Let’s go with a classic
Every Tuesday and Thursday my city hosts one of the prettiest markets I’ve ever seen. Farmers come bearing heaping piles of fresh produce, flowers, cheeses, meats, fish and eggs. Tucked against the backdrop of the medieval town hall in the center of the city it feels very “European” to say the least. Vendors get there early and rain or shine (there’s quite a bit more rain than shine) people hustle to the market and tote home baskets of fresh food for their hungry families.
When I lived in California just about every shopping trip required a car. Now I relish my short walk to the market. I load up on fresh flowers and take my time examining the farmers’ wares. There’s something so beautiful about coming to the market without a list and just letting inspiration take you for a ride. For example if I see some particularly fantastic tomatoes that’s the beginning of a really great dinner.
There’s something else to be said for loyalty. I’ve been coming to this market for about a year now and -finally- I’ve started to develop a bit of a repertoire with my favorite vendors. Notice how I didn’t say friendship; Germans are notoriously cautious around strangers. I think if I’d been coming to the market for 10 years instead of one I might have tentative friendships with these people. But as the new kid on the block (and a foreigner at that) our relationship is very professional.That doesn’t stop me from throwing in the odd sunny smile or two (I am from California) but it’s a whole different ball game here.
Right now I’m back in California for a much needed rendezvous with my family (and a taste of real summer) and I’ve been spending as much time as possible soaking up the cloudless blue skies. Really! Blue skies for as far as I can see- that’s something you don’t see in Germany. Amidst the family gatherings and requisite visits to all my favorite restaurants I must say it’s taken me a few days to readjust to the friendly conversation between strangers that most Americans dismiss as “normal”. I’ve become so accustomed to keeping to myself and keeping conversation to the bare minimum that it was a bit of a shock when I landed in Los Angeles. It seemed that wherever I went there was someone wanting to talk to me. While I was waiting in line at security, and passport control and even in the women’s bathroom! At first I kept thinking What is going on here?! Who does this woman think she is to talk to me right now?! But by now I’ve relaxed back into American culture. I love chatting with people on the street and becoming friends with someone you met five minutes ago but I realized that I’ve also started to appreciate the effort it takes to really get-to-know people in Germany.
Every word from someone feels like a small victory and every smile is worth celebrating. People don’t make friends easily in Germany but bonds aren’t broken easily either. That’s something I’ve learned to cherish and even though I will miss my dear Americans when I fly back to Germany I will be happy to see my favorite vendors at the Tuesday market. Especially my strawberry lady.
In case you didn’t know strawberries are in season and in Germany they are particularly lovely. Smaller than the ones I grew up with in California (my boyfriend likes to refer to them as “American-sized”) they’re sweeter as well. So sweet in fact that you really have to eat them fast and when I picked these up the other day all I could think about was one thing: strawberry shortcake.
I think strawberry shortcake is the best possible vessel to showcase, and enjoy, your strawberries. This recipe is easy and quick which is perfect because I didn’t want to spend much time in the kitchen anyways. I started with a basic Victoria Sponge because I like something light and airy to play fiddle to my strawberries but if you’re in the mood for something a bit denser you could always go with a standard pound cake.
If you feel so inclined this would be the point where you might want to “taste” the batter.
Equipment: One 8 inch (20 cm) cake pan for a taller cake or a 26 cm pan for a slightly thinner version
Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius (350 degrees Fahrenheit)
Part One: Victoria Sponge
200 g (1 2/3 cup) all-purpose flour
200 g (3/4 cup plus 2 T) unsalted butter, softened
200 g (1 cup) granulated sugar
2 T baking powder
pinch of salt
Part Two: Filling
2 cups heavy whipping cream
500 g strawberries
bit of sugar
half of a lemon
Butter and flour your cake pan and set aside. Preheat oven.
In a large bowl mix flour, salt and baking power. Set aside. Beat the sugar with the butter and eggs until combined. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix until fully combined. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 30-40 minutes. I used a 26 cm cake pan so my cake baked faster, just adjust your baking time accordingly. Let the cake cool completely (about 2 hours) before slicing horizontally in half.
Meanwhile hull and slice about half of your strawberries. Mix with the lemon juice and sugar to taste. Let sit in the fridge for 1-2 hours. When you’re ready to serve whip your cream to a soft peak, adding a bit of sugar if you like. Spread the bottom layer of the cake thickly with sweetened cream. Top with the prepared strawberries and the other cake half. Spread the top of the cake with the remaining cream and garnish with your remaining strawberries. Serve chilled.
I think this cake is great for entertaining because it’s such a crowd-pleaser and really, who doesn’t like strawberry shortcake? This cake also holds up quite well in the fridge overnight so if you can’t finish it all in one go, fear not. There are seconds for tomorrow.