Strawberry cake for summer days
Serves four to six people.
2 packages (32 ounces) Sara Lee pound cake
2 cups Cool Whip or whipped cream
4 cups sliced strawberries or other fruit
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Slice cake into pieces, then brush each piece with lemon juice. Layer into large bowl or pan. Optionally sprinkle with sugar for extra sweetness.
2. Stir vanilla extract into Cool Whip or whipped cream. Using a flat knife or spatula, spread a layer of whipped topping over cake pieces.
3. Evenly add strawberries or other fruit over whipped topping. Optionally sprinkle sugar, cinnamon, mint or other flavorings over whipped topping.
4. Continue to layer the container with cake, whipped cream and fruit. Once you near the top of the container, add a final, thick layer of whipped topping. Artfully arrange the fruit slices as a final layer on top. Garnish with mint leaves or vanilla pods for extra flair.
5. Gently cover container and refrigerate for a few hours to overnight.
Summer is finally upon us. The gauzy days and nights ahead will be filled with backyard barbecues, whispering sprinklers, chirping crickets and plenty of outdoor fun.
When this column is published, we will be in the midst of the iconic Strawberry Days Festival in Glenwood Springs. After that, the Fourth of July and then the dog days of summer will come and go. Before we know it, the ethereal summertime will once again give way to autumn. We must make every moment count until then.
For me, Strawberry Days is the official start of summer here in my hometown. I typically run the annual 10k race, and then if my legs can take it, I like to aimlessly wander the vendors’ booths and sample the food. Sweet and salty kettle popcorn is always a favorite. I never miss a parade, and I love taking photographs of the ferris wheel at night. These are my experiences at Strawberry Days, but they are not complete until I have strawberry cake or ice cream.
Before much of anything was here, there used to be orchards. There is something about the rocky soil, intense sunshine and cool nights that certain fruit crops — such as strawberries — seem to love. I have never had much luck growing strawberries, simply because my piggy pug likes to eat them directly off of the plant. Other local farmers have had far more success, and they established Strawberry Days in 1898 to celebrate their favorite crop.
Even in those days before refrigeration, they always served strawberry ice cream to festival goers.
Sometimes, if you are lucky, you can also snag some strawberry shortcake. This summer delight is usually a combination of sliced strawberries, sugar, whipped cream, vanilla flavor and shortcake. Shortcake is best described as a crumbly cake that somewhat resembles a biscuit or cookie. It is pretty dry and usually not sweetened, so it can absorb the sweet juices and flavors of accompanying fruit. I have found that it is not always easy to get strawberry shortcake in stores, and it is usually only available at special events such as our beloved Strawberry days.
Shortcake is not difficult to make, but it does require extra preparation. Many years ago, I was invited to a July Fourth summer block party. I was instructed to bring strawberry shortcake or something similar that could be patriotically decorated. I could not locate shortcake nor did I have the time to make one, so I whipped up my own version that took less time to prepare and was a huge hit at the party. In honor of Strawberry Days, I am pleased to share with you my take on strawberry (short)cake.
Like many of my recipes, this one has many possible variations. The basic ingredients can be substituted at will with delicious results almost guaranteed. I like to use Sara Lee “All Butter Pound Cake” as my shortcake substitute. It is dense and crumbly, which helps it hold up after being soaked with the strawberries. Pound cake is sweeter than shortcake, so I brush lemon juice on each slice to counteract the sweetness. The lemon juice also gives the cake a more bright and complex flavor. If you do not want to use pound cake, you can use angel food cake or a similar white cake. I have tried this before, and it is very satisfying. The angel food cake soaks up more juice than pound cake, but it can still hold its shape. Keep this in mind with any kind of cake that you want to use.
This dessert is made in layers of cake, whipped cream and strawberries or other fruits. For a nice presentation, you can use a large glass bowl or dish. Slice the cake into pieces that will fit your bowl or dish. Brush each piece of cake with fresh lemon juice. If you want to add extra sweetness, then sprinkle some sugar on top of the cake. After you lay down the first layer of cake, spread on a thick layer of whipped cream. I like to use Cool Whip instead of whipped cream, because it is stiffer and also holds up better to the strawberries or other fruits. I also sometimes mix in vanilla flavoring, mint or cinnamon into the whipped topping.
Once the whipped topping is spread, generously layer on the fruit. If you want to keep it simple while honoring Strawberry Days, then only use strawberries. This can also be made patriotic for the Fourth by adding blueberries with the strawberries to achieve a red, white and blue color palette. Be creative and have fun with your fruit. Continue to layer the cake to fill your container, then add a final layer of whipped topping and fruit.
All of the best summer memories happen around food. Dessert is the strawberry on top of a celebration. This strawberry cake is a crowd pleaser and is very easy to make. If you miss out on the strawberries at Strawberry Days, then you can still indulge in this. Strawberry cake is made for these fleeting summer days, so join us in the celebration of Glenwood’s favorite fruit.
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