In southern New Jersey, strawberry fields are abloom. Row after row of dense green leaves are punctuated by red, ripe berries awaiting picking. Folks of all ages, sporting wide-brimmed hats, can be found kneeling in the soft, sandy soil filling their buckets and baskets with the first fruit gems of late spring.
Strawberries are luscious enough to stand on their own as a sweet treat. However, my fresh-picked strawberries most often find their way atop one of my favorite cakes, “Vita’s Pantry Pound Cake.” I call this cake a half-pound cake. It’s lighter than its cousin, the traditional butter-laden pound cake. Just perfect to show off the season’s first bounty of fruit.
Fresh Strawberry Topping
4 cups fresh strawberries
1/2 cup sugar and 1 cup water
Place cleaned strawberries in a bowl. Make a simple syrup by boiling together the sugar and water. Boil for 5 minutes. Allow syrup to cool. Add syrup to the bowl of strawberries and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. This allows the fruit to release its natural juices into the syrup. (This syrup is equivalent to the light syrup found in canned fruit. Increase the amount of sugar to 1 cup if you prefer heavy syrup.)
Vita’s Pantry Pound Cake
This recipe is courtesy of Gale Gand, host of the former Food Network show, “Sweet Dreams.” My recipe card for this cake is splattered with the tell-tale signs of a well-loved recipe. It is perfect as a frosted cake because it is not too heavy. I use this cake on many occasions.
NOTE: Do not grease and flour the pan. The cake will not rise properly. Trust me – been there – did that! I do, however, line the bottom of the tube pan with wax paper for easier removal.
1 cup milk
1/2 cup butter
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Use a 10-inch tube pan (preferably non-stick)
In a saucepan, bring the milk and butter to a boil.
Meanwhile, beat the eggs 5 to 7 minutes until light and very fluffy. (If you have a whip attachment on your mixer, use it.)
Add the sugar and vanilla and mix well. Then gradually add the flour.
Slowly drizzle in hot milk (to temper the eggs a little), then add baking powder. Pour into an ungreased tube pan with straight walls (not a Bundt pan). Bake 50-60 minutes – or until a cake tester comes out clean. Allow cake to cool for about 20 minutes before removing from pan.
FUN FACTS: Madame Tallien, a prominent woman in Emperor Napoleon’s court, was famous for taking baths of fresh strawberry juice. She used 22 pounds per basin. Source: http://www.temeculavalleystrawberryfarms.com/fun-facts-about-strawberries
Strawberries are the only fruit that wear their seeds on the outside. The average berry is adorned with some 200 of them. No wonder it only takes one bite to get seeds stuck in your teeth.
Strawberry photo courtesy of tiverylucky @freedigitalphoto.net