Red, White & Blueberry Cake

Red, White & Blueberry CakeThe Fourth of July is just a few days away, y’all! While you may be thinking about vacation or grilling or how to keep your dog safe during the fireworks, I am over here thinking about—what else—cake! Red, White & Blueberry Cake, to be specific. Yes, a layer cake that is loaded with strawberries, blueberries, and tons of whipped cream. It showcases some peak summer produce and looks pretty patriotic, too! This is my kind of Independence Day dessert.

Red, White & Blueberry CakeThe cake itself if a classic white cake. I used my Vanilla Layer Cake as a starting point, manipulating the recipe until I had a light, fluffy result. The most significant change is that there are no whole eggs in the recipe; if there were, the cake wouldn’t be white! Only egg whites are used here. They are whipped to the point where they hold stiff peaks before being folded into the batter. The air in the whipped egg whites, along with a hefty dose of baking powder and sifted dry ingredients, will keep the resulting cake light and airy.

Red, White & Blueberry CakeWhile the egg whites give the cake tons of structure, their complete lack of fat has the potential to dry it out. I did a few things to counteract this:

  • I reduced the flour. Egg whites provide tons of structure in baked goods, so I was confident that cutting a bit of the flour wouldn’t affect the cake’s ability to bake properly.
  • I used butter and oil. I wanted this cake to have a buttery flavor, but as butter is 15% water, I was concerned that the results could be dry. This recipe requires 3/4 cup melted butter and 1/4 cup neutral-flavored oil, like vegetable or canola oil. This small amount of oil keeps the cakes nice and moist.
  • I used a combination of regular milk and sour cream in place of buttermilk. Sour cream’s thick texture and fat content keep this cake super moist. Also, as it has been “soured,” when combined with milk, it mimics the tenderizing qualities of buttermilk.

But enough about the chemistry of cake batter. This white cake is crazy delicious—soft, buttery, and flavored with vanilla and almond extracts (you can leave the almond extract out if you have a tree nut allergy). It would be spectacular with a little vanilla buttercream, but that’s not the direction we’re going in today.

Red, White & Blueberry CakeInstead of frosting this cake with buttercream, we’re using Whipped Cream Frosting! It’s a lot like regular whipped cream, except that it won’t weep or slouch after an hour or two. Many recipes for Whipped Cream Frosting require gelatin, but I don’t care for the texture it produces. Instead, our whipped cream is stabilized with sour cream. This adjustment allows for the whipped cream to hold up for days! Just beat some heavy cream, confectioner’s sugar, and vanilla until soft peaks form, and then use a handheld whisk to incorporate the sour cream until you achieve stiff peaks. Don’t be tempted to add the sour cream all at once—this will deflate your whipped cream. Instead, add it by the spoonful. This sounds tedious, but it really doesn’t take long at all.

For those of you who do not care for the flavor of sour cream, know that I don’t either. Its flavor here is very subtle, especially when combined with the white cake and berries. If you really don’t wish to use it, you may substitute creme fraiche or cream cheese.

Red, White & Blueberry CakeRed, White & Blueberry CakeRed, White & Blueberry CakeTo assemble the cake, slice both baked layers equatorially so that you have four very thin layers. If the idea of slicing a cake layer in half intimidates you, just know that they don’t have to be perfect—mine certainly were not! Just do your best. Lay one cut-side up on a serving plate (or a cake round, if you are me and can’t fit a serving plate in your fridge). Top the layer with some sliced strawberries and a few tablespoons of blueberries before spreading whipped cream frosting over the top. It may seem illogical to put the fruit directly on the cake, but it allows the berries’ juices to soak into the cake instead of breaking down the whipped cream. This is just insurance that your leftovers won’t get gross in the refrigerator. Repeat the layering process two more times before placing your last thin layer cut-side down. Use the rest of the whipped cream to frost the cake. I went for the naked cake look, but you may do whatever you like. Make sure to decorate with more berries!

Red, White & Blueberry Cake
Sliced 15 minutes after assembly.
Red, White & Blueberry Cake
Sliced after chilling in the refrigerator for a few hours.
Red, White & Blueberry Cake may be served immediately after assembly, but know that the whipped cream frosting may squish out the sides a bit. This doesn’t bother me one bit, but know that a couple hours in the refrigerator will help the cake stay more intact.

