Roast Pork Shoulder with Star Anise and Soy Sauce

I went to a huge, popular science museum recently where there was a planetarium theater. The show I saw there was about the relationship between different ecosystems and consumers in the environment. The screen of the theater was huge; it felt like you were actually apart of the movie itself, which was nice. It was the overall message of the movie itself that had me feeling kinda, well…meh.

In a nutshell, the whole thing was one giant guilt trip for the way that humans burn through resources on the planet. Food, just about any and every kind of food takes a lot of energy, work and effort to produce. Humans not only eat too much of it, we waste too much of it. It’s more than the planet’s got to offer and if we don’t cut our consumption, alter our methods of collection and chill out overall, it’s all going to run out and we’ll be royally screwed.

No joke, that was legit the underlying, not-so-subtle point.

The movie heavily emphasized that to alleviate this concern, one of the main things we can all do is severely cut our consumption of meat–especially beef, and up our consumption of plant-based foods. Essentially, we should all become vegetarians.

Sigh.

Alright, so…listen. It’s not that I don’t get it. I do. Humans suck. We consume too much and produce too little. Heck, the US has a president, a whole damn administration and quite a few supporters who want to pretend that climate change is one big hoax that we don’t actually have to worry about.  It’s awful. I won’t deny it.

But. You see. Here’s the thing. Keeping it one hundred…

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I’m not giving up meat, B. It’s not gonna happen. I will likely be eating meat until the day I die an old lady in my bed, (or the day the president of my country gets us all killed in a nuclear war with Russia or North Korea). I tried to go vegetarian once. It ended badly for me and turned me into an…unpleasant person to be around to say the least. For all the vegetarians who follow my blog, I wish you nothing but the best and even thank you for lessening your planet footprint/ resource consumption.

But personally? The vegetarian lifestyle ain’t my ministry. I’m a carnivore, damn it.

Today’s recipe is one of those things that when I eat, I’m immediately reminded of how much I love meat and how hard (close to impossible) it would be for me to go without it. Apart from being pork shoulder (my favorite cut of the pig in general), the flavor combinations here are really unique and complex. Star anise is a sweetly fragrant, almost floral spice. It’s hard to explain the flavor if you’ve never used it before, but it’s something that goes well with both sweet and savory applications provided you don’t go overboard with it. It provides a great compliment to the saltiness of the soy and fish sauce that gets rubbed into the meat then set overnight in the fridge. I added a few of my other favorite spices to the mix to liven up the flavors, then the next day roasted the shoulder in the oven until it was tender and the aromas filling the kitchen were making me slobber.

We ate this dish with my recipe for Baked Egg Rolls that’s already on the blog and it was one of the best meals I’ve had in a very long time. Do yourself a favor and try it out for yourself.

This week’s Fiesta Friday #165  is co-hosted by Diann @ Of Goats and Greens and Monika @ Everyday Healthy Recipes. I’ll be sharing this dish at the link up. Have a good weekend, all.

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Roast Pork Shoulder with Star Anise and Soy Sauce

Recipe Courtesy of Bon Appetit

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Ingredients

  • 4 star anise pods
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
  • 1 7–8-pound skin-on, bone-in pork picnic shoulder
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

 

Directions 

Grind star anise and coriander seeds in either a coffee grinder or with mortar and pestle. Slice the  garlic, then mash to a paste using the side of a chef’s knife. Transfer to a small bowl and stir in the dry spices, soy sauce, fish sauce, and paprika.

Lightly score pork skin crosswise in a tight pattern with a very sharp knife, cutting through the skin and some fat, but taking care not to slash the meat itself. Transfer pork to a large Dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid or a roasting pan. Season liberally with salt and pepper and rub with marinade. Cover (use foil if using a roasting pan) and chill overnight.

Preheat oven to 425°. Place pork, covered, in oven; reduce oven temp to 300°. Roast pork, basting with juices every hour, until meat is fork-tender and bones are very loose, 5–5½ hours.

Uncover pork and increase temperature to 450°. Roast, basting every 5 minutes and adding water by ¼-cupfuls if juices become syrupy, until pork is dark brown and skin is crisp, 15–20 minutes.

