Monday, July 4, 2011

3 Weeks Down, 101 To Go…and a Recipe for Strawberry Summer Cake

Happy Independence Day Americans! July 4th has always been one of my favorite holidays. As Americans we give ourselves permission to get outside in the sunshine, go to the pool, lake or other body of water, wear our swimsuits all weekend, have summer foods such as hot dogs and homemade ice cream all while enjoying time with friends and family. To top it all off, we watch the grand fireworks displays and go “Ohhh, ahhh, so pretty!” Good stuff all around.

This July 4th, since I’m living in a foreign land, I wasn’t sure how this holiday would be celebrated, if at all. Lindsay and I had tossed about the idea of hosting a party with all-American foods, but that seemed to fizzle a bit since we really didn’t get a good head start on the planning. As the weekend approached, we ended up making plans to go out to a nightclub one night and then to spend the night on the beach the next night.

The nightclub was fun, but really, not very July 4th inspired. People here dance and drink too much just like they do in America, but there are also all kinds of social rules that make things a bit more interesting. Not to mention the fact that since most of the people don’t seem to speak really great English, when you’re yelling over the music it’s twice as hard to have a decent conversation…things get lost in translation or just aren’t understood at all.

Personally, I was looking forward to the beach. I was anticipating swimming in the warm waters of the Persian Gulf in the dark, laying under the stars on my new beach towel and just having a good time with my new friends. We did all that, and it was a great night, but the real treat came when someone down the beach from us shot off some fireworks. Yes, this American girl who seems to miss home a bit too much at times, got to see fireworks for July 4th weekend. Granted, it was only 5-6 fireworks, shot one at a time, but it made me so content and happy to know that even in this land, far away, I was able to experience a bit of an American tradition. To know that not everything would be have to be sacrificed for this experience, that there would be glimpses of home even in the desert, made me a bit giddy inside. I watched each one wide-eyed with a huge grin on my face.

In honor of the weekend and home, I’m posting a recipe that I made while I was home in California, waiting for this adventure to begin. It’s a super yummy Strawberry Summer Cake from Smitten Kitchen. I made this one day after going to the farmer’s market with my mom. We bought the sweetest, early season strawberries! I adore strawberries and I didn’t want any of them to go to waste, so after I ate some, covered some in chocolate and still had some leftover I searched for a recipe that would let the strawberries shine. Smitten Kitchen has never disappointed me, so I went with her recipe.

The results were great! The cake was light and moist, yet let the warm strawberries shine as the star. It was best when slightly warm and topped with a dollop of whipped cream. But who am I kidding, it was also great direct from the pan the next day too. It would be a great pot-luck recipe because it can be made ahead of time, uses “normal” ingredients, keeps really well and is easy to serve (not messy).

Give this one a try…If fruit wasn’t so expensive here and our oven wasn’t on the fritz, I may have just tried to make this one for the beach…then again, our peaches and grapes from Tunisia were pretty good all on their own.
Strawberry Summer Cake

A slice of Strawberry Summer Cake

Enjoy the holiday my American friends!

Recipe: Strawberry Summer Cake
Source: Smitten Kitchen

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for pie plate
1 1/2 cups (188 grams) all-purpose flour 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 cup (200 grams) plus 2 tablespoons (25 grams) granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup (118 ml) milk
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
1 pound (450 grams) strawberries, hulled and halved

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 10-inch pie pan or 9-inch deep-dish pie pan (what I used). I did not test this with a standard 9-inch pie plate but looking at the margin of space leftover in my deep-dish pan after baking the cake, I suspect you’d be safe. This cake would also work in a 9- or 10-inch springform or cake pan. The 10-inch would make a thinner cake than pictured.

Whisk flour or flours, baking powder and salt together in a small bowl. In a larger bowl, beat butter and 1 cup sugar until pale and fluffy with an electric mixer, about 3 minutes. Mix in egg, milk and vanilla until just combined. Add dry mixture gradually, mixing until just smooth.

Pour into prepared pie plate. Arrange strawberries, cut side down, on top of batter, as closely as possible in a single layer (though I had to overlap a few to get them all in). Sprinkle remaining 2 tablespoons sugar over berries.

Bake cake for 10 minutes then reduce oven temperature to 325°F and bake cake until golden brown and a tester comes out free of wet batter, about 50 minutes to 60 minutes. (Gooey strawberries on the tester are a given.) Let cool in pan on a rack. Cut into wedges. Serve with lightly whipped cream.

With Love,

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