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. 😛



Dreamy Strawberry Cake

This recipe is for Strawberry Cream Cake, but I thought Dreamy Strawberry Cake was more apt because when I dream of strawberry cake, this is what I envision. Dense but not too heavy cake with ample amounts of fluffy whipped cream and sweet slices of strawberry. E made this cake for her wedding helpers, who went over to her house to assemble bouquets and finish the favors. I showed up, saw that most of the work had been done, and promptly dug into the cake. I was so busy stuffing the cake into my mouth that I forgot to take a photo! Luckily, E’s brother Z did.

A picture of the spread. I labeled the cake for you, in case you missed it.

"I'm crazy (literally) about this cake!"

E got the recipe from her friend A, who made the cake at E & B's engagement party.

As for the recipe, I’ve never made it, so I can’t speak for the actual preparation. E notes that, “[A] alters it by macerating the berries with lemon juice and omitting the Kirsch and I did the same.”

Enjoy! And then send some my way.

(Dreamy) Strawberry Cream Cake
Serves 8 to 10.
If using a cake pan, you will need one with straight sides that are at least 2 inches high; otherwise,
use a springform pan. The cake portion can be made ahead of time, wrapped in a double layer of
plastic wrap, and frozen; thaw the frozen cake, unwrapped, at room temperature for about two
hours before proceeding with the recipe.

1 1/4 cups cake flour (5 ounces)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1 cup sugar (7 ounces)
5 large eggs (2 whole and 3 separated), room temperature
6 tablespoons unsalted butter , melted and cooled slightly
2 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Strawberry Filling
2 pounds fresh strawberries (medium or large, about 2 quarts), washed, dried,
and stemmed
4 – 6 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons Kirsch
Pinch table salt

Whipped Cream
8 ounces cream cheese , room temperature
1/2 cup sugar (3 1/2 ounces)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon table salt
2 cups heavy cream

1. FOR THE CAKE: Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees.
Grease and flour round 9 by 2-inch cake pan or 9-inch springform pan and line with
parchment paper. Whisk flour, baking powder, salt, and all but 3 tablespoons sugar in
mixing bowl. Whisk in 2 whole eggs and 3 yolks (reserving whites), butter, water, and
vanilla; whisk until smooth.

2. In clean bowl of standing mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat remaining 3 egg whites at
medium-low speed until frothy, 1 to 2 minutes. With machine running, gradually add
remaining 3 tablespoons sugar, increase speed to medium-high, and beat until soft peaks
form, 60 to 90 seconds. Stir one-third of whites into batter to lighten; add remaining whites
and gently fold into batter until no white streaks remain. Pour batter into prepared pan and
bake until toothpick or wooden skewer inserted into center of cake comes out clean, 30 to
40 minutes. Cool in pan 10 minutes, then invert cake onto greased wire rack; peel off and
discard parchment. Invert cake again; cool completely, about 2 hours.

3. FOR THE STRAWBERRY FILLING: Halve 24 of best-looking berries and reserve. Quarter
remaining berries; toss with 4 to 6 tablespoons sugar (depending on sweetness of berries) in
medium bowl and let sit 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Strain juices from berries and reserve
(you should have about 1/2 cup). In workbowl of food processor fitted with metal blade,
give macerated berries five 1-second pulses (you should have about 1 1/2 cups). In small
saucepan over medium-high heat, simmer reserved juices and Kirsch until syrupy and
reduced to about 3 tablespoons, 3 to 5 minutes. Pour reduced syrup over macerated
berries, add pinch of salt, and toss to combine. Set aside until cake is cooled.

4. FOR THE WHIPPED CREAM: When cake has cooled, place cream cheese, sugar, vanilla,
and salt in bowl of standing mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Whisk at medium-high speed
until light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes, scraping down bowl with rubber spatula as needed.
Reduce speed to low and add heavy cream in slow, steady stream; when almost fully
combined, increase speed to medium-high and beat until mixture holds stiff peaks, 2 to 2
1/2 minutes more, scraping bowl as needed (you should have about 4 1/2 cups).