Carefully transfer pork to a platter. Skim fat from pan juices and pour remaining juices over.

Pumpkin Cinnamon Crackers

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A few weeks back, I shared my first attempt at making crackers with you guys. They were a huge hit with my taste buds, and because they were just so easy to put together, I said that it made me enter into a cracker-making spree for the next few weeks or so where I tried out several other flavors & recipes.

You didn’t think I was playing, right? I’ve definitely tried like…three different cracker recipes and probably made close to about 100 since then. I’ve loved them all. And now, you guys are going to love them too. Trust me on that.

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So I did a quick Google Shopping search and as it turns out, pumpkin cinnamon flavored crackers are something that aren’t exactly in huge supply from the major cracker name brand producers. Triscuits has a limited edition Pumpkin Spice flavored Triscuit that they put out, but it’s a limited edition release that only gets exposure at, you guessed it: autumn.

It’s not autumn right now though. And suppose you’re like me and want to cure that pumpkin spice itch now and don’t feel like waiting for August?

I’ll tell you what you’re going to do: you’re going to make these and thank me later.

And if any one of you start to object and say that making your own crackers is too hard, time-consuming and a waste of effort–just…hush. Making crackers from scratch is actually simple. It’s worth it, guys. It really is. We’ve established that already with these curry and ginger crackers. That was my first attempt, it was a success, and to this day I still don’t know what took me so long to start doing this for myself.

It gets a bad rap from being so mass marketed in the fall, but I love pumpkin spice baked goods and there’s not a person who can make me feel bad about it.

A few tips: I used a teddy bear cookie cutter I had, but you can feel free to use any shape you like. You could even just cut them out into rough squares with a pizza cutter if you want, just don’t skip the step of pricking your shapes with the fork. You need the holes in the dough to help the heat circulate through the dough as it bakes and for air/steam to escape it, which will help them to crisp up better and avoid air pockets in the crackers themselves.

If you have a broiling pan, I’ve found that the top tray with the slats works REALLY WELL for baking crackers, even better than normal cookie sheets. The holes in the pan help the heat circulate better through the dough and nowadays, it’s my go to for them in general.

These are, of  course, ready to eat just as soon as they’re given time to cool crisp up, but I’ve found that the flavor does improve after they’ve sat for a few days. So if you can possibly help it and be patient, I’d put the cooled crackers in an air tight jar or bowl for about 2 days, then come back to them and go ham.

They’re not overly sweet as I wanted the flavor of the pumpkin and spices to come through, but you can always add about a tablespoon or two of extra sugar if you’re making them for kiddies or you just have an extra large sweet tooth yourself.

Oh, and yes: they are very yummy. I may or may have had trouble with portion control when eating them. I couldn’t possibly confirm, though.

Linking this post up to this week’s Fiesta Friday #164, co-hosted this week by the lovely  Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook.

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Pumpkin Cinnamon Crackers

Recipe Adapted from Pearls on a String

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Ingredients

  • One cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup whole wheat flour
  • Two teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 heaping teaspoon ground cinnamon (plus more for sprinkling)
  • Pinch cloves
  • One tablespoon brown sugar
  • Four tablespoons butter, room temperature
  • One cup pureed pumpkin (from the can is fine)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Coarse turbinado sugar for sprinkling

 

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a medium bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients and mix together with a fork. Set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer (or using a handheld one) beat the butter together with the pumpkin and vanilla extract until evenly combined (it’s fine if there are still bits of butter showing).

Slowly add in the dry ingredients. Switch to the dough hook and continue to beat until a ball of dough forms (it shouldn’t take very long)

Mold the dough ball into a thin disc, wrap the disc in plastic wrap and place in the freezer for about 30-45 minutes. Prepare 2 baking sheet with parchment paper.

Sprinkle a clean work surface  (like wax paper or a pastry mat) with flour, and flour a rolling pin as well. Roll the dough out to 1/8 inch thickness. Using a small cookie or biscuit cutter, cut out desired shapes for crackers and place the crackers on the prepared parchment paper baking sheets. Place the baking sheets in the freezer for about 15-20 minutes.

