Friday, April 9, 2010

Strawberry Shortcakes

Photo Courtesy of Max Lau

So catering has sort of been kicking my ass this week, and I haven’t had time to write a proper blog post. This might be a first since starting this blog back in September of 2007, but it’s also the first time Erin and I have attempted 6 jobs in 10 days, and now I know why. I’m beat; I have a cold (when it’s finally warm outside!), and the only thing keeping me going is the glorious, life-affirming sunshine.

That, and all the cupcakes I’ve consumed over the past month. I’m the sorta girl who would willingly swap sugary/ saccharine/sweet for fatty/creamy/salty any day. I love chocolate and cheese; cake has it’s moments, but I don’t crave it in quite the same way. That said, my baking adventures over the past few weeks may have turned me into a bit of cake convert.

Photo Courtesy of Max Lau

First there was Rachel’s Engagement Party and a duet of Brown Butter Strawberry Shortcakes & Nutella Stuffed Devil’s Food Cupcakes. Then came my Birthday Bash and the flaming tower of Fluffer-Nutter, Chocolate-Carmel Fleur de Sel, and Bourbon Manhattan Cupcakes. My Tribe and I all lit our matches off a single flame and busily ignited 32 cupcakes before setting off the sparklers and then rushing to blow them all out, in fear of setting the tower on fire. Disaster averted; dessert enjoyed.

Next up was the Nylon magazine anniversary party, along mini Strawberry Shortcakes and more bite-size Fluffer-Nutters, perfect for popping while shopping at Topshop. The following day The Dinner Belles returned to Topshop for a three day event over Easter weekend, serving Red Velvet & Baby Shower Pink birthday cake to Topshop customers. Last night we served more sweet treats for a lecture event with The Nation magazine, and tomorrow baked goods will abound again as we celebrate a college reunion with what more, than cakes galore!

This is all preparation for the massive cupcake tower I’m building this summer for my childhood best friend’s wedding on a mountaintop in Stowe, Vermont. For her, I’ll be baking cupcakes that pay homage to heirloom family recipes for the cocktails I’ve been drinking in her Dad’s basement since before I was old enough to drink! Once again, Bourbon Manhattans will be on the menu, along with Brandy Alexanders and Salted Carmel Cappuccino Creams.

Photo Courtesy of Max Lau

Last week I promised a cupcake recipe, and this week (a little late) I’ve come to make good on my FOOD Maven commitment. My recipe for bite-size Strawberry Shortcakes are the perfect celebration of spring. Pretty soon the season’s first wild strawberries will start popping up at farmers’ markets, and then these cups really begin to take the cake. You could even substitute with raspberries, blueberries or gooseberries if you fancy! Anything goes, and my recipe for fresh-picked strawberry sauce puts a personal touch on these one-bite delicacies topped with marshmallow frosting (my favorite!) and dressed with fresh berries and mint.

Strawberry Shortcakes (bakes about 6 dozen minis)

Photo Courtesy of Christine Tsai

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) Salted Butter (softened)
  • 2 cups Sugar
  • 4 large Eggs (at room temperature)
  • 1 1/2 cups Self-Rising Flour
  • 1 1/4 cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 cup Milk
  • 1 t Vanilla Extract
  • 6 dozen mini cupcake Paper Molds
  • 1 cup Strawberry Sauce (or jam)
  • Sliced Strawberries & Mint Sprigs (garnish)
  • Piping Bags

Frosting Ingredients

  • 3 Egg Whites
  • 1 1/2 t Vanilla Extract
  • 1/2 cup cold Water
  • 1 1/2 cups Sugar
  • 1/4 plus 1/8 t Cream of Tartar
  • Piping Bags

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line mini cupcake pans with paper molds. Slice strawberries and separate mint leaves for garnish. Be sure you have at least one cup of my recipe for strawberry sauce on hand, or use strawberry jam as an alternative. If using jam, you may want to heat it over the stove with the juice of a lemon to add an acid kick and thin it out a little. Make sure the jam is cool before piping.

In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter until smooth. Add the sugar gradually and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes more. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Combine the flours and add in four parts, alternating with the milk and the vanilla extract, beating well after each addition. Fill each paper mold 3/4 full of batter and bake for 15-16 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cake comes out clean. Let cakes cool in pans for 10 minutes, then remove from pans and cool completely on wire racks.

Photo Courtesy of Christine Tsai

When cool, take a paring knife and carve out little holes in each cupcake. These holes can be as big or small as you like, just be sure not to dig down to the very bottom of the cupcake or the strawberry sauce will spill out. With a piping bag filled with strawberry sauce, fill each hole to the brim with strawberry sauce. These cakes are now ready to frost, but they can also be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for 48 hours before frosting.

To make the marshmallow frosting, combine the egg whites and the vanilla extract in a large bowl of an electric mixer and set aside. In a medium-size saucepan over high heat, combine the water with the sugar and the cream of tartar. As mixture begins to bubble at edges, stir once to make sure the sugar is dissolved completely, then let come to a rolling boll (about 2 to 3 minutes) and remove immediately from heat.

Now beat the egg whites and the vanilla extract with the whisk attachment until foamy, about 1 minute. Without turning off the mixer, pour the sugar syrup into the beaten egg whites in a thin, steady stream. Continue beating constantly, on medium-high speed, for about 5 minutes or until stiff peaks form but frosting is still creamy. Spoon the frosting into a piping bag and either frost your cakes immediately or tie the bag with a rubber-band and reserve it in the refrigerator until ready to serve. This frosting can be made up to 48 hours in advance as long as it’s kept cold. When ready, frost and garnish your cakes with a strawberry slice and mint sprig, and let the taste of spring shine on in.

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