With the 4th of July just around the corner I wanted to be sure to post a couple of recipes in time for the festivities.  In the 1850’s, strawberry shortcake parties were a popular way to celebrate the arrival of summer (2). This sweet dessert is traditionally made with baking soda to produce a crumbly biscuit often referred to as a scone in the UK. For a lower calorie version of the dessert, angel food cake is used to replace the shortcake (my version includes a variant of this cake). In Japan a sponge cake is used to instead of shortcake and is commonly served at Christmas and at birthdays (3). The oldest printed reference is from Michigan from the 1840’s (4) and because I am a native Michigander it is only appropriate that I choose this dessert to celebrate the 4th!

Bryant Chapin, Still Life of Overturned Basket of Strawberries, 1922,
Oil on canvas, 33 x 43 cm, Private Collection

Bryant Chapin lived in worked in Massachusetts from the late 19th century to the early 20th. He was predominately a still life painter but traveled to Europe several times to paint landscapes. His still life subject of choice was fruit and he would paint them using strong colour and atmospheric light (1). As with Still Life of Overturned Basket of Strawberries Chapin would often paint his fruit with softened edges and place his subject on a table that would enhance the reflection of the fruit. With the still life above, Chapin explored light and shadow with a low and very strong light source originating from the bottom left of the canvas.

{Strawberry Shortcake with Blueberry Syrup}

adapted from Gourmet

4 large egg yolks and 2 large egg whites
3/4 cup vanilla sugar
2 TB milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt

To serve: (recipes below
vanilla cream
strawberries in vanilla-orange syrup
blueberry syrup

Preheat oven to 350°F (180C) and butter a metal bread pan. Line bottom of pan with parchment or wax paper, then butter paper. Dust with flour, knocking out excess. Whisk together yolks, 1/2 cup sugar, milk, and vanilla in a large bowl until combined well. Whisk in flour and salt (batter will be thick). Beat whites with an electric mixer until they hold soft peaks. Gradually beat in remaining 1/4 cup sugar and beat until whites hold stiff, glossy peaks. Stir about one third of whites into batter to lighten, then fold in remaining whites in 2 more batches, gently but thoroughly.

Transfer batter to bread pan, spreading evenly, and bake in middle of oven until pale golden and a tester comes out clean, 14 to 16 minutes. Cool cake completely in pan on a rack (cake will shrink from sides of pan). When cool, run a sharp knife around side of cake if necessary and invert onto rack, then remove paper.

Top with the strawberries in vanilla-orange syrup and vanilla cream. Drizzle the blueberry syrup over each portion.

{vanilla cream}

1/4 cup chilled heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla sugar
2 tablespoons sour cream

Beat together cream, sugar, and sour cream until mixture just holds stiff peaks.

{strawberries in vanilla-orange syrup}

1/3 cup vanilla sugar
1/3 cup water
1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons finely grated fresh orange zest (from 2 oranges)
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1 pint strawberries (3/4 lb), trimmed and quartered

Add sugar, water, zest, and juice. Bring to a boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved, and boil 1 minute. Transfer to a bowl and chill 30 minutes. Pour syrup through a fine sieve into another bowl and discard solids. Gently stir in strawberries and let stand 15 minutes.

{blueberry syrup}

1 c blueberries
2/4 c sugar
1/3 c water

Cook the berries with the sugar and water until thick. Spoon around strawberry shortcake.