Passing a roadside strawberry stand the other day brought back wonderful childhood memories. Every summer we packed our Jeep Wagoneer with beach towels, bathing suits, sunscreen and sand toys and headed to our grandparent’s beach cottage at the Delaware seashore. The highlight of the trip, besides crossing the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, was stopping at one of the local farms in Sussex County to pick our own strawberries. With our containers in hand, seated in the backseat, my sisters and I were ready to jump out just as soon as our parents stopped at one of the many strawberry farms along the way. The farms had names like Dottie’s Strawberry Patch, Rose’s Berry Farm, and Maggie’s Strawberry Field. Getting sunburned and thirsty under the hot sun didn’t bother us one bit. We were too busy anticipating the sweet and juicy taste of our favorite summer fruit.
Over the course of the following days, thanks to Mom, we feasted on strawberry pancakes and fruit salad before heading to the beach where we collected seashells and buried each other in the sand. After dinner, dessert was either strawberry shortcake with fresh whipped cream or vanilla ice cream topped with sliced strawberries.
I still love strawberries and so do my two little boys. Sadly, they don’t get to enjoy nearly as many strawberries as I did as a child. I am careful about pesticides, so I try to only buy organic strawberries. They are so expensive, so I don’t buy nearly as many as I’d like.
But back to that strawberry stand I passed the other day …the ruby red strawberries were so fragrant, beautiful, ripe and plump that although I knew they weren’t organic, I brought home 2 kilos, made a chocolate cake, slathered it with fresh whipped cream and layered it with them. Throwing caution to the wind, we ate the cake and both kilos of strawberries.
For the last few weeks we‘ve been planting seeds in raised beds out back near the orchard for an organic family vegetable garden – carrots, broccoli, kale, lettuce, tomatoes, cilantro, chiles, pumpkins. I’m adding strawberries to my list of plants. This way I can afford to create childhood strawberry memories for my boys. I can’t wait to give them each a container and watch them pick their own. Besides making my boys some strawberry ice cream with our homegrown, organic strawberries, I plan to impress you with a knockout chocolate and strawberry creation I’m dreaming up right now. In the meantime, try this delicious dark chocolate and strawberry cake.
Supposedly strawberries are an easy plant to grow. They prefer full sun and somewhat sandy soil. Strawberries can also be grown as a potted plant. Try growing your own and then you can use them to make chocolate and strawberry smoothies, strawberry pies, add them to yogurt or just dip them in chocolate. Here’s a link for strawberry planting tips if, like me, you want to grow your own. http://www.pickyourown.org/strawberries.htm
If you want to visit a strawberry farm that lets you “pick your own” try this website that lists U.S. farms by state: http://www.pickyourown.org. And if you know of a pick your own place not on the list, share it with us.
Enjoy your summer!
Summer Strawberry Chocolate Layer Cake Recipe:
Chocolate layer cake adapted from David Lebovitz’s Devil’s Food Cake
9 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1½ cups cake flour (not self-rising)
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon baking powder
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1½ cups granulated sugar
2 large organic eggs, at room temperature
½ cup water
½ cup whole milk
Whipped Cream Frosting:
8 oz. whipped cream
2 T powdered sugar
Ripe, juicy strawberries, washed and sliced.
1. Adjust the oven rack to the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Butter two 9″ x 2″ cake pans and line the bottoms with circles of parchment paper.
3. In a large bowl, sift together the cocoa powder, cake flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder.
4. In a separate bowl, using an electric beater, beat together the butter and sugar about 5 minutes until smooth and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time until blended.
5. Mix together the water and milk. Stir half of the dry ingredients into the butter mixture, then add the water/milk. Finally stir in the other half of the dry ingredients.
6. Divide the batter into the two prepared cake pans and bake for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool completely before carefully removing it from the cake pans. Remove the parchment paper and place on a cake plate. Frost the top of one of the layers with the fresh whipped cream and cover with sliced strawberries. Carefully, place the second cake layer on top. Frost the top with the remaining frosting and decorate with the remaining strawberries. Keep the cake in the refrigerator until ready to eat.