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Vintage cake recipe gives berries, cream starring role

Each year on May 21 we celebrate a dessert that just squeals spring. National Strawberries and Cream Day brings together two favorites: fresh ripe strawberries and homemade whipped cream. While that alone makes a divine dessert, let’s add a mildly sweet, vanilla fragranced, easy-to-make from-scratch cake and we’ve just won at life.

These bright red beauties are the first fruit to ripen in the spring, so it should not be surprising that May is National Strawberry Month. Strawberries grow all over the world and there are over 600 varieties. Known as a “feel good food,” each bite contains high levels of vitamin C, fiber, folic acid and potassium.

Ancient Romans saw this medicinal value and believed that strawberries healed melancholy, fainting, inflammation, fevers, throat infections, kidney stones, bad breath, attacks of gout and diseases of the blood, liver and spleen. In medieval England strawberries and soured cream were customary for newlyweds to enjoy for their wedding breakfast. That’s a remarkably busy berry.

On a side note, each year the Environmental Working Group puts out a list of the “Dirty Dozen” fruits and vegetables most contaminated with pesticides. Strawberries are a staple on this list and are included in the 2021 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce. If you’re able, buy this fruit organically, or even better, grow your own.

But a conventionally grown strawberry is still better for you than an organic doughnut.

This cake is a classic Great Depression era recipe called Hot Milk Cake. It’s a buttery sponge cake made with scalded milk and has a characteristic fine-grained texture, like pound cake. Depression era recipes were often created out of necessity due to a lack of ingredients and might fall in the shadow of their pre- and post-depression counterparts. But this original recipe holds its own against any vanilla cake recipe.

I’ve added an optional glaze to top the cake; it adds another layer of flavor but it’s perfectly delicious without it.

This light and airy recipe is perfect for all your summer entertaining. Add some blueberries and we have a patriotic dessert for Independence Day. Add sliced peaches later in the summer when they’re juicy and ripe for late summer perfection. You can cut the cake into cubes and layer the ingredients in a trifle bowl for a spectacular presentation. Or make picnic perfect individual portions in mason jars for travel.

While National Strawberries and Cream day is this Friday, no matter how, when or why, you can’t beat strawberries and cream over hot milk cake.

HOT MILK CAKE WITH STRAWBERRIES AND CREAM

What you’ll need:

Strawberries:

2 pounds strawberries

3 tablespoons sugar

Cake:

2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for the pan

4 eggs

2 cups granulated sugar

1 cup whole milk

½ cup unsalted butter

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

Glaze:

Combine 1 cups powdered sugar, ¼ cup milk and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.

Whipped cream:

1½ cups heavy cream, chilled

3 tablespoons sugar

1½ teaspoons vanilla extract

1 tablespoon amaretto liquor, optional

Here’s how:

Hull and quarter the strawberries, mix them with sugar and refrigerate.

Preheat oven to 350 F, and grease and flour a standard Bundt pan (or two 8-inch round pans or a 9-by-13 inch baking pan).

In a large bowl or mixer, cream together eggs and sugar until lightened in color, 3-5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan over medium heat, warm the milk and butter until the butter has melted and bubbles start to form around the edge of the saucepan. Don’t bring to a full boil. When small bubbles appear, remove from heat.

While beating continuously, slowly pour hot milk into egg mixture until incorporated. (Do this gradually so you don’t scramble the eggs. That makes no one happy.) Add the vanilla extract.

In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt, then gradually mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Pour batter into your Bundt pan, and bake for 45-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

While the cake is baking, place a metal bowl and beaters in the freezer to prepare to whip the cream. If you choose to add the glaze, in a medium bowl, whisk together powdered sugar, milk and vanilla extract.

Remove cake from oven and let cool 10 minutes, then invert onto serving platter. If using, drizzle glaze over the top of cake and let set up.

Mix the whipped cream ingredients in the metal bowl and beat until soft peaks form.

To serve: Pile high with strawberries and whipped cream and face plant right into all that glorious goodness.

Lifestyle expert Patti Diamond is a recipe developer and food writer of the website “Divas On A Dime – Where Frugal, Meets Fabulous!” Visit Patti at www.divasonadime.com and join the conversation on Facebook at DivasOnADimeDotCom. Email Patti at divapatti@divasonadime.com.

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