Most people don’t know this, but I’ve always had a secret yearning to be a famous cook like Betty Crocker, Sara Lee, or Mrs. Smith. Only one small thing has prevented this, I can’t cook. I discovered this at about the same time I decided that I didn’t like cooking anyhow. What a happy coincidence.
Nevertheless, my homemaker genes have been titillated recently, and I’ve decided to share one of my favorite recipes — strawberry shortcake. The grocery stores are filled with red, luscious strawberries at this time of the year creating a craving for strawberry shortcake, which is immediately squelched in my case by thoughts of cooking. The best thing about strawberry shortcake, however, is that you don’t have to cook — another happy coincidence.
For strawberry shortcake, you need only three ingredients: cake, strawberries, and whipping cream. In the olden days, before I discovered that I was not Betty Crocker, I would actually try to bake a dry, yellow cake of some type. Now, I’m no longer hampered by that illusion, so I just buy a plain pound cake, which serves the purpose perfectly and doesn’t set off any smoke alarms.
Strawberries are easy to prepare, just pinch or cut off the tops and wash the berries. Throw away any strawberries that look too green or too ripe. Presuming you have shopped wisely and not done too much taste testing, there should still be at least half a package left, which is plenty.
Cut the cake into squares or slices, it doesn’t matter which. The cake is not the most important thing, the strawberries are. In fact, you could probably leave out the cake entirely — but why?
I’ve never been a connoisseur of strawberries. I once knew a lady who grew fresh strawberries. When serving dessert, she asked, “How do you like your strawberries?” I had no idea what she was talking about until she enlightened me. “I like mine mashed, my husband likes his sliced, and some people just eat them whole. You can also eat them sugared or not.”
I like them plain and whole. Why ruin a good thing? However, if you must have them sugared, slice them first, generously sprinkle with sugar and allow to set for a while until the sugar dissolves and makes a sticky syrup. Then spoon the strawberries over a serving of cake.
I might interject here that some people use angel food cake. This is not the way to make strawberry shortcake in my book, but if you want to use something else, go on and I’ll just pretend not to know. There is also a biscuit-like thing called shortcake, which is where the name came from in the first place. No thanks! I don’t want strawberries on a biscuit unless they are in jam.
The second most important thing is whipped cream. Of course, real whipped cream is the best, but that would require whipping it. This is too close to cooking. Why take chances? I just buy the phony stuff that is in the freezer case. Frozen whipped topping is supposed to thaw in the refrigerator for 4 hours before using. That’s a long time to wait when your cake is in the dish and your strawberries sliced and sugared, so this means remembering to thaw it ahead of time.
Some people substitute ice cream for the whipped cream, but that is not actually strawberry shortcake either. It is another dessert entirely. I suppose if you forget to thaw the topping and have company waiting at the table, it could be substituted. Of course, peaches could also be substituted for the strawberries.
Now we are eating angel food cake with canned peaches and ice cream and calling it strawberry shortcake? What a travesty! For a recipe with only three ingredients and no cooking, strawberry shortcake can certainly become complicated.