Summer Berry Shortcake

So a couple weeks ago after dinner, I got this crazy hankering for shortcake. I really, really, REALLY wanted it.

I know that when a lot of ‘y’all think of shortcake you think of those spongy pre-made mini ‘dessert shells’ with the indent that you can find in the produce section of the grocery store near the strawberries. Y’know the dessert shells that should really just get called by their true name: sponge cake. I’ve seen some that are just straight up angel food cakes. Not that I have a problem with them per se. There’s no judgment here; depending on the company, those can actually be pretty tasty.

But that’s not what I’m talking about here.

In the first place, sponge cake isn’t shortcake. It’s light and airy and spongy. It’s…sponge cake.

All of the above adjectives contradict shortcake by it’s very definition. Shortcakes are actually very similar to an American-style biscuit, both in texture and the baking method. In a sponge cake, egg whites are beaten until they’re stiff to make the crumb as light as possible. The point of a ‘short’cake, is actually to make a ‘shorter’, denser crumb.

If you’ve tried any of my biscuit recipes on the blog already, then this ,method will look very familiar to you. The frozen butter (and we’ve already established why it’s important that it is frozen) is grated directly into the dry ingredients. I used cake flour to give it the best texture, then in addition to the sugar, flavored the dough with vanilla, ground ginger and cardamom. The spices aren’t overpowering–they’re just going to give the shortcakes a little something extra flavor-wise. You’re going to like it, promise.

The result is a shortcake that has just the right texture. It is slightly dense, but it’s also buttery and tender, with enough height to split it in two and sandwich with the good stuff. Now what that ‘good stuff’ is, I’m going to leave entirely up to you. This is summertime, which means there are plenty of delicious fruits that are in season that are perfect for shortcake; strawberries, blackberries, peaches, apricots. All are excellent choices. I went with the strawberries and blackberries, but it’s your shortcake so go with what you like best. And of course y’all know to make/use a ton of good whipped cream to cram inside and dollop on top.  It’s the summer–get downright nasty with it.

Linking this up to this week’s Fiesta Friday #230, co-hosted this week by Diann @ Of Goats and Greens.

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Summer Berry Shortcake

Recipe Adapted from King Arthur Flour

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Ingredients

For Shortcake

  • 3 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) butter, frozen
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 cup buttermilk, plus more as needed

For Berries

  • 2 quarts of your choice of berries (I used a mix of strawberries & blackberries)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • Whipped cream, for serving

Directions

For Berries: combine the sugar and lemon juice together with the berries and allow to sit for one hour.

Preheat oven to 425°. Place a shallow pan of water on the bottom rack of the oven. In a small bowl combine the egg with the buttermilk and vanilla extract, set aside.

In a large bowl combine the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, ground ginger, cardamom and sugar—stir with a fork until combined. Use the large holes on a box grater to grate the butter directly into the dry ingredients. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Pour in the egg-buttermilk mixture and stir to combine with a fork. If it seems a little dry you may add additional buttermilk until it forms a shaggy dough.

Sprinkle a pastry mat, wooden cutting board or wax paper with flour. Turn the dough out onto the surface and pat a few times with your hands until it loosely holds together. (Don’t knead it too much or the warmth in your palms will melt the butter and cause the shortcakes to be tough.)

Pat and roll the dough into a rectangle. Take the two opposite ends and fold them together like a business letter into thirds. Flip it upside down and pat & roll it into another rectangle, sprinkling the surface with flour if it gets too sticky. Repeat the folding process two to three more times before patting it into one final rectangle.

Use a bench scraper or very sharp knife to trim the edges of the rectangle. Use a 2 1/2-inch round cutter to cut shortcakes, pressing scraps together to make more no more than two additional times. Discard the rest of the dough.  Place shortcakes slightly touching, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Chill 15 minutes in the freezer.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until the tops are golden brown. Remove them from the oven and cool for 15 minutes before serving. Just before serving, split open the shortcakes, spoon half the berries and whipped cream on the bottom half, top with remaining shortcake halves, and spoon on the remaining berries and cream.

S’mores Cake

It’s summer time and in the summer time we eat s’mores. This is non-negotiable.

IF by some odd chance you think you don’t like s’mores, you’re dead wrong. More than dead wrong. You’re lost. You’re confused. You don’t actually believe that you deserve nice things.

Let me enlighten you. Let me bring you back into the light. Trust, I’m only here to help. You do deserve nice things in life and one of the greatest is a s’more, or (come to think of it), anything that is s’mores flavored.

If you’ve been following along with the blog for a bit then you know by now that I’m…fond of s’mores flavored desserts. So far I’ve hit you guys with popcorn, sandwich cookies and brownies–ALL of which, you should try because they’re friggin delicious.

Today I’m back with a new addition to the collection that I’m pretty proud of: a s’mores flavored layer cake.