Look at that! Cake, berries, whipped cream, and a little patriotic flair. Add fireworks and you’re in for a great Fourth of July.Red, White & Blueberry Cake

Red, White & Blueberry Cake
makes 1 9″ round layer cake

To Grease the Pans:
2 tablespoons neutral-flavored oil
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Cake:
2 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cornstarch
2 cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1/4 cup neutral-flavored oil (I like canola)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
1 1/2 cups milk (not skim or fat-free)
1/2 cup full-fat sour cream
4 large egg whites, room temperature

Whipped Cream Frosting:
3 cups heavy cream, cold
4-6 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup full-fat sour cream

For Assembly:
1 pound fresh strawberries, hulled and thinly sliced
6 ounces fresh blueberries

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease the pans. In a small bowl, use a fork to whisk together oil and flour. Use a pastry brush to apply a thin layer to the entire insides of two 9-inch round cake pans. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, cornstarch, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Sift together four times. Do not skip this step. Set aside.

In a separate large mixing bowl, whisk together melted butter, oil, vanilla and almond extracts, sour cream, and milk. Set aside.

Place egg whites in a clean, dry medium-large mixing bowl. Use the whisk attachment on an electric mixer to beat egg whites on medium-high speed until they hold stiff peaks. Do not over mix. Set aside.

Fold dry ingredients into wet in three installments, scraping down the bowl as necessary. Carefully fold half the whipped egg whites into the batter, followed by the other half.

Divide the batter evenly into the prepared pans. Lightly tap each pan on the counter a couple of times just to help any large air bubbles dissipate. Bake for 32-37 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centers comes out clean. Let cakes cool in the pans for fifteen minutes before running a small, thin knife around the edge of the pans and inverting the layers onto a rack. Allow to cool completely.

Make the whipped cream frosting. Combine heavy cream, confectioner’s sugar, and vanilla in a large mixing bowl. Use an electric mixer to beat mixture until soft peaks form. Switch to use a hand whisk. Add sour cream by the spoonful, whipping until stiff peaks form.

Slice cake layers in half equatorially. Lay one cut-side up on a serving dish or cake round. Top with about 1/3 of the strawberry slices and 3-4 tablespoons blueberries. Drop large spoonfuls of whipped cream over the top and spread them out with an offset icing spatula. Repeat this process two more times. Place the last layer on the top cut-side down. Frost and decorate with berries as desired. Serve or refrigerate immediately.

Leftover cake will keep in the refrigerator for up to two days.

Brown Butter Strawberry Shortcakes

Brown Butter Strawberry ShortcakesFather’s Day is coming up! Normally, I would write a sappy post about my dad (he’s a great guy–see here and here), but he’s a little Internet shy. I don’t blame him. So, instead of writing about him and a dessert he would love, I’m going in the opposite direction.

Brown Butter Strawberry ShortcakesMy dad doesn’t care for strawberries, so in order to keep him out of this post, I am bringing you Strawberry Shortcakes. But not just any old strawberry shortcakes–these little guys are made with brown butter. See those gorgeous golden brown biscuits? They’re full of the stuff.

Brown Butter Strawberry ShortcakesSo, how exactly does one make biscuits with brown butter? Well, logically, you start by browning the butter. Place a stick of butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat, and then babysit it. No, helicopter parent it. It will melt and bubble and sputter for a few minutes, and you need to be swirling it frequently. Don’t leave the room, don’t check your work emails, don’t strike up a conversation with your roommate. You need to watch that butter. Just when you think it’s not going to do anything beyond splatter your stovetop, the solids in it will turn brown and give off an incredibly rich, nutty aroma. That’s how you’ll know it’s ready. Immediately pour it into a little bowl–don’t let it sit in the pan or it will burn. Burnt butter is not delicious.

Brown Butter Strawberry ShortcakesOnce that brown butter isn’t searing hot anymore, place it in the fridge. Unlike most recipes calling for brown butter, this recipe will not work if the butter is liquid. For our biscuits to be flaky (instead of brown butter-flavored hockey pucks), it needs to solidify and be very cold. This will take a few hours. I recommend browning the butter the night before you want to use it. That way there’s no waiting the next day.