Using the tines of a fork, prick the crackers evenly, pressing through the dough to make holes. Sprinkle the tops with the coarse turbinado sugar. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown. (You can bake them longer for extra crunchy crackers, just be sure to cover them with foil so that they don’t get too browned or burn.)

Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Mexican Fried Chicken and Drop Biscuits

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Let me tell you guys something–something extremely important.

When it comes to food, there are very few things I love more than fried chicken and biscuits. I love the mashed potatoes and collard greens or green beans I’ll often eat alongside them. But honestly for me, the main stars of a meal even consisting of chicken and biscuits, are –without question–going to be the chicken and biscuits.

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The chicken biscuit is something that most people here in the States can get anywhere.

Chik-fil-A are famous for their chicken biscuits drizzled with the red sauce. I’ve been known to slice a Popeye’s biscuit and layer it with chicken I took off the bone of a spicy breast and drizzled with honey to make a sandwich. And KFC has…something. I think. I don’t know. Maybe. (Haven’t been there in *years*).

Maybe you’ve brought home a bucket of chicken from one of the above places, then served them with the refrigerated Grand’s biscuits. Maybe you made the chicken and used the refrigerated biscuits. Or, maybe you’ve done the reverse and made the biscuits, but bought the chicken.

No judgment here. All of the above are cool. I like Popeyes. I like the flaky-style Grand’s biscuits. And to be honest, frying chicken and making biscuits from scratch may be something that scares more than a few folks, and I’m sure there are others who just don’t think that making either from scratch is worth it.

While I don’t judge taking those shortcuts, you guys still know what I’m about to say, right? I mean, cooking IS my sport.

So, it stands to reason that I’m gonna say that making fried chicken from scratch at home, IS worth it. Making biscuits from scratch at home, IS worth it. Scared of making fried chicken from scratch? Even more scared of making biscuits from scratch?

Don’t be. I got you.

Here’s what I love about this recipe: it takes one of my favorite food combinations, and gives it a twist that is not only yummy, but pretty simple to pull off, especially where the biscuits are concerned. The chicken is set overnight in a buttermilk marinade that ensures it will be extra juicy and tender, then tossed in a flour breading that’s mixed in with Mexican seasonings (chili powder, cumin, oregano) and fried until golden brown and crisp.

Now I know in some of my past posts I’ve talked a bit about the technique of making scratch biscuits being key to ensuring that they turn out right. Typically, I will ALWAYS freeze my butter and use a box grater to cut it directly into the flour to ensure that the butter is evenly distributed. Then, I take care to knead the biscuits as little possible to make sure they don’t end up tough.

Maybe all of those above tips seem scary. Maybe you don’t have a box grater and don’t feel like getting one right this second. Maybe the idea of kneading dough AT ALL is a no-go.Guess what? You can STILL get great biscuits. With drop biscuits, there’s no freezing the butter, no grating it in, no kneading. It all comes together in one bowl and the dough is then scooped out with a 1/4 cup measure onto a baking sheet, and baked off just like that. They come out golden brown/craggy on the outside and soft/fluffy on the inside. They’re also near impossible to screw up.

As you guys can see, once I had this finished I took a big piece of the chicken, sliced a biscuit in half, plopped a few pickles on top, then shook some Frank’d Red Hot on, and had myself a pretty sensational chicken biscuit. Why not all of you do the same for yourselves?

(Linking up to Fiesta Friday #163)

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Mexican Fried Chicken and Drop Biscuits

Recipe Adapted from Chow.com and America’s Test Kitchen

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Ingredients

For the Fried Chicken

  • 3 cups buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 6 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 2 teaspoons dried Mexican oregano
  • 1 whole chicken (about 4 pounds), cut into 8 pieces (2 legs, 2 thighs, 2 breast/wing pieces, 2 breast pieces)
  • Canola or peanut oil for deep-frying
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch

For Biscuits

  • 2 cups (10 ounces) all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup buttermilk, chilled
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted then slightly cooled, plus 2 tablespoons melted butter for brushing on top of biscuits
  • About 1 tablespoon of your choice of a combination of mixed dried herbs (rosemary, thyme, oregano, sage all work fine)

 

Directions

For the Fried Chicken:

Brine the Chicken: In a large gallon sized re-sealable plastic bag, combine the buttermilk, kosher salt, garlic and Mexican oregano. Add the chicken and refrigerate for a minimum of 4 hours and up to overnight.

