I was driving down Highway 65 today and I saw the first “fresh strawberries” sign of the spring by the road. I tried not to spin too much gravel as I quickly did a U turn and pulled off to the side of the road. Let me tell you, if you have never had fresh-picked-that-morning strawberries from the farmer who grew them, then you are missing out on a foodie flavor treat that simply cannot be replicated. The strawberries that are grown commercially are much sturdier and firmer since they have to travel well and stay fresh for at least 10 days in the store. They are usually picked greener too. Its like the difference between a home grown tomato and the ones you get in the produce section of Safeway. This is a wonderful shortcake recipe that is a variation of the original Cottage Pudding Cake that was featured in the “Fannie Farmer Cookbook” published in 1966. The original Fannie Farmer Cookbook was published in 1896 (wow) and it has been updated and revised over the years. I am not sure why the cake was called Cottage Pudding Cake – maybe someone knows that story and you will share with me. I found the recipe and I have been experimenting with the basic recipe. This shortcake is like a big sweet biscuit with a wonderful buttery vanilla flavor and a little bit of almond that really brings out the flavor of the berries. If you don’t want to buy buttermilk just for this recipe, then you can just substitute all milk instead of 1/2 and 1/2. I ran out of milk last time and I used all buttermilk and it turned out wonderfully! It is really important to macerate the berries for a few hours if you can on the countertop. To macerate strawberries, all you have to do is sprinkle sugar on them, which draws out their juices so they become soft and sweet and deliciously saucy. This is the secret to the perfect deliciousness that is this strawberry shortcake recipe!
2 cups minus 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup vegetable shortening
1 cup plus 3 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (you can substitute good vanilla extract)
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup buttermilk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9 inch round layer cake pan with flour based nonstick cooking spray. Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together in a bowl; set aside. Beat the shortening and sugar on medium speed with an electric stand mixer until light and fluffy. Don’t skimp on this step – it takes 3-5 minutes to get the right consistency. Add the egg, almond extract and vanilla bean paste and combine. Pour in the flour mixture alternatively with the milks, mixing on low speed until just incorporated. Do not overmix. Pour the batter into the pan and bake 25-28 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. This is a lightly browned, buttery sugary shortbread that is ready for your fresh berries!
Clean, de stem and slice 2 quarts of fresh strawberries. Place in bowl with 1/8 cup water and sprinkle with 3 tablespoons granulated sugar. Let sit on countertop, stirring occasionally, for a few hours to macerate. To assemble, slice one 3″ piece of cake and split in half lengthwise. add 3/4 cup berries and top with your favorite whipped cream. I saw another farm stand on the way home and the cherries are ripe now for the whole month of May. Stay tuned for the most amazing cherry cloufiti recipe ever…..