Kids in the Kitchen: Celebrating Strawberry Season
My apologies in advance to those of you who still have cold weather, because here in Louisiana it’s fully spring. Glorious, amazing spring, one of the prettiest down here that I can remember. Best of all, spring brings strawberries. Louisiana prides itself on growing them (see our local strawberry fest); luckily for me strawberries are one of my favorite foods. Every spring I eagerly look forward to the arrival of strawberry season. When the strawberry stand from our local farm pops up, we regularly stop by to get a flat at a time, and feast on them to our hearts’ content. We can very nearly polish off the entire flat just by munching on them, but usually still need to bake something after a few days to use them up before they turn. Smitten Kitchen’s Strawberry Summer Cake is, to my hips’ dismay, probably our hands-down favorite way to bake those abundant strawberries.
The recipe is something of a sleeper, since it doesn’t look like anything ground-breaking, but in the words of our sister-in-love, it’s “stupid good”. I usually double it, cough, and bake it in a 9 x 13 pan. Since the batter is stuffed (literally stuffed!) with cut strawberries before it’s baked, it’s the perfect recipe for little hands to help put together.
Last year, my munchkins helped hull and slice the berries, and then place them in the batter. (“Place” as in “jam with abandon”.) I like to use the small end of a melon baller to hull strawberries; it’s easy and neat, with the added bonus that little (or big…) fingers can’t get cut. We have a set of these Curious Chef nylon knives, and my kids have enjoyed using them. They wash up well in the dishwasher, are sharp enough to actually be useful, but are designed to be hard for little hands to cut themselves. Not impossible, but hasn’t happened yet…
This year I thought my oldest was ready to make the batter herself. (Note: Lest this sounds like idyllic sweetness– I have to conquer my selfishness to let my children help bake/cook. Baking with kids is not for the faint of heart. Baking is my hobby, and honestly I’d rather enjoy it peace all by myself, without having to say “No, that doesn’t go in that bowl!!” and “Please don’t get batter all over your sister’s hair!”. We get in the kitchen together because they think it’s fun, it will help them to grow up to be capable adults, they learn invaluable skills being in the kitchen with me (including appreciating food), and I love them enough to put up with the mess and the hassle to facilitate all that. One day I do hope it becomes a shared [enjoyable] hobby, but these days I have to psyche myself up for it. 😉
Anyway, this Summer Strawberry Cake is an excellent introduction to cake baking with children. It has all the expected elements of cake baking (creaming sugar and butter, etc.), but without any fussiness (like alternating wet and dry ingredients), plus a short ingredient list. Not to mention sugar gets sprinkled on at the end. I’ve yet to bake with my kids and not have the sprinkling be their favorite part.
If your kiddoes are too young yet to bake themselves, let them help dump ingredients in while you talk through the process.
I took a deep breath and changed my mindset from “baking a cake” (i.e., getting something done) to “teaching my daughter bake”, and let the process take as long as is needed for her learn by doing it herself (at least, with as little supervision as her mother could bring herself to actually allow…). The results were delicious.
You can find the Strawberry Summer Cake recipe over here. If you’re looking for more strawberry recipes, here are more of our favorites:
- These Strawberry Oatmeal Bars are delicious. (They call for white whole wheat flour — regular whole wheat works great, and I use 1/2 cup sugar instead of the Truvia called for.)
- A super easy (but impressive-looking) dessert is this Triple Berry Angel Food Cake Roll. If I use another berry I usually just do blueberries (not the raspberries), but I’m pretty sure no one would complain if it was all strawberries.
- Michelle has had people beg her to make these Strawberry Shortcake Cookies. (And here are Dorie Greenspan’s tips for making perfect shortcake!)
- To end on a somewhat healthy note, we’re all big fans of this Strawberry Salad with Poppyseed Dressing. It’s also delicious with the addition of avocado and/or blueberries!