Brown Butter Strawberry ShortcakesMaking brown butter biscuits is a lot like making Buttermilk Biscuits. Whisk together flour, baking powder, a few tablespoons of brown sugar (these are decidedly sweet), and a touch of salt. Use a pastry blender or your fingertips to cut the cold brown butter into the dry ingredients, before stirring in some cold half-and-half. I don’t recommend using milk in this recipe. When the butter browns, its water content evaporates. Using a liquid with a higher fat content helps restore some of that lost moisture.

Brown Butter Strawberry ShortcakesBrown Butter Strawberry ShortcakesTurn the dough onto a floured surface. Pat it out and give it a few folds to ensure flakiness before cutting it into rounds. Pat your leftovers back together and cut them again–you should get about a dozen biscuits. Place them close together on a lined baking sheet, brush them with more half-and-half and sprinkle coarse sugar over the tops. Bake them for 12-14 minutes, just until puffed and golden.

Brown Butter Strawberry ShortcakesWhile the biscuits are baking, fold together a ton of sliced strawberries and a bit of sugar. Cover the bowl in plastic wrap and let them sit. This is called macerating—it will allow the berries to release a lot of moisture, creating a delicious strawberry syrup. The longer they sit, the more liquid there will be. The strawberries pictured only sat for half an hour, but you can do this up to a day in advance; just let the berries macerate in the fridge.

Brown Butter Strawberry ShortcakesBrown Butter Strawberry ShortcakesWhen your biscuits are cool and your strawberries are to your liking, whip some cream. Slice the biscuits in half and layer them with the strawberries and whipped cream—there are no hard and fast rules about how much of each, at least as far as I’m concerned. Just pile them up how you like them, and then dig in!

Brown Butter Strawberry ShortcakesY’all, these Brown Butter Strawberry Shortcakes are in. sane. INSANE. Beyond the absolute perfection that is the combination of strawberries and whipped cream, there are the incredible brown butter biscuits. They are lightly sweet, but rich from the brown sugar and the nutty brown butter. Layered with the berries and cream—well, they’re about as wonderful as strawberry shortcake gets. Even my dad might like ‘em.Brown Butter Strawberry Shortcakes

Brown Butter Strawberry Shortcakes
makes 12 servings

Brown Butter:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

Brown Butter Biscuits:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
3 tablespoons light or dark brown sugar, packed
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup brown butter, solid, very cold
2/3-3/4 cup half-and-half, very cold, plus more for brushing
1 tablespoon coarse sugar (like turbinado), for sprinkling

Strawberries:
1 1/2 pounds (24 ounces) fresh strawberries, hulled and quartered (about 4-5 cups)
1/3 cup granulated sugar

Whipped Cream:
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1-2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Brown the butter. Place butter in a light-colored saucepan over medium heat. Let butter melt. Butter will bubble and crackle as the water content evaporates. Swirl the pan frequently for 5-7 minutes, keeping an eye on the color. When the solids are turning brown and the butter is nutty and fragrant, remove the pot from the heat and immediately pour the brown butter into a small bowl. Let the butter cool to room temperature before refrigerating until solid and very cold, several hours or overnight.

Make the biscuits. Preheat oven to 400F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone baking mat. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, brown sugar, and salt. Add cold brown butter. Use a pastry blender or clean fingertips to cut the butter into the flour until the largest pieces are the size of small peas. Stir in 2/3 cup half-and-half. Add more half-and-half by the tablespoon (up to 2 tablespoons), until no unincorporated bits remain.

Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Pat it to 1/2-inch thickness. Fold it in half and give it a quarter turn (more details on this process here). Repeat patting and folding until you have done it 3-4 times total. Use a 2 1/2-inch round cutter to cut biscuits. Pat scraps back together and cut a few more. Place biscuits close together on the prepared pan. Brush them with more half-and-half and sprinkle with coarse sugar. Bake 12-14 minutes, until puffed and golden. Let biscuits cool in the pan on a rack until they reach room temperature.

While the biscuits are baking, fold strawberries and sugar together in a medium mixing bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for up to an hour. This may also be done a day in advance—just let the strawberries macerate in the refrigerator.

When the biscuits are cool and the strawberries are ready, whip the cream. In a large mixing bowl, combine heavy cream, vanilla, and sugar. Use an electric mixer on medium-high speed to whip cream until soft peaks form.

