|Mile High Strawberry Shortcake|
Last year for Spring Break we visited Assateague and Chincoteague barrier Islands, off the coast of Maryland and Virginia. Ever heard of the wild ponies of Chincoteague? Remember the children's novels, Misty of Chincoteague, King of the Wind, and others by Marguerite Henry? Well, here is where these stories take place. And yes, there are real herds of wild ponies running around the island of Chincoteague! How they came to the islands is still a bit of a mystery, although one legend theorizes is that a Spanish ship carrying horses and treasure sunk off shore and the ponies found their way to the island. It was so fun, especially for my daughter who had read these books, to see the real thing! We took a few bike rides and a boat ride around the island giving us a nice sense of the simple way of life on these little islands. We saw how oysters are "grown" out on mounds in the bay and enjoyed several fresh oysters, an acquired taste, in local restaurants. We ate our way through the local diners on the islands, as one gastronomical wonder caught my eye. An amazing, tall, strawberry cake. It had a beautiful top full of whole strawberries. And that was the moment of inspiration for this cake! All thanks goes to the wild ponies of Chincoteague and an unknown baker who baked a beautiful cake.
2 sticks butter, room temperature
3 cups flour
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/3 cup buttermilk, room temperature
4 pounds fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 cups heavy cream
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 pound whole strawberries, washed and dried
Preheat oven to 350 degrees, with rack in center position. Using two 9 inch round cake pans, trace shapes of cake pans onto parchment paper. Cut out 2 round circles to fit in bottom of pans. Cut two long strips of parchment paper to fit around sides of pans. Butter the two 9 inch round cake pans. Stick parchment paper onto inside of pans. Butter parchment paper and dust with flour or spray with bakers spray with flour. Stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In electric mixer, beat butter and sugar on high speed until light and fluffy. Scrape down sides and beat again. Add eggs one at a time and beat well after each addition. Beat in flour mixture alternating with buttermilk beginning and ending with the flour. Beat in vanilla. Divide batter between cake pans and bake about 40 minutes. Transfer to wire racks and let cool in pans for 20 minutes. Run a butter knife around sides of cake pans and invert onto racks, slowly remove parchment and cool.
Combine sliced strawberries and sugar in a bowl. Stir in lemon juice and a pinch of salt. Let stand for 30 minutes. Puree half of the strawberry mixture in a food processor or blender. Stir sliced strawberries and pureed strawberries together in one bowl and set aside. Whip cream until soft peaks form and add sugar, vanilla and cream of tartar.
Slice cakes in half horizontally. Place one bottom piece of cake cut side up on a cake platter.
Spread 1/3 of the sliced strawberry mixture over bottom layer of cake.
Top with 1/4 of the whipped cream mixture. Add another layer of cake cut side up and repeat with layers of strawberry mixture and cream. When you get to the last piece of cake. Place cake cut side down. Spread top of cake with remainder of the whipped cream mixture. Garnish the top of the cake. Trim one strawberry at a time, by cutting off 1/4 of the strawberry at the leafy green end. Arrange strawberries cut side down in a tight formation on top of cake. Refrigerate uncovered for at least 2 hours before serving.