Strawberries are starting to flood the supermarkets, and not just any strawberries– huge strawberries that are actually ripe and delicious! I bought four pounds one day and had finished them before the week was out. And one of the things I used them in was this cake– billed by one of my favorite food bloggers as “tasting like summer.” I had to try it.
The cake is simple to make and rustic to look at, and uses a full pound of strawberries to really pack in the fruit flavor. While I’d prefer if it didn’t require the use of a mixer to cream the butter and sugar together, I’m willing to do it since the rest of the recipe is pretty low-fuss. The crumb is almost shortcake-y, and the sprinkling of sugar on top makes a delightful little crunch when you cut into it– but the fruit is the star. I’m going to try this next with peaches, but I’ll bet blueberries or raspberries would also be excellent.
The recipe takes almost an hour to bake (50 minutes total for me), and Deb insists that it’s even better the second day, so I’m going to start making this the night before as a breakfast cake. I think it would be excellent with a dollop of vanilla yogurt!
I was inspired to make these cupcakes by an episode of Nadiya Bakes, starring one of the winners of the Great British Baking Show, Nadiya Hussain. I enjoyed watching her on the original show, but I’m actually more impressed by her current work! In any event, I didn’t use her actual recipe, but I did use it as a jumping-off point for my own version, which turned out reasonably well. Honestly, I thought they had room for improvement, but multiple people have told me they were great as-is, so I guess you’ll have to decide!
The concept is that you take a golden Oreo and put it in the bottom of a cupcake liner, topped with a single whole strawberry. Then you pour vanilla cake batter over it and bake the cupcakes that way. Topped with a strawberry buttercream flavored with freeze-dried strawberries, the fruity flavor really comes through! That being said, I found that the Oreo got very hard after being baked, which was not to my taste– I did overbake the cupcakes a bit, which may have contributed to the issue, but don’t be surprised if your Oreo toasts up and gets extremely crunchy!
I will note that this cake batter must be essentially foolproof, because despite my putting the ingredients together in completely the wrong order, messing up the amount of liquid, and over-baking the batter because I forgot to set a timer, it still turned out well! As for the frosting, it was fabulous and I will add it to my permanent recipe file– it’s that good!
You know, despite having used choux pastry to make cream puffs (a LOT), breakfast pastry, and fancy French praline desserts, I’d never used it to make éclairs before now. I wonder why? Perhaps because I tend to like my desserts either tiny and adorable (like, bite-sized), or big and easy to serve to a crowd. In any event, I was recently invited to a last-minute dinner party and needed something light, summery, and capable of being ready to transport in 90 minutes or less.
A quick scan of the kitchen showed that I had no fruit to bake into a crumble or cake, no thawed butter I could use to make frosting (even if I’d had time to bake and cool a cake enough to be frosted), and no leftover cake scraps or cookies that I’d ordinarily be able to use as the base for something interesting and maybe ice cream-based. And then I thought of choux– made of pantry staples, it would bake up quickly and could be filled with any number of things; plus, it would be best filled on-site, which would give me a little more time to acquire fruit or something else tasty for a filling on the way to the party.
I think I’ve determined that the perfect picnic dessert is a bar cookie. Usually quick and easy to prepare, they slice up into conveniently-square-shaped bars that fit nicely into packing containers, plus they are generally sturdy and don’t need refrigeration, plates, or forks. So when I had a picnic to attend recently, I eyed my stash of frozen rhubarb and decided to make strawberry-rhubarb bars to bring along!
I admit that I made a few tweaks (both intentional and unintentional) to the recipe I found online, but I think they worked out just fine.
Like many of the recipe reviewers, I doubled the recipe and par-baked the crust for 10 minutes just to ensure that the bottoms of the bars were firm and sliceable– those were the intentional changes. Unintentionally, however, I put in 2 tablespoons of cornstarch instead of 2 teaspoons, which I worried would make the filling too chewy but which turned out fine. The bars held together well even when not refrigerated, and were really delicious.
As I expect will happen often this summer, last weekend I found myself with a barbecue to attend and no ideas as to what dessert to bring. And as I often do, I turned to Smitten Kitchen for inspiration. This time it was an icebox cake– but not just any icebox cake, a cheesecake-inspired, graham-layered, strawberry-studded icebox cake.
I was tempted to take a shortcut and use storebought graham crackers rather than making my own round cracker layers, but in the end I went with the recipe as written, and was really glad I did. The dough rolled out incredibly easily, and baked up into the most deliciously crisp, flavorful cookie ever– I found myself nibbling away at the scraps all afternoon.
The filling was simple and tasty– the cream cheese and lemon zest worked together nicely to make a tangy, creamy counterpoint to the sweet graham layers, and when I dipped some extra strawberry pieces into it and added a cookie scrap to the mix, the combination was fantastic.
With all the plump, juicy berries available in all the grocery stores lately, I’ve been eating them out of hand on a daily basis. I hate to cook them– it seems like such a waste of fresh produce– but I knew I wanted to do something special to really showcase the berries. Enter the fruit tart.
This tart is easy to make, but will make you look like a superstar. The graham crust (not crackers, but it’s got the same flavor profile) is a step above the usual pate sucree, and the flavors of brown sugar and honey really complement the other components of the tart. It also requires no rolling, bakes up nice and crisp without shrinking, and looks great. The filling tastes complex but couldn’t be simpler, and the trick of glazing the berries makes the dessert look professional. You’ll have people wondering if you actually made it yourself!
While we’re on the subject of seasonal produce, rhubarb has always said “summer” to me. While it’s available I buy it, chop it, and freeze it for use in the dead of winter to at least bring back the memory of warmer weather. While straight rhubarb may be too tart for some, the iconic combination of strawberries and rhubarb can win over the harshest of critics. And when those strawberries were picked lovingly by one’s three-year-old daughter (in between devouring them and licking juice off her fingers), how could anyone resist?
I chose to make this a compote rather than a pie or a crisp because I’m really the only one in the house who actually likes pie. At least with a compote my family can spoon it on top of yogurt, over shortcakes, or just eat it straight from the spoon!