poor scientist. will blog 4 food.

the culinary adventures of a self-described foodie


Junk in My Trunk: Strawberry Cream Cake

I grew up in a house of people who did not bake. The only cake pan we had was a bundt pan, so until my mid-20’s I had no idea how layered cakes worked. I still am the worst froster (frosting applier?) I know.

I did, however, grow up eating a lot of cakes, whether it was store-bought or from a box (baked in the bundt pan, of course). I also ate a lot of processed foods as a child, as every good American (and wannabe American) does.

So that brings us to this “recipe” — or perhaps I should call it a concoction? It’s Betty Crocker Super Moist Chocolate Fudge cake + Cool Whip “frosting” + sliced strawberries. Despite my usual disdain for processed foods, HFCS, etc., this combination will always occupy a dear place in my heart. Not only is it super easy, but it’s also extremely delicious: moist cake, not-too-sweet frosting, and ripe strawberries. I was inspired to make this cake for last week’s stitch n bitch, following our strawberry picking field trip. Unfortunately, I couldn’t use the ones we picked; those had all been frozen on Saturday. So it was with a heavy heart that I shelled out $4 for a quart of organic strawberries from Safeway.

There’s no recipe, but here are the instructions for assembly:
1. Defrost the Cool Whip. It helps to buy everything one day in advance and let the Cool Whip thaw in the fridge. I used regular Cool Whip, but the low-fat version tastes almost as good.
2. Bake the cake according to instructions. I like Betty Crocker’s Super Moist mixes for this cake, though I think I used Devil’s Food once and it wasn’t very good. Let it cool to room temperature.
3. Slice strawberries.
4. Frost the bottom layer of cake, adding a layer of slice strawberries.
5. Place 2nd layer of cake on top. Frost the whole cake with Cool Whip.
6. Add strawberries. I try to follow a symmetrical/radial pattern so that it looks pretty.

Additional ideas:
– Try this cake with an assorted combination of cake flavors and fruit, depending on what’s seasonal.
– For the 4th of July one year, I made a sheet cake and decorated it with strawberries and blueberries to resemble the U.S. flag (how patriotic!).
– Of course, if you don’t want processed foods, make the cake from scratch and/or use real whipped cream… but that sounds awfully labor intensive. 😛



Strawberry Day @ Eatwell Farm

One perk of a Eatwell CSA membership is that they hold special events at the farm throughout the year. Last Saturday, TC and I joined a few friends for Strawberry Days at Eatwell Farm in Dixon, CA. The deal was that we could eat as many strawberries as we wanted for free on-site, and for the berries that we took home, we’d be charged a mere $1 per pound. It actually ended up costing less than that, since they were rounding down. Not only was it really fun to pick our own berries, but we got to meet some of the workers and got a tour of the farm too.

I learned a lot on Saturday. For example, we learned that the strawberries were grown without pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizer. Nigel Walker, the owner of Eatwell, spent some time talking to us about the chicken rotation they have on the farm. Essentially, the chickens get moved from field to field throughout the year. In the process, they eat all of the bugs as well as fertilizing the soil. Win-win. I also got to see where some of the vegetables were grown, and was impressed by the diversity of produce. No monoculture here! And unlike most farm fields, there were plenty of weeds growing among the produce, but they didn’t seem to be hurting them too much. Finally, it always amazes me when I see a vegetable in its natural form (i.e. not isolated in the grocery store) and realize that I have never ever seen (or ever thought about) the vegetable as a plant. Example: Saturday was the first time I’ve ever seen an entire potato plant. Then I thought about how easy it is to think of veggies in isolation without thinking about the whole plant. I think it speaks to the disconnect in our relationship with the food we consume.

Mostly, I felt extremely grateful to be a tiny part of this farm that is doing the right thing. With food production, that’s hard to come by these days.

Enjoy the photos! (Unfortunately, I forgot my “real” camera, so you’ll have to settle for iPhone pictures.)

Walking out to the strawberry field with TC, MC, and LTH.

Strawberry pickers for a day. There was a plastic sheet laid down under the plants, which made the strawberries easier to pick and cleaner as well.

I’m hard at work, while TC is just standing around. Typical.

Strawberry fight! Or maybe I’m trying to throw it into TC’s mouth.

TC and I picked this flat of strawberries, setting us back a whopping $9. We shared 4 pints with friends, ate 2, and froze the rest for smoothies. Our friends MC, LTH, and IP made delicious jam with their berries.

Farm tour! Name those veggies…

This is what a potato plant looks like.

Jose, the farm foreman, digging up potatoes. Ah, those roots look familiar!

Admiring the pretty cabbage plants.

Onions that bolted overnight, rendering them unedible. But they sure are interesting looking, huh?