They'll be too busy eating the cake and asking for the recipe!

Triple Strawberry Cake
12 to 16 Servings

1 (18.25 oz.) pkg. strawberry cake mix
4 cups sliced strawberries or to taste
1/4 cup sugar (more or less to taste)
1 (16 oz.) can strawberry icing
1 (16 oz.) can cream cheese icing

Prepare cake mix according to package directions.  Spray a  9 x 13 pan with nonstick cooking spray with flour.  Pour batter into pan and  bake according to package directions.  After cake cools, slice into two layers.

Put strawberries and sugar in a bowl.  Let stand 5 to 10 minutes to make a syrup.  Put one cake layer back in the 9 x 13 pan.  Put half the strawberry mixture over the bottom cake layer.  Put the container of strawberry icing in the microwave and heat on High 15 seconds, or until it's soft enough to pour.  Pour the icing over the strawberries.

Put the top cake layer back in the pan.  Put the remaining strawberry mixture over the top layer.  Put the container of cream cheese icing in the microwave and heat on High 15 seconds, or until it's soft enough to pour. Pour the icing over the strawberries.  Keep cake covered and stored in the refrigerator.

Margaret's Morsels | Triple Strawberry Cake


© Margaret's Morsels

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