Thursday, July 7, 2011

Red, White, and Blueberry Shortcake


I was asked this weekend if it would be cheesy to wear a red dress to a 4th of July party. I was a little confused by the question because, for whatever reason, I think the 4th of July is the perfect holiday to embrace the theme—wear stripes, wave a flag, make a flag cake. Maybe because it's sort of big and loud, like our country, but I'd accept themed outfits and desserts more readily on the 4th of July than Valentine's Day or Christmas.


Or maybe, I'm accepting of it because the red and blue berries of summer are so easy to bake into a cake, it doesn't feel that theme-y or contrived. Either way, I carefully layered red strawberries, fluffy white whipped cream, and purple-y blue blueberries into a shortcake cake this weekend.


This cake combines the best parts of traditional shortcake into a towering cake. Not too sweet, it's the perfect palate for fresh summer berries and lightly sweetened whipped cream. So, even if it's a little cheesy to make a red, white and blue dessert for a 4th of July party, this cake will look (and taste) terrific with any kind or color of berry, for the rest of the summer.



Berry Shortcake Cake
adapted from this recipe by Ree Drummond

1 1/2 cup flour
3 tbsp corn starch
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
9 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 cup sour cream, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla

4 cups of berries, any variety
1 pint heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup confectioners sugar
1 envelope gelatin* (optional, see note at the bottom)

Make the cake:
Sift (or whisk) together flour, salt, baking soda, and corn starch. Set aside. With a mixer on medium speed, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, mixing after each addition. Add sour cream and vanilla, mix well. Add the dry ingredients and mix on low until just barely combined.

Pour into two (or three, depending on how tall you want your cake) greased and floured 9 inch cake pans. With a spatula, spread the batter as evenly as possible inside the pan, trying to get the top flat and even. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown and a tester inserted into the middle comes out clean. Invert immediately onto a cooling rack.

Prepare the berries:
While the cake cools, wash and cut the berries as necessary. For strawberries and raspberries, toss them in a tablespoon of sugar and let them sit while the cake cools. For blueberries and blackberries, I like to warm them over low heat with a little sugar and lemon juice so they'll release their juices.

Make the topping:
When the cakes are completely cool, prepare the whipped cream or stabilized whipped cream. For regular whipped cream, combine the confectioners sugar and heavy cream in the bowl of your mixer and beat at gradually increasing speeds until the cream is stiff, but still fluffy. For stabilized whipped cream, follow these directions.

Assemble the cake:
Place your first cake layer on your serving platter. Slipping a few piece of wax or parchment paper under the edge of the cake will help keep the platter clean. Spoon berries onto the cake, going all the way to the edge of the cake. Top with whipped cream. If desired, add another layer of berries. Top with the next layer of cake, berries, and whipped cream.

*Note: if you plan on serving the cake awhile after you assemble it, consider using whipped cream stabilized with gelatin. The gelatin in the whipped cream prevents "weeping" and helps the whipped cream hold its shape. But if you're serving the cake quickly, regular whipped cream will do just fine.

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