In a large heavy pot or Dutch oven, heat at least 2-3 inches of the canola or peanut oil to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Place a large wire rack over a baking sheet next to the stove. Place another wire rack over a baking sheet and set it aside (this will be for the finished chicken)

Combine the flour, chili powder, cumin, baking powder, and corn starch together in a bowl with a fork. Remove the chicken from the brine, shake off the excess and place in the flour mixture, using the fork to help the dry ingredients adhere to the chicken. Place the chicken on the wire rack baking sheet. (I recommend chilling the chicken like this for about 35 minutes to an hour if you have the time and space in your fridge. But if not, that’s okay.)

When the oil is heated, take the chicken and just before you add each piece into the oil, re-dip each piece in the flour ingredients. Add to the oil, no more than three at a time. (Also bear in mind that you’re going to need to adjust the heat to maintain the temperature of 325 degrees) Using a pair of tongs, fry the chicken until golden brown on both sides and cooked through, about 15 minutes. Using a slotted spoon or a spider, remove the chicken from the oil and place it on the second wire rack baking sheet. Keep it in an oven or a microwave to keep the chicken warm. Repeat this process with the remaining chicken until done.

For the Biscuits:

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position in an oven and preheat it to 475 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, sugar, table salt, baking soda and herbs together in a large bowl. In a medium sized bowl combine the buttermilk and melted butter  together until small clumps form.

Use a rubber spatula to incorporate the wet ingredients into the dry ones, stirring just until the mixture comes together. Place the bowl in the freezer for about 10 minutes. Spray a 1/4 cup measure with nonstick cooking spray, then scoop a level amount of batter out and onto the parchment paper lined baking sheet. Repeat until you’ve scooped out the rest of the batter, spacing them about 1 1/2 inches apart. Freeze the biscuits for about 30 minutes, then bake until tops are golden brown and crisp, 12 to 14 minutes. Brush the tops with the 2 tablespoons melted butter and let cool for about 5 minutes before serving.

 

Honey Wheat Harvest Loaf

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I don’t really remember when exactly it happened, but somewhere along the way, I stopped liking straight white sandwich bread. I don’t mean *all* white bread; I still bake with white flour when making biscuits, rolls, challah and whatnot. I mean that when it comes to specifically eating sandwiches, I will give a hard pass to white bread.

I don’t even know how I ever ate white Wonder Bread at all anymore, there’s such a sour, acrid after taste to it for me now that is just…nah. These days I prefer whole grain, wheat, five seed, or oatnut flavored bread when building my epic sandwiches. I like the nutty earthy flavors in the whole wheat flour much better.

Whenever a long time passes where I don’t make homemade bread, I start getting an ‘itch’. Suddenly, bread baking becomes all I think about, where my thoughts automatically start to wander, all I want to do. My taste buds suddenly crave bread more than anything else.

Actually, no. That’s not one hundred percent accurate. My taste buds want and crave bread/carbs ALL the time, in general. Which is simultaneously annoying and glorious. But y’know, whatever.

This time around to satisfy my bread baking itch, I turned to this recipe from King Arthur Flour that I’d had my eye on for a while. The original calls for it to be made in a bread machine. I don’t have one of those, but bread machine recipes aren’t that difficult to adapt to using with standing mixers, so that’s what I did here. The ingredients were all things I had on hand in the house at the time. It made a single loaf and it was all very easy to throw together.

Honey wheat breads are probably my favorite, flavor-wise. There’s a perfect balance of the nutty grains with a slight sweetness from honey that just works. I will say though that breads that are based in whole wheat and bread flour (like this one) do tend to be more dense than those made with white. They’re often not light and/or fluffy; think chewy, heartier textures. Because they’re denser, they also can require longer proof times before the dough will rise. Just be patient with it because if you do it right, the results will be worth it.

Apart from being made with whole wheat flour, there’s also 1/2 cup of mashed sweet potato in the dough, which is a sneaky yet tasty way to get a serving of vegetables in; y’know, just in case the angel on your shoulder is trying to make you feel guilty for eating carbs instead of a carrot stick.

