Strawberry Shortcake

I like strawberry shortcake with cake, not biscuits.  Perhaps that may stir some controversy as to the correct version of this quintessential summer dessert, but I won’t be drawn into it.  I soak the cake with lots of sweet strawberry essence, pile on the juicy berries, and top it all with mounds of lightly sweetened, softly whipped cream.  Here is a simple way to get individual portions of cake for your strawberry dessert: cupcakes.  I have made a basic pound cake into cupcakes and they provide the perfect platform for all that strawberry goodness.  It couldn’t be easier; here is what you do:

Pound Cake Cupcakes
(makes 12 cupcakes)*
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at cool room temperature
8 ounces granulated sugar
8 ounces large eggs ( about 4 whole eggs, plus 1 egg yolk), beaten lightly to break them up.
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 teaspoon vanilla paste or extract
8 ounces all-purpose flour
Preheat the oven to 325ยฐF.  Line a cupcake or muffin tin with paper liners (or spray with cooking spray).  In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment (or with a sturdy hand-held mixer), cream  the butter until soft and light.  Add the sugar and beat until the mixture gains volume and turns very light in color.  Add the eggs gradually and blend them into the butter-sugar mixture.  Add the grated zest, orange juice, and vanilla paste.  With the mixer on low speed, add the flour and mix only until just combined.  Portion the batter into the cupcake tin and bake for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until they test done.
To serve your dessert:  Wash, hull, and thickly slice the best strawberries you can find.  Sweeten them to taste with a little sugar and a dash of Cointreau and let them macerate for an hour or so (refrigerate if you will be serving the shortcake later in the day).  When ready to serve, whip a quantity of heavy cream to soft peaks, adding a little sugar as you go.  For each serving, split a cupcake and set the bottom on a plate, spoon on a generous amount of strawberry liquid, top with sliced strawberries, then a large spoonful of whipped cream.  Set the top of the cupcake on the tower of strawberries and cream, and garnish with additional cream and a berry slice or two.  Enjoy!
* The batter can be baked in a greased, 9-inch loaf tin at the same oven temperature for about an hour to yield a traditional pound cake.



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