The first thing that I want to point out about this recipe is rather obvious: this isn’t a conventional round layer cake. Most layer cake recipes call for you to have at least 2, and at times up to 4 or 6 different pans to bake the batter in, and even though I bake often I have 3 cake pans and never really feel like using them much. You have to measure out and weigh the batter in each pan to make sure there’s an even amount in each and sometimes I just can’t be be bothered. All of this cake’s batter bakes in one single loaf pan–the kind that MOST people already have in their cabinets. Rather than divvy up the batter between multiple pans, it’s baked into one cake that’s then split into three rectangular layers later on.

I’ve seen recipes for other s’mores cakes before and interestingly enough, the cake is often chocolate flavored. I…don’t understand this. The base of the s’more are graham crackers that house the marshmallow and chocolate inside. You’ve just got to have that graham cracker flavor to balance the other two. In this recipe, the cake batter is given a warm, nutty, caramel-y flavor with brown sugar and the essential graham base flavor by the addition of finely crushed graham cracker crumbs.

If that doesn’t sound yummy enough all on it’s own, after you split the layers of the cake and start to assemble it is where things get REALLY tasty. We’re not just putting melted marshmallows into the buttercream; to give it that special ‘campfire’ flavor, the marshmallows are first toasted underneath the broiler until they are JUST the right color and brownish hue (much like you’d get holding them over a flame on a stick), then mixed into a smooth buttercream. This buttercream gets spread in between and on top of all the cake layers along with…what else? Smooth, rich semi sweet chocolate. Once you’ve assembled the cake, it get completely covered with the toasted marshmallow buttercream then broken graham cracker shards and mini marshmallows are pressed into the gooey deliciousness and the whole thing gets drizzled with even more melted chocolate.

Guys, I am so proud of this thing. You don’t even know. It is soooo good. There’s not one single thing I would change and I’m excited to share what is trully a perfect summer dessert. Please try it. I’m sharing this cake at Fiesta Friday #182, co-hosted this week by Liz @ spades, spatulas & spoons and Jenny @ Jenny Is Baking.

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S'mores Cake

Recipe Adapted from Food & Wine and The Cookies & Cups Cookbook

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Ingredients

For Cake

  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 1/2 cup finely ground graham cracker crumbs, from half a sleeve
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

For Marshmallow Buttercream

  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened)
  • 8 ounces mini marshmallows
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1-2 tablespoons heavy cream

For Chocolate Ganache

  • 1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips or chunks
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream

For decorating: extra graham crackers, broken into pieces and partially crushed, optional

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 325°F. Spray an 8 x 4 inch loaf pan with cooking spray and set aside.

In a medium bowl combine the cake flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer or using a hand held one, cream the butter and sugars together until light and fluffy.

In a small bowl combine the milk, heavy cream, whole milk, eggs and vanilla extract with a fork, whisking until egg yolks are broken and thoroughly combined.

Alternatively add the dry ingredients and egg mixture to the creamed butter mixture, starting and ending with the flour. Make sure you use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl as you add the ingredients to ensure even mixing.

Pour the cake batter into the prepared loaf pan. Bake for about 50-55 minutes in the oven, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. (Pound cakes are done at about an internal temp of 195-200 degrees Fahrenheit if you have an instant thermometer.) Allow to cool for about 15 minutes in the pan, then turn out and cool completely on a wire rack.  Place the cake in the fridge for about one hour, or the freezer for 20 minutes to let it firm up.

For Marshmallow Buttercream: Preheat the broiler. In the bowl of a standing mixer cream the butter together with the powdered sugar until light and fluffy. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and spray it lightly with cooking spray. Spread the marshmallows out in a single layer, keeping them close together. Place underneath the broiler and let them get lightly browned; DON’T WALK AWAY. This takes no more than 30-40 seconds. Using a rubber spatula you spray with cooking spray immediately scrape the toasted marshmallow into the creamed butter/sugar mixture. Mix on low speed until combined. If it seems too stiff, you may add the heavy cream to your desired consistency.

Gently heat the heavy cream in a microwave safe bowl (about 45 seconds should do it). Pour it directly over the chocolate in another bowl and gently stir until it completely melts. If it’s too stiff you can add more warm heavy cream.

Take the cake out of the fridge/freezer. Cut it into three layers (it’s okay if they’re not perfectly even. Mine weren’t either.) 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. Smear a little of the chocolate or buttercream in the center to keep the cake from moving around. Place one cake layer on the platter. Spread or pipe a border of the marshmallow buttercream around the edges, bringing them up almost like a fence. Fill in the center with more buttercream, then dollop the chocolate ganache on top, trying to keep it inside the buttercream ‘fence’. Add the second layer and repeat then place the third cake layer on top. Spread the top of the cake with the remaining buttercream. Using a spatula to smooth out the sides of the cake, dipping it in some warm water intermittently.

Press the broken graham crackers and crumbs onto the sides of the cake (They don’t have to cover it completely). Sprinkle more of the crumbs on the top, then use a fork to drizzle the rest of the chocolate ganache on the top.) Place the cake in the fridge to let the buttercream and chocolate to firm up a bit, 15-20 minutes before serving.