Not that EYE would know anything about that, I’m just trying to help you guys out.

I really wish there was a way I could transmit the smells of this loaf baking in the oven to each and every one of you guys. It just smelled SO good. It took a lot of patience on my part before it was cooled down and I could cut into it. I toasted two thick slices, smeared them with some  Trader Joe’s pumpkin butter, made some eggs & sausage and had myself a delicious Breakfast for Dinner. Although, this bread would work very well for french toast too, methinks.

Linking this post with this week’s Fiesta Friday #162, co-hosted this week by Sarah @ Tales From The Kitchen Shed and Liz @ Spades, Spatulas, and Spoons.

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Honey Wheat Harvest Loaf

Recipe Adapted from King Arthur Flour

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Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1/4 cup warm milk
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup mashed cooked yam or sweet potato
  • 1 1/2 cups White Whole Wheat Flour
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1 1/2 cups Bread Flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • 1/2 cup raisins, packed
  • melted butter for brushing on top, optional

 

Directions

Combine the warm water and milk with the instant yeast. Sprinkle the 1 tsp of white sugar on top. Let sit until frothy, about 10 minutes.

In a medium bowl, combine the white whole wheat flour, bread flour, rolled oats, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ground ginger and set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer use the whisk attachment to combine yeast mixture with the unsalted butter, mashed sweet potato and honey and mix until well blended.

Using the dough hook attachment, fold in the flour mixture. Half way through, add the raisins. Mix until dough is smooth and surface of bowl is clean, about 8-10 minutes.

Cover the dough with plastic wrap and a damp kitchen towel and allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Grease a 8 x 4 loaf pan.

When dough is finished rising, gently turn out on a floured surface and deflate it. Divide in half and roll each half into a log. Wind the two haves together in a loose braid, pinching the ends together. Place braid in the loaf pan, cover with plastic wrap/damp towel and allow to rise for another hour or so.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Uncover the bread and brush with the melted butter. Bake for about 45 minutes, tenting with foil if browning too fast. Bake until golden brown and the inner temp reads 190 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cool completely before serving.

Strawberry Supreme Birthday Cake

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It’s my niece’s 4th birthday tomorrow. I have no idea how this kid is four already. I swear it was just yesterday I was sitting in the hospital room when she was wheeled in from the delivery with her mom, swaddled in her little burrito blanket. Time really does fly when it comes to kids, even when you’re just helping raise them.

I know I’m biased, but she really is such a sweetheart. I love her to death and feel blessed to have been able to be a major part of her life.

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I’ve been making her cakes for her day for the past two years. Last years was this Funfetti Cake. This year when I asked her what kind she wanted, she didn’t hesitate to reply: “Strawberry Cake, Auntie.”

I had my marching orders. A Strawberry Birthday Cake it was.

What first comes to y’all’s minds when you hear Strawberry Cake?

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If you’re like me, maybe you thought about strawberry shortcake–which is delicious, but I also knew wasn’t what my niece was talking about. There’s strawberry shortcake; a fluffy biscuit-y cake that’s served with whipped cream and strawberries. Then, there’s the Strawberry Cake; a pink colored cake that usually comes from a box mix. I loved it myself as a kid, and what little kid wouldn’t? It’s pink. It’s EXTREMELY sweet. 9 times out of 10 it’s spread with pink frosting.

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What’s the problem? Well, that cake is just so overly sweet  and artificial tasting. The ‘strawberry’ flavor and color often comes from the addition of a packet of strawberry jello packet. While this may not make a huge difference to a four year old little girl, it sure makes a difference to her 27 year old foodie and baker auntie who doesn’t like to have anything to do with box cake mixes.

I still wanted to give my baby what she wanted though: a yummy, pretty strawberry birthday cake. Guess what? I think I did, even sans cake mix.

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I won’t lie: layer cakes of any kind take patience and time. They can be a labor of love, and this cake is no exception. However, I’ve found that the work can be spread out over two days so that you’re not so rushed or in the kitchen for hours at a time by baking the cakes themselves on Day 1, refrigerating them overnight, then making the filling/frostings and assembling the whole thing on Day 2.

