Strawberry Cake

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There comes a time when you break down and listen to that voice in your head that is screaming for cake. That day, my friends was this past Monday. This weekend I made a trip to the farmer’s market and made off like a bandit on one of my finds. 8 containers of strawberries for $6. I almost ran to my car after I paid for the berries before Mr.Seller dude changed his mind. I flash froze more than half of them for smoothies and shakes, but the other berries sat in the fridge for a day or two taunting me every time I cracked the door. I kept dreaming of a cake with big chunks of fruit inside. It simply had to be done!

After perusing through my share of strawberry cakes that claimed to be from scratch but had gelatin (gasp!!) I found the winning one on one of my favorite blogs, smitten kitchen. It is a simple unassuming batter topped with a ton of berries, and sprinkled with sugar to help the strawberries turn into jam. It is simply perfect! The recipe called for a cup of sugar in the batter,  but I cut it down to 3/4 cup so the sweetness of the strawberries would be the star. I’m so glad it did. It was just the right amount of sweet for me.

I will give a firm warning though…. do not bake this cake, pull it out of the oven with just enough time to set it on the counter and snap one picture and assume it is safe to take more pictures when you return home in a couple of hours. Especially not if you have two daughters and a husband prowling around. I present exhibit A.

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This is what I found. The culprits were all in bed, with full tummies, I presume. The cake lasted less than 24 hours at my house, and we shall miss it dearly 🙂

Adapted very slightly from Smitten Kitchen.

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups  all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pound (450 grams) strawberries, hulled and halved

-Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Butter a 10-inch pie pan or 9-inch deep-dish pie pan ( I used a 9-inch spring foam pan). Do not use a 9-inch regular pie dish because it will overflow.
-Whisk flour, baking powder and salt together in a small bowl. In a larger bowl, beat butter and 3/4 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. Sprinkle-remaining 2 tablespoons sugar over berries.

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-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. (I totally forgot to turn the temperature down, and baked mine at 350 Degrees F for 48 minutes).
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Cake can be stored at room temperature for up to 2 days, loosely covered, but clearly it didn’t survive that long at my house!
Devotion For The Day:
Two years ago, my family started planting potted plants. It is a fun project for my older daughter because she actually gets to see the plants change over time, and there’s the added bonus that when she’s off school for the summer, she gets paid to water the plants. We do flowers all year round in some pots, and herbs in some for the spring and summer. This year we were late in starting her off with her job, and we ended up with VERY dried out rose bushes. It was remarkable how quickly they went from blooming in the spring, to bone dry a few weeks later. I felt terrible, because I was sure they were gone for good. I was actually getting ready to pull them out and toss them, but my husband pruned them off and insisted that if we water them consistently for a few weeks, they will survive. I will be honest and say that I was extremely skeptical, but figured we might as well try.
Well, they are back! A week or so ago, green new leaves started breaking through, and we were so excited about it. Walking past them the other day, I had this thought that has stayed with me. I thought of all the times that I have been in such a dire situation that I thought all was lost, or when I have watched someone and thought that there is no way that they can get out of the jam that they are in. Except with God, nothing is impossible. He can breath life into a situation that looks totally dead, and bring life to it. I have seen too many lives changed to doubt any more.
Two verses come to mind. John 6:35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. The second is Matthew 19:26, Jesus looked at them and said, “with man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible”.
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Chocolate covered Strawberries

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I have thought about this post for a few days now, and talked myself into, and then out of posting this recipe. After all… it’s a week after Valentine’s Day! Who wants to read about chocolate covered strawberries now? After much back and forth, I decided I had to post it, for a number of reasons. First, who said we can only have these delightful treasures on Valentine’s day. Secondly, how easy and inexpensive they are (it cost me $14 for the chocolate and a big pack of strawberries). That reason alone is good enough to make me post this. You see, I was at some store the other day, and casually walked by the chocolate covered strawberries, thinking how pretty they were, and how they needed to come home with me. This was before I looked at the price tag, and almost burst into a sprint in the opposite direction. $12 for 4 strawberries????? Seriously????? There was no way I could justify it. The third reason is that it’s a kid friendly recipe. It’s really hard to mess this up, so it’s perfect for little hands. My daughter had fun with this one.