Assemble shortcakes. Slice biscuits in half. Lay the bottom half of a biscuit on a plate. Top with strawberries and whipped cream. Place the top half of the biscuit over the top. Spoon on more strawberries and whipped cream. Repeat with remaining biscuits. Serve immediately.

Strawberry Rhubarb Galette

Strawberry Rhubarb GaletteMy mother is not a baker. If the main ingredients in a recipe are flour, sugar, and butter, she’ll pass or politely ask someone else to make it. That’s why I found it so funny when Shari’s Berries asked me to pass along this Mother’s Day post featuring baking advice from the mothers of popular food bloggers, including Sally of Sally’s Baking Addiction and Michelle from Brown Eyed Baker. Their mothers impart some great advice–my favorite is “Don’t be afraid to mess up!” from Yossi Arefi’s mom. That’s great advice for life in general.

Strawberry Rhubarb GaletteWhen I first got into baking, my mom was left scratching her head. She’s a great cook, but baking just frustrates her. How I grew up to be a baker, I don’t know. It’s probably some sort of cosmic middle child joke.

I have seen my mother bake exactly one thing: a classic cherry-pineapple dump cake. Except that my mother, ever a lady, would never serve something called “dump cake.” Instead she takes a tip from her mother, tops it with vanilla ice cream, and calls it “Simply Delicious.” That’s what it is, after all. I guess my mom’s lone piece of baking advice–besides “don’t”–would be that if you don’t like the name of your dessert, change it.

Strawberry Rhubarb GaletteStrawberry Rhubarb GaletteStrawberry Rhubarb GaletteNo, my mother is not a baker. But when all is said and done, my mom and I, we’re not so different. For one, we’re both caretakers by nature. We express love in acts of service which, incidentally, is also the form in which we receive love. If you mention to my mom that you are struggling with something, she’ll be right there with you, trying to figure it out. If she perceives that you are overwhelmed, she’ll send you flowers or a goofy card. That doesn’t mean she doesn’t occasionally neglect her own needs and make herself crazy because she’s trying to help someone else–that’s something that her mother did before she did and a habit of mine as well. 

Just know that if my mom does you a favor or sends you a gift or calls at 11pm on a Wednesday just because she wants to say hello, it’s because she really values you. And if I make you a pie and put it on the internet for a holiday we can’t even celebrate together, know that it’s because I really value you.

Strawberry Rhubarb GaletteStrawberry Rhubarb GaletteStrawberry Rhubarb GaletteStrawberry Rhubarb GaletteAnother way my mother and I are alike? We both prefer fruit desserts over chocolate.* When I started planning what I’d make for my Mother’s Day post, I really thought about what my mom would like to eat. Strawberry rhubarb pie quickly came to mind, with a whole wheat crust, because my mom will take extra nutrition anywhere she can get it, even in dessert.

*Know that my little sister is rolling her eyes as she reads this.

Strawberry Rhubarb GaletteInstead of making pie, something that my mom would literally never attempt, I went for a simple, rustic Strawberry Rhubarb Galette. Free-form pies are definitely my mom’s style. There’s no crimping or anything–just lay the rolled dough on a baking sheet, pile the filling in the middle, and gather it all together with your hands. Bake it for 45 minutes and let it cool before serving.

My mom, a self-proclaimed vanilla person, would insist on a scoop of vanilla ice cream to go with her slice of this sweet-tart classic dessert. I would too. My mom and I–we’re more alike than we are different.Strawberry Rhubarb GaletteStrawberry Rhubarb Galette

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom! I love you waaaaay more than chocolate. XOXO

Strawberry Rhubarb Galette
makes 1 galette, 8 servings

2 cups fresh strawberries, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 16 ounces)
1 cup fresh rhubarb, trimmed, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 1-2 stalks)
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
4 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (about 1 lime)
1/2 recipe Whole Wheat Pie Dough, or other good crust
milk, for brushing
1 tablespoon coarse sugar, for sprinkling (I used turbinado)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
vanilla ice cream, for serving, if desired

Arrange oven racks in the upper and lower positions. Preheat oven to 375F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.

Combine strawberries and rhubarb in a large mixing bowl. Add sugar, ginger, nutmeg, salt, cornstarch, and lime juice. Stir together with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon and let sit for 15 minutes at room temperature.

