On a drive up north here in Michigan, we recently heard a TED talk about the Blue Zones. These are the few communities around the world that have something important in common: their people live long. And well.
They have secrets that to them seem not such a secret, because it’s a way of life. They move around a lot, mostly walking. They drink a little wine, frequently. They eat mostly plants. They know their purpose, and share it with close friends and family every day.
I’d like to add another longevity contributor to that list: strawberry picking. Plus: listen to kids’ ideas for what to do on any given day.
The children were the ones who wanted to go picking. If they weren’t here, I can’t say we’d have made the hour drive, opting instead for a basket ready to go from the farmer’s market.
Kids get adults to do fun and interesting things. Aunt Maureen is learning this.
Once there they instructed, without knowing it, on the whole point of why you’d even go strawberry picking.
My niece put it this way: These don’t taste anything like the strawberries we buy at Publix.
Another one, upon tasting berry after red berry: I have the feeling I want to become a cook someday.
Another: Look all the way around the berry and make sure it’s completely red. Otherwise, don’t pick it.
We brought home the motherlode and of course have been making an ongoing and growing list of what to do with such a bounty: eat them simply as they are, first and foremost. Then we want strawberry fruit leather, strawberry jam, strawberry jelly, chocolate strawberries, strawberry ice cream.
And my personal mission agreed upon by all: a strawberry cream cake. Aunt Hilda was famous for hers and I’ve wanted to recreate it for years. Also, Dan and I just came up on our anniversary, which for us means a great—big—cake.
I did have passing thoughts that we should probably just eat the strawberries as they are and not get all sugared up with them. I guess Blue Zone people don’t eat strawberry cream cake?
But I figure that having added the strawberry-picking and the listen-to-kids thing to the longevity list, that ought to cancel out a sugar-cream indulgence.
Or we can just add another quite certain key to longevity to the list: joy! Strawberry cream cake from berries picked with your favorite people in the most beautiful place in the world, mid-summer.
Live long, and prosper!
- For the cake:
- 1 recipe fluffy white cake, made in a 13x9x2-inch cake pan
- For the strawberries and cream:
- 6+ cups strawberries, coarsely chopped, plus a few beauties for garnish
- 1 teaspoon rose water
- 4 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
- 3 cups cold whipping cream
- While the cake cools after baking, make the filling and cream.
- In a medium bowl, combine the chopped strawberries with 2 tablespoons of sugar and the rose water. Set aside to let the berries macerate.
- Whip the cream using a hand or stand mixer. Start on low speed, and increase the speed as the cream thickens, adding the remaining two tablespoons of sugar. Beat until the cream forms stiff peaks, taking care not to overbeat it. See this for more info on making whipped cream.
- Remove the cake from the pan, running a knife around the perimeter, loosening the cake on all sides. Shake the pan from side-to-side to loosen it completely from the bottom of the pan before turning it out onto a cutting board or the bottom of a sheet pan.
- Using a long serrated bread knife, slice the cake in half lengthwise for the filling. To separate the layers for the filling, make it easier by cutting the top layer of the sliced cake in half crosswise to transfer that layer to a platter in two pieces rather than one. Use that as the bottom layer of the cake.
- Spoon the berries and juice over the bottom layer of the cake, spreading them out evenly. Top with ⅔ of the whipped cream, leaving an inch or so of space around the edges. Top with the other half of the cake, gently moving it so it doesn’t break (another set of hands can be helpful!). Top the cake with the remaining whipped cream and garnish with the beauty berries. Chill for at least an hour, and serve cold.