Friday Feed: Strawberries!

9 Dec

I didn’t want to do two sweet posts in a row for Friday Feed, partly because how dull, darling, and partly because most of my cooking really is savoury. However, the only thing of borderline interest I cooked in the last couple weeks was a satay that was frankly just not that great (and other than that I pretty much made Marmite pasta every day for a week – thanks, Hungry & Frozen!) I also made my standard Trashy People Who Don’t Wanna Cook meal, Tuna & Rice. This is my essential meal, but it’s not exactly blogworthy: make a white sauce, put cheese in it, put a tin of tuna in it, mix the whole lot up with a quantity of cooked rice (or pasta) and bake for 20 minutes. Top with breadcrumbs and tomato slices if you’re feeling fancy.

On the other hand, what definitely was blogworthy when I started writing this post last Thursday was the quantity and relative cheapness of strawberries at the moment. Two punnets for $4. The price has since, naturally, skyrocketed so this post is no longer appropriate, but they’re still available relatively affordably, especially at markets. I can hardly believe summer’s only just started – the wonderful weather Wellington’s been having for the last couple of weeks, except the last couple of days, since the beginning of November really, is so promising for a long gorgeous summer. And there’s nothing better about summer than berries, freely and relatively cheaply available. Strawberries in salads instead of tomatoes (also affordable and ripe again!) Strawberries at the bottom of a bubbly glass. Strawberries sliced and tossed with balsamic vinaigrette and cracked black pepper (the BEST way to eat strawberries) and maybe spooned over panna cotta. And today’s recipe.

Strawberries and Cream Piled on Yellow Cake

Shot from above of a cake piled with strawberries & chocolate

photos courtesy of my flatmate Lizzie and Adobe Photoshop

I know I said last week that this wasn’t going to be a photo-heavy food blog and really this is probably the first and the last time. But when it comes to presentation, it’s pretty damn difficult to screw up a big honking pile of strawberries. This isn’t really a complicated idea and it probably doesn’t deserve its own post really, but Lizzie liked it enough to take photos and I thought it was delicious and I bragged about it on Twitter, so here goes. Noteworthy note: You can do this with whatever your favourite yellow cake is. You could do it with box mix or on a sponge from New World if you wanted to. You could do it with my favourite yellow cake in the world, golden cake with sour cream chocolate icing (seriously, that cake as cupcakes with a generous swirl of chocolate sour cream ganache and rainbow sprinkles is like the Platonic ideal of a cupcake). But I am really (really) broke right now and the idea of going out and buying all that sour cream, butter and eggs didn’t really work for me. So I pawed through my books and came up with this, which I thought would be a very nice combination and indeed it was. Plus it’s one-bowl. I love one-bowl cakes.

Clueless Baker Yellow Cake

This came out of a book called The Clueless Baker by Evelyn Raab. It’s brilliant for North American-style basics, like this one, and has a few stand-outs, like a terrific and simple lemon meringue pie and gorgeous soft ginger biscuits. I am not a specially clueless baker, but I bought it because I liked the voice – she’s very funny and straightforward – and because a majority of my books are NZ/Aus or occasionally Brit, and I wanted a US book. This book is actually Canadian but it strikes me as very, very US. It’s so US that the quantities I give in this recipe are halved, which produced a very decently-sized square cake – about the size you expect a banana cake to be in New Zealand. If you want to make this cake extremely impressive, double the quantities and bake two rounds. You could make them two 9-inch rounds, even, cut them in half and make the world’s tallest cake. But you’ll need a lot more strawberries and maybe some jam.

1 cup sugar
2 eggs
3/8 cup (90 mL – 6 US tablespoons or 4 UK tablespoons and 2 tsps) vegetable oil
1/2 cup milk
1 1/4 cups flour
1 1/8 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Notes on the ingredients

Oil –  I used olive oil, I recommend that you do not do this, use a nice canola oil instead. I would have, I just didn’t have any and I don’t mind my cake tasting of olive oil, but it’s not really a great idea. Also New Zealanders, I find it very unpredictable as to which size tablespoon I have, so don’t assume you have UK size. Try to find a set with the measurements on it. Milk – I used yellow-top (trim), it was fine. Sugar – yes, the original recipe did call for 2 whole cups. You probably could cut this cup down a little but I hesitate to endorse doing so because I haven’t tried it. It does seem like a whole lot of sugar though.

Method

1. Pre-heat to 180 C (350 F). Also prepare your cake pans, unless your flatmates gave you a silicon cake tin for your last birthday, in which case, muahaha and you can chill.

2. Beat the sugar and the eggs together until they are slightly thickened.

3. Add the oil, milk, flour, baking powder and vanilla. Beat together nicely-nicely until the mixture is smooth, but try not to overbeat (I mean, whatever, did you ever know anyone to actually turn down an overbeat muffin? But the principle is good).

4. Pour into pan and bake for ~30 minutes till, you know, your cake-divining skills tell you it’s done. It should be golden-brown and you should get a clean toothpick test. (If you have doubled the ingredients and baked in a 9-inch pan, this will be more like 30-40 minutes.)

5. Let cool for five minutes, take out of pan and cool on a cake rack.

Decoration

1 cup of cream (or like, whatever size a smallish bottle is)
1 or 2 punnets of strawberries
Small amount of dark chocolate, melted and cooled (I like Whittaker’s, I especially liked it here because I stole it from my flatmate Lizzie. Well, she offered it to me. The point is, use what you have)

This is … not exactly complicated, except your cake MUST BE COOL when you do this. Whip the cream until it’s a consistency that you like – I wanted it firm enough to stay where it was put but it might be nice a little more sloppy and sliding down the side of the cake. You could put a little icing sugar in it while you do this if you like or if you’re not sure if your strawberries are sweet enough. Slice your strawberries – halves are fine. Pile the cream on the cake, pile the strawberries on the cream, drizzle chocolate over the cake, stuff it in your face like it’s going out of style.

cake posed nicely with roses

ah, lovely!

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