Flour a surface and a rolling pin. Roll pie dough out until it is 1/8-inch thick. Trim scraggly edges, if desired. Transfer to prepared pan. Use a slotted spoon to remove strawberry rhubarb filling from the bowl, leaving behind excess liquid. Mound filling in the middle of the dough, leaving at least 2 inches of excess on all sides. Fold dough over the sides of the filling, to contain it. Brush exposed crust with milk and sprinkle with coarse sugar. Dot exposed filling with butter.

Bake galette on the upper rack for 25 minutes. Tent galette with aluminum foil and move to the lower rack. Bake for 20-25 more minutes. Crust will firm up as the galette cools.

Let galette cool completely in the pan on a rack. Remove to a cutting board. Slice and serve with vanilla ice cream, if desired.

Pie will keep covered at room temperature for three days, or in the refrigerator for up to four.

Triple Berry Breakfast Crumble

 As far as I’m concerned, there’s nothing better than an early morning summer walk in New York. I rarely work before 3pm, so it becomes a daily ritual this time of year. Everybody else in Brooklyn Heights is sweating in their business clothes on their way to catch the subway, but I’m in yoga pants and Birkenstocks with an iced coffee in-hand, on my way to the green market for fresh berries. 

That’s my speed on weekday mornings: a quick stroll of the neighborhood, a little shopping, and then home to make breakfast with whatever looks best at the market. It’s a luxurious way to start the day–a fact of which I am far too aware–and I have no intention of wasting a minute of it. One of these days, I’ll likely have a job that requires me to get out of the house bright and early, but until then, I’m going to enjoy my walk, drink too much coffee, and come home to make Triple Berry Breakfast Crumble. 

This crumble is perfect for summer–fresh strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries are coated in a sweet orange mixture and topped with an oat and almond crumble, then baked until bubbly. The berries burst as they bake and create a beautiful red, orange-scented sauce. The topping gets brown and crunchy. Spooned into a bowl with your favorite yogurt (I’m partial to Siggi’s), this crumble is a perfectly delicious way to start the day.

I know what you’re thinking. Aren’t crumbles traditionally served for dessert? Well, yes. And this one would be great with a scoop of ice cream. But why wait all day when you can enjoy it first thing?! This recipe serves six and has less than 1/2 cup sugar. And if that’s not enough to sway you, the crumble is 100% whole grain. It’s made primarily of oats and white whole wheat flour, with five tablespoons of butter to hold it all together. Oh, and there are almonds for a little extra protein. I’m no nutritionist, but that all sounds pretty healthy to me.

Triple Berry Breakfast Crumble can be made start-to-finish in 45 minutes, which means that it’s perfect for a casual summer brunch, but can also be made on a Sunday night and reheated all week long. It’s excellent cold too, so you can pack your portion to-go without wondering if there’s a microwave at your destination. Make this crumble this summer–it’s a little taste of luxury any day of the week. 

  Triple Berry Breakfast Crumble
adapted from Breakfast Apricot Crisp by Deb Perelman
makes one 9-inch pie plate, about six servings

Filling:

16 ounces fresh strawberries, hulled and quartered
1 pint fresh blueberries
6 ounces fresh raspberries
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
1 tablespoon fresh orange zest
1 tablespoon fresh orange juice

Crumble:
1/2 cup old fashioned oats
1/2 cup white whole wheat flour*
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
2 tablespoons sliced almonds, optional
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, very cold, cubed

yogurt, for serving

Preheat oven to 400F. Grease a 9-inch pie plate. Set aside.

Combine strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries in a large mixing bowl. Add sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, orange zest and juice, and use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to gently stir it all together. Transfer berry mixture to prepared pie plate. Set aside.

Make the crumble. In a small mixing bowl, stir together oats, flour, sugar, salt, and almonds. Use a pastry blender or two forks to cut butter into mixture until the largest chunks are the size of small peas. Distribute crumble evenly over the top of the filling.

Place a rimmed baking sheet on the bottom rack of the oven to collect any overflow. Place assembled crumble on the top rack. Bake 30 minutes, tenting with foil if the crumble starts to brown too quickly. Let cool 10 minutes before serving with yogurt.

Triple Berry Breakfast Crumble will keep covered in the refrigerator for up to five days.