5. TO ASSEMBLE THE CAKE: Using large serrated knife, slice cake into three even layers.
Place bottom layer on cardboard round or cake plate and arrange ring of 20 strawberry
halves, cut sides down and stem ends facing out, around perimeter of cake layer. Pour one
half of pureed berry mixture (about 3/4 cup) in center, then spread to cover any exposed
cake. Gently spread about one-third of whipped cream (about 1 1/2 cups) over berry
layer, leaving 1/2-inch border from edge. Place middle cake layer on top and press down
gently (whipped cream layer should become flush with cake edge). Repeat with 20
additional strawberry halves, remaining berry mixture, and half of remaining whipped
cream; gently press last cake layer on top. Spread remaining whipped cream over top;
decorate with remaining cut strawberries. Serve, or chill for up to 4 hours.


Biscuits and The Bachelor

Bad reality television is one of my guiltiest pleasures.  Yes, I distinguish between “good” and “bad” reality television, the litmus test being: would I freely admit to an acquaintance that I watch said reality show? Under the category “good,” I would file Project Runway, Iron Chef, Amazing Race.  As for the “bad,” I’d go with America’s Next Top Model, The Hills (does it qualify as reality anymore?), and The Next Pussycat Doll (yes, I actually watched the first season).  Thank GOD I don’t have cable, because I’d probably end up watching the super-bad reality tv shows, like Flavor of Love, Rock of Love, and The Housewives of [insert city here].

Anyway, under the bad category is The Bachelor.  Very simply, it’s a dating show with one guy who dates 25 women and, over the course of 6 short weeks, must choose and propose to one of the lucky ladies.  A lot of women watch it because they believe in true love and want to watch a love story in the making, yada yada yada.  I watch it because it’s schmaltzy, predictable, and full of normal-on-the-outside but seriously disturbed-on-the-inside characters.  Who in their right mind really thinks they will meet and marry someone they meet on national tv?  Also!  People “falling in love” often say and do the most ridiculous and laughable things.  So, for me, The Bachelor is really like staring at a car wreck.

Thanks to the power of the internet and facebook, I found out that I didn’t have to secretly watch The Bachelor all by my lonesome, because my friends Skinny Bone Jones and M also watched The Bachelor!  We could point and snark together!  Hooray!

When the season finale rolled around, SBJ offered to cook a big fancy meal and I gladly accepted. The menu: country fried steak, buttermilk biscuits, mashed potatoes + gravy.

Stirring up some trouble in a fancy dress.

Stirring up some trouble in a fancy dress.

Hot biscuits!

Hot biscuits!

The spread.

The spread.

My plate.  Mmmm, good!

My plate. Mmmm, good!

For dessert, I wanted to get strawberry shortcake to go with the Southern cooking theme.  The places I wanted to go to (Crixa bakery, Bake Sale Betty) were closed on Monday nights.  So I headed over to Andronico’s, which makes a strawberry/cream cake that rivals the best strawberry shortcakes I’ve ever eaten.  I’m a huge fan of the airy whipped cream paired with spongey cake.  And it’s reasonably priced too!


Strawberry cake from Andronico's -- so good! I was so happy when SBJ "made" me take home a slice.

Of course, besides dinner, there was the main event: the finale of The Bachelor.  This season was super dramatic because the Bachelor, Jason Mesnick, proposed to Melissa during the season finale, only to dump her during the “After the Final Rose” show, which was taped 6 weeks after the finale.  THEN, he asked Molly, the girl he dumped before picking Melissa, to get back together with him.  And guess what she said?  Yes.  Of course she did.

The Bachelor, Jason Resnick, being grilled, as it were.

The Bachelor, Jason Mesnick, being grilled, as it were.

It was funny to read the reactions after the show, because I expected to see, “Jason’s such a jerk! How could he do that?”   Instead, I saw that a lot of women were mad at ABC for “manipulating them” by orchestrating the drama.  Are these women really that naive, to think this show is real?  Well, regardless, dinner was fantastic and I’m glad I was able to share my guilt pleasure with a couple of friends. Thanks ladies!