by Andrea Yeager//
Fresh fruit from local to regional farms are making the grand arrival at farmers’ markets and supermarkets just in time for festive Easter or Passover meals.
Yes, some fruits are around nearly all year due to refrigeration and growing methods, but a winter strawberry fails to taste as bright as a fresh Ponchatoula, Louisiana, or a Mississippi berry.
Ponchatoula celebrates these sweet red berries at the annual Strawberry Festival April 7-9. Eubanks Farms in Lucedale started selling strawberries in March, as did other growers. Strawberry season in Mississippi and Louisiana runs through mid-May and then the blues hit — blueberries that is. Ocean Springs will hold its Red, White and Blue Festival in June and Poplarville will celebrate the annual Blueberry Jubilee festival that month as well.
Because strawberries are so fresh now, these ripe berries are perfect to incorporate in flavorful desserts for a special holiday. Easter and Passover once again coincide with Easter on Sunday, April 16, and Passover April 11-17. A fresh fruit dessert can culminate the special meal, and few things are as delectable as a strawberries and cream cake. I found this recipe in a 2002 issue of “Cooking Pleasures” magazine is a must-try for strawberry lovers. The presentation is first-rate, but even better, it is simple to make. It reminds me of Rouses’ Gentilly Cake for those who have tasted that slice of heaven.
STRAWBERRIES AND CREAM CAKE
6 eggs, separated
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup cake flour, divided
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted, ground (see note)
2 cups heavy whipping cream, chilled
1/2 tsp. almond extract
2 cups sliced strawberries, divided
12 whole strawberries for garnish, halved
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9-by-2-inch round cake pan with nonstick cooking spray, line bottom with parchment paper. In small bowl, whisk together egg yolks, butter and almond extract.
2. In a large bowl, beat egg whites at high speed until soft peaks form. Gradually add 1 cup sugar in a steady stream. Beat 3 minutes or until shiny, stiff peaks form.
3. Pour egg yolk mixture over beaten egg whites. Immediately sift about half of the flour over the eggs and gently fold together. Sift remaining flour over batter and fold in. Fold in almonds being careful not to deflate egg whites.
4. Pour batter into pan. Bake 30 to 40 minutes or until golden brown and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack.
5. Meanwhile in a large bowl, beat all cream ingredients at medium-high speed until stiff peaks form.
6. When cake is cool, remove from pan and slice horizontally into 3 layers. To assemble cake, place one layer on 9-inch cardboard round or cake plate. Spread with 1 cup cream; cover with 1 cup of sliced strawberries. Place second cake layer on top of strawberries. Spread with 1 cup cream and cover with 1 cup of the sliced strawberries. Top with third cake layer, spread remaining cream on top and sides. Decorate top with halved strawberries. Store in refrigerator.
Makes 12 servings.
Note: To toast almonds, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place on baking sheet and bake for 6 minutes or until deep golden brown. Do not burn.