And I do have to say, the work is one hundred percent worth it. I don’t think this cake could be more of a Strawberry Cake if it tried: strawberries are literally in EVERY SINGLE part of it. There are pureed strawberries in the batter. The cake is filled with a fresh strawberry curd. The frosting is mixed with even more pureed strawberries.

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Strawberry on strawberry on strawberry.

The cake bakes up very moist and fluffy. The only downside was that the pureed strawberries in the batter did sink to the bottom of the pans. But that turned out okay too because they just melded together more with the strawberry curd. I’ve made lemon curd before, but never strawberry. This one was extremely easy to do and the result is a tart, smooth curd which gives a real punch of strawberry freshness to the overall taste of the cake. I think it might be the best part, to be honest. The frosting isn’t overly sweet thanks to the addition of the cream cheese to the butter and powdered sugar. And the scoop of the fresh strawberry puree gave it that pretty in pink tint that I knew my niece would love.

Linking this post with Fiesta Friday #161, co-hosted this week by Laura @ Feast Wisely.

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Strawberry Supreme Birthday Cake

Recipe Adapted from Taste of the South Magazine

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Ingredients

For Cake

  • 2 cups fresh strawberries
  • 2½ cups cake flour
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup ice water
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ cup butter shortening, at room temp
  • 1 ¾ cups granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 large egg whites, at room temp
  • ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar

For Strawberry Curd Filling

  • 1 (16-ounce) package frozen sliced strawberries in syrup, thawed and drained
  • 1⁄2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 3 egg yolks, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1⁄4 cup butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 teaspoon strawberry extract

For Strawberry Frosting

  • 1⁄2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • 1⁄2 cup reserved strawberry purée (from Strawberry Curd)
  • 1 teaspoon strawberry extract
  • 6 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 325 °. Flour, grease and line three round 8 or 9 inch cake pans with wax paper or parchment paper. Set aside.

Pulse strawberries in a food processor or blender until well blended, but still with some chunks inside. Set aside in a small bowl. In a medium bowl, sift together the cake flour, all purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside. In a small bowl, combine the ice water, whole milk and buttermilk. In bowl of a standing mixer or using a handheld mixer, cream together the butter and shortening until creamy, about 3-4 minutes. Add the sugar and vanilla, mixing another 3 minutes. Add the egg and beat just until combined. Alternating adding the flour mixture and the milk mixture to the bowl, starting and ending with flour mixture, scraping down the sides of the bowl with spatula to ensure it’s well mixed. Remove this mixture to another bowl, & wipe out thoroughly. Using clean beaters, place the egg whites and cream of tartar together in the bowl at medium speed, beating until soft peaks form. Using a spatula, fold the egg whites into the cake batter. Fold in the strawberries. Divide the batter evenly between the three pans, smoothing the tops with spatula. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted inside cakes comes out clean. Let cool in pans for 20 minutes before removing from pans and letting cool completely on wire racks.

For Curd: Pour the drained strawberries into a food processor or blender and pulse until smooth. Remove and reserve 1/2 cup of t he puree for the Strawberry frosting. In a medium saucepan, add the strawberries, sugar, cornstarch, egg yolks and lemon juice over medium heat, whisking constantly until thickened; about 7-8 minutes., Remove from heat and add the butter in chunks, then the strawberry extract. Let mixture cool slightly, cover with a piece of plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours before using.

For Frosting: Cream together the butter and cream cheese in bowl of a standing mixer or using a handheld one until fluffy. Add the reserved strawberry puree and the extract and mix until just combined. Add the confectioner’s sugar one cup at a time and beat together until smooth and creamy.

To Assemble: Level the tops of each cake. Line the edges of a cake platter with strips of parchment paper to keep the platter clean while you assemble the cake. Place one cake layer on the platter. Pipe a border of frosting around the edges of the cake. Spread about half of the strawberry curd inside the border, smoothing with a spatula. Top with another cake layer and repeat process. Top with final cake layer. Spread entire cake with just frosting enough over the top and sides to make a crumb coat. (It should be thin).  Refrigerate cake for one hour until the crumb coat is firm. Finish spreading the remainder of the frosting on the cake, decorating with sprinkles if desired. Remove the parchment strips from the platter before serving.

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