Sarah Kenney prepares a loving – and delicious – nostalgic surprise for her husband.
By Sarah Kenney
Father’s Day has just passed. I asked Patrick what he wanted for dessert on his special day. I knew immediately what his first answer would be. Boston Cream Pie. He loves this dessert.
I know, however, that he has been mentioning a dessert ever since I’ve known him that brings back special memories. He tells me about his grandmother, Mammie Moo’s Strawberry Shortcake. His eyes get all dreamy when he attempts to describe this cake.
I met Patrick the weekend after Mammie Moo died. I remember he was sad over her death. He said every year she would make her special strawberry shortcake. As children, after they arrived at her house on the lake, the children would run to the refrigerator to see if the strawberry shortcake was made. He had such fond memories of her house and in particular that strawberry juice soaked dessert.
How do you match that memory? I had never met Mammie Moo, although I regret that I didn’t. I had never seen this infamous dessert so of course, never tasted it.
As I was making my list and planning out my Father’s Day barbecue, I thought I would make an attempt to duplicate this strawberry shortcake…
But I planned to keep it as a surprise!
I was perusing the internet, looking at different variations of strawberry shortcakes and trying to nonchalantly have him point out the one cake that looked like Mammie Moo’s. I came to one such cake on the Williams Sonoma website. “That’s it” he said, looking over my shoulder. “It looked similar to that one.”
I reassured him that someday I would try to attempt it but for this Father’s Day, it would be Banana Bread Pudding, a dessert he had recently enjoyed at a restaurant in Louisiana.
Yep. Banana Bread Pudding. But, on my list were all the ingredients for Strawberry Shortcake!
The cream for this cake is delicious. It is made with heavy cream and crème fraiche. Yep, if you are raising your eyebrow questioningly right now, this is no low calorie dessert. After several finger licking samples, I was pretty excited about the quality of the rest of this dessert recipe. This cream filling recipe sure did taste good.
There was one mistake that I made with this cake. He specifically remembered as a child that the strawberry filling soaked into the cake making it all that more wonderful. I spooned on the cream filling first and then the strawberry filling on top of that. Next time, oh and there will be a next time, I will try to add the strawberry filling first so that it is directly on top of the cake.
It was a special weekend for another reason in addition to the Father’s Day holiday. We had some very special friends in town and they were joining us for our Father’s day barbecue dinner. One rolled stone back, when we were living in Kansas City, we spent day after day with these friends at more ballet rehearsals and performances than we can now count. Wonderful times with wonderful friends and we were eager to spend a day with them again.
My family asked in earnest for me to make a new recipe that I recently tried out for focaccia bread. That recipe and photos are coming soon. It is a delicious recipe so that was added to our dinner menu as well.
It was so much fun bringing out the Strawberry Shortcake as a surprise. I said I was leaving the table to get the Banana Bread Pudding but instead came out with my Mammie Moo attempt at her cake. I knew that the strawberries didn’t soak into the cake like I had hoped so I did have some sugar-soaked strawberry slices to add to the top of each slice.
What a wonderful day in Houston. Great friends, great food and a happy memory to hold onto this special Father’s Day. It is hitting us hard this year that we have one year left as a complete four-some before our daughter heads off to college. Times like this around the table become more precious as we approach each holiday.
- 1¼ cups all-purpose flour
- 2½ tsp. baking powder
- ⅛ tsp. salt
- 5 eggs, separated
- 1¼ cups granulated sugar
- 5 Tbs. boiling water
- 1½ tsp. vanilla extract
- Grated zest of 2 lemons
- 2 cups fresh strawberries, hulled and thinly
- sliced, plus more for garnish
- 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
- 4 to 6 Tbs. granulated sugar
- 2 cups crème fraîche
- ⅔ cup heavy whipping cream
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- Confectioners' sugar for dusting
- Preheat an oven to 350°F. Line the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper.
- To make the cake, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip together the egg yolks and sugar on high speed until thick; the mixture will still be grainy. Reduce the speed to medium-low and add the boiling water.
- Turn off the mixer and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
- Increase the speed to high and whip again until thick.
- Stir in the vanilla extract and lemon zest.
- Reduce the speed to low and stir in the flour mixture.
- In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites on medium-low speed until frothy.
- Increase the speed to medium-high and whip until thick and smooth; the mixture should not look dry. Fold half of the whites into the batter, then fold in the remaining whites.
- Gently spread the batter in the prepared pan.
- (Snippet's Notes: I used a springform pan with the removal bottom and that worked well) Bake until a wooden skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 30 minutes.
- Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the inside edge of the pan and remove the ring.
- Invert the cake and remove the base of the pan. Carefully peel off the parchment. Transfer the cake to a wire rack and let cool completely. Using a serrated knife, cut the cake horizontally into 3 layers.
- (Snippet's Notes: It was very difficult to get 3 even layers. Next time, I will try using a piece of dental floss. Wrap the floss around the cake, cross the floss, and gently pull it through the body of the cake.)
- Stir in the lemon juice and 2 Tbs. of the granulated sugar. Taste for sweetness; depending on the berries' ripeness, you may need to add an additional 1 to 2 Tbs. more sugar.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the crème fraîche, cream, vanilla and the remaining 2 Tbs. granulated sugar.
- Whip on medium-high speed until soft peaks form and the cream holds its shape. (Snippet's Notes: Be careful not to over whip or you will have an entire bowl of sweetened butter!)
- Place 1 cake layer on a cake stand or serving plate.
- Arrange one-third of the strawberries and their juices over the cake. Spread one-third of the cream over the berries.
- Repeat the layering process with the remaining 2 cake layers, berries and cream, ending with a layer of cream.
- Before serving, dust the top of the cake with confectioners' sugar and garnish with additional berries. Cut with a serrated knife.
Sarah is an adventurous food photographer and writer who has moved six times with her family from the U.S. to Wales, Japan and back. They are affectionately known as "The Rolling Stones". She is a passionate chef who thinks that their experiences living in Louisiana, Michigan, New York, Missouri, Kansas, and now Texas culminate in shared meals and tales around the table as her family experiences each regions offerings of cuisine and culture. Texas is her current stop and good food and good times are a passion of this southern state. She writes about her foodie adventures in her blog "Snippets of Thyme".