Sunday, May 12, 2013

Happy Mother's Day Strawberry Shortcake

Happy Mother’s day to my Mom, and thank you.

It was my mother who got me into cooking, even after my disastrous first attempt at a dinner party.  It was 1987 and I was in the software field, (you know, that industry going nowhere). I wasn’t terrible at the job, more so beleaguered by my cubical place in a vast corporation. In other words, I don’t like sitting down while I work. 

So after taking a couple cooking classes, I attempted a dinner party for my family.  They were the type of classes filled with middle aged women, and me, sipping white wine (them sipping, me slurping), and fumbling over gourmet dishes put forth by a woman chef with the heaviest Texas accent ( Italian she pronounced High-talian) I had ever heard.

The first course was a spring onion veloute soup.  It was finished with a couple egg yolks just prior to serving.  At the time I had no idea I was creating an emulsion, only that the yolks gave the soup a rich, luscious finish. The soup was not bad.  The second course was a crust-less Quiche Lorraine which fell to pieces when I unmolded it. I assemble this mess on plates and covered it with a beurre blanc sauce (eggs covered in butter).  The third course was a bay scallop gratin (more eggs).  In the midst of panic, I used my mother’s cast iron skillet to sauté the scallops, which, after a couple splashes of white wine, turned them into charcoal colored nuggets.   Even the gratin sauce (even more eggs) couldn’t hide this mess.

Eggs. I was using them at an alarming rate. Looking back, I have to be thankful my parents didn’t need a series of artery splints by meals end.

So as a readied the main course (Beef Wellington),  the kitchen was a in a state of disaster. I was out of my league and ill prepared to pull this dinner off and unbeknownst to me at the time, I was in the weeds. 

My mother and sister’s came to the rescue, wiping down the every surface in the kitchen, scrubbing the vast array of pots and pans I had dirtied, all the while assuring me everything was fabulous.  I knew better. It was then my mother noticed the humming.  It wasn’t coming from the overloaded dishwasher or garbage disposal, it was coming from me.  There I was,  humming, amidst all the bedlam in which I had just created,  I was lost in the act of cooking.  It was then she said something to me which would be her first and only piece of vocational advice.

            “You should be a chef.  You’re happy when you’re cooking”

I could have quit that night.  Underneath the humming was shame and embarrassment for the meal I had prepared.  Yet that piece of advice, words of loving encouragement from the very person who had prepared countless meals for me and my siblings, sent me into a lifelong love affair with cooking. 

Thank you, mom. I love you.


You didn’t think I was going to let you out of here without a recipe, did you?  If there’s one dessert that screams mother’s day its strawberry shortcake. It’s seasonal, pretty, and makes a hell of a lot more sense than baked Alaska.  I didn’t mention my attempt at that monstrosity at the above dinner party. Dear Lord.

Let’s make something simple.  Sift together the following.

3 cups Flour
½ cup Sugar
1 ½ T Baking Powder
1 t Salt


6 oz butter cut into cubes
1 ½ cups half and half
1 egg

Work in the butter into the flour mixture.  You can use a pastry cutter. I prefer my hands because there no sweeter smell in cooking then flour, sugar, butter mixture.  It should look like course sand.

Whisk the egg and half and half together, then add it to flour butter mix.  Stir until its incorporated.  It should be batter like. Pour into a 9 inch round cake pan and cook at 350 for 12 -15 minutes.  

Unmold the shortcake onto a baking rack and let cool for at least an hour.  In the meantime cut your strawberries into a bowl, and send a thankful thought to your mom for putting up with shenanigans you put forth while a child/teenager.  

( Are my knives spooning?)

Add ¼ cup of water to the same amount of strawberry preserves.  Nuke this for 30 seconds or so until it forms a syrup.Once your shortcake is ready, cut it in half horizontally.   With a pastry brush, paint the undersides of the cake with the syrup.

Next, whip 2 cups of heavy(or whipping) cream with ½ cup of powdered sugar until it forms stiff peaks.  Spread half of the whipped cream on the base of the shortcake, then layer with strawberries. 

Cover with the other half of the shortcake and repeat.


You can refrigerate for a couple hours.  Place this cake in front of your mom, your mother in law, or your wife on this happy day. 

Happy mother’s day!!

1 comment:

  1. Tim,
    Love the new design of your blog, and this story.
    Keep up the great work.
    I, for one, am enjoying this so much and am impressed by your prodigious talent.
    Love to you and Sharon,