Monday, August 18, 2008
Happy Birthday, Daj!
There are certain foods that we associate with certain people, and aside from Thrifty's Butter Pecan ice cream, Sara Lee pound cake is what I associate most with my mother. We were never a household with too much junk food -- and my siblings and I usually weren't bratty children who screamed at the top of our lungs for Oreos or sour straws anyway for fear of our parents' wrath -- but every once in awhile, there would be a frozen pound cake, nestled in that tell-tale foil pan. It was a delight that in our family of six would never last long. Still, it is a fond memory of childhood that with a slowing metabolism and a more discerning eye for ingredients I no longer partake in, but tasting Ina Garten's Strawberry Country Cake brought me back.
Strawberries were already growing aplenty back in May and there were some crazy deals at the farmers market -- a half flat for $6! You can't beat the price, but can you eat all that?? I ended up trying this recipe after trolling the internet for something to make with my plenitude of berries and several people touted its deliciousness on Serious Eats. I brought it to a last minute informal dinner and it was so simple, yet so satisfying. Like a strawberry shortcake without the hard biscuit, it incorporates lightly sweetened whipped cream with juicy strawberries and a rich cake. Just three components, but the sum is far greater than its parts. And the cake! Ohhhh, I could eat it for days! The cake is lightly hinted with lemon and orange zest which I think gives the cake some added dimension.
The recipe actually yields two cakes as it recommends you halve the contents of one 8" cake pan to build your cake. I used a 9" pan the first time, which turned out quite well, but I would have liked some more height to the cake, especially because I left the sides unfrosted though everyone was still delighted with the results. For my sister's birthday, she requested this wonderfully fragrant cake and because it also keeps well in the freezer (unfrosted of course), I was able to assemble it right before her birthday dinner to culminate a weekend trip to San Diego. Because it was a special occasion, I thought a taller cake would be more appropriate so instead of halving each cake, I used both cakes. I did use more whipped cream and more strawberries, yet there was probably still too much cake per bite. I didn't think that could possibly happen, and it was definitely tasty enough, but Ina got it right the first time. I think I'll stick to the halved cake and just keep the other cake in the freezer for a rainy day, and so it's perfect when an occasion comes up out of the blue. Definitely a solid recipe to keep in your arsenal.