My daughters woke up to a Valentine’s card and chocolate from their Daddy last Thursday, and my oldest wanted to do something special to thank Daddy. Since I am terrible with artsy stuff, a craft was WAY out of the question. The only option I really had was to cook something. I wanted to make something pretty that would not take us all afternoon, but could greatly involve her in the process. This was the perfect thing. She also wanted to share some treats with our sweet neighbors who have become her adopted grandparents. This way, we were able to kill two birds with one stone. Making these was a ton of fun for both of us. I could be a bit more relaxed since there weren’t a bunch of steps for her to follow (I am terrible when it comes to relinquishing control of my kitchen. I’m trying to learn….), and she had fun licking the chocolate bowl when we were done.

As far as the recipe goes, I will give you my instructions that are microwave directions. I had every intention of using a double boiler on the stovetop to melt my chocolate, until I realized my bowl would not fit on the saucepan that I had. The microwave was my last option, but proved to be so easy, I will do it this way every time from here on. I used semi-sweet chocolate and white chocolate, but any chocolate would do. Feel free to substitute milk or dark chocolate. I also think it would be fun to play around with different toppings next time, like shredded coconut or nuts. Just dip the strawberries in chocolate, then roll in the toppings before the chocolate dries. Have fun, and make them your own.

One more thing. I had big blocks of Styrofoam from an appliance we had just purchased, so I used that to hold the toothpicks until the chocolate dried. If you don’t have some handy, just line a pan with some parchment paper, or wax paper and lay them on it. They will be a little flat on one side when they dry, but just as good. You could also do this without the toothpicks, and just hold the strawberries by the stem. I just like the less messy method with the toothpick.

We had a pretty big packet of strawberries, so we were able to get a little over 30 covered berries. If you want to make less than that, be sure to adjust your chocolate accordingly. These make excellent packaged gifts.

Ingredients.

32 strawberries

12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate

1 tablespoon vegetable oil (optional)

6 ounces white chocolate

1. Stick a toothpick on the stem end of the strawberries. Make sure the strawberries are totally dry, or the chocolate will not adhere to them.

2.Put your semi-sweet chocolate in a microwave safe dish. Set the microwave to half power, and heat for a minute at a time, stirring after each time. You want the chocolate just melted (too much and it will seize up on you, and become un-usable). Mine took just over 2 minutes. Once it is melted, if you choose to, add in a tablespoon of vegetable oil (this makes it more glossy, and helps with the texture).

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3. Working quickly, hold the toothpick and dip into the chocolate about 3/4 way up the strawberry. Dip the berries, and then  twist them a little to get the excess chocolate off. Place on the styrofoam block, or parchment lined tray.

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4. Put the white chocolate in a Ziploc bag. Melt in the microwave 30 seconds at a time until just barely melted. Mine took 1 1/2 minutes. Cut a very small hole on one end and squeeze to decorate over the dark chocolate. The smaller the hole, the better. (You could also melt the chocolate in a bowl and use a fork to drizzle the white chocolate).

5. Set aside to dry. It takes about 30 minutes.

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Devotion For The Day:

It’s still February, the month of love! I think of all the cards and flowers, chocolate and other gifts that go out every February as we take the time to celebrate our loved ones. I have been reminded a lot in the last few days though, about the ultimate love. God’s love. The kind of love that chases after me with reckless abandon. The kind of love that I don’t have to earn,  and that never diminishes. Today I want to share one of my favorite verses, because it really helps me grasp how deep and unconditional God’s  love for us is.

Romans 5:8. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.