Saturday, March 26, 2011

Strawberry Shortcake Trifle

Strawberry Shortcake Trifle
This recipe would never have been served during Lent as it is such a treat, but I was making it for a pot luck this evening and I thought you might enjoy it. The theme of the pot luck was bring a dish that you associate with your childhood. Something with strawberries in it came to mind. We grew them at home and there were several small farms in the area that grew them for sale near Whittaker, Michigan.

Whittaker, Michigan has always been a small town in southeast Michigan. A railroad track ran through it, but I don’t ever remember seeing a train. There was an old sawmill near the tracks, I think abandoned, even when I was a child. There were a couple of small churches, I remember one because it was an African American church, and the other was our mission church, St. Joseph Catholic, served by the priest from Immaculate Conception in Milan, about 15 miles away.

Whittaker was the home of the Augusta Township Hall and the Augusta Township Volunteer Fire Department. Both buildings sat at the corner of Talladay and Whittaker Road. Each summer the fire department would have a strawberry social as a fundraiser. Picnic tables were often set up in the field next to St. Josephs. Even though we grew our own strawberries at home, there was something special about getting a dollop of stewed strawberries on a piece of yellow cake and vanilla ice cream served in a cardboard container.

Last year, my 80-year-old friend Paul was celebrating a very special anniversary and he was hosting a reception for his friends. He was planning to make strawberry shortcake for a very large group of people. We convinced him that that would be too much work for him as friends would be visiting from out of state so a group of friends of his got together at my house and made strawberry shortcake for about 75 people. We made three 9”x13”x4” pans. Less than a month later we once again made the same strawberry shortcake, but this time it was for his memorial service as he had passed away. His goal had always been to live long enough to make that 50th anniversary and he did.

Paul was very kind to me during a very difficult time of my life. He told me to keep things simple. And he asked me to quit smoking. And I’ve done both.

Strawberry Trifle
The recipe that follows is sometimes called a Strawberry Trifle as it incorporates vanilla pudding instead of ice cream. It has become my go to dish when I am asked to bring something for a crowd. It’s easy and everybody likes strawberries, cake, pudding and whipped cream. When I make this recipe I usually have some leftovers as not everything will fit in the pan, so even if I leave my dish behind, I know that a midnight snack awaits me at home! You can also readily adapt this recipe for folks that are on a low sugar diet by substituting Splenda for the sugar in the strawberries and using artificially sweetened pudding and whipped topping. We did this for one of the pans for the memorial service and I don't think anyone noticed the difference, except those who had to watch their sugar were extremely appreciative of the tasty treat!

Strawberry Shortcake Trifle

1 box butter recipe cake baked as directed
1 teaspoon grated orange rind
2 quarts fresh strawberries
2/3 cup sugar
2 4.6 ounce packages cook & serve vanilla pudding
6 cups milk
1 21 ounce can strawberry pie filling
2 tablespoons butter, divided and cubed
1 16 ounce container Cool Whip whipped topping
4 tablespoons red currant jelly
1/2 cup sliced almonds, slightly toasted (optional)

Prepare cake mix as directed adding in 1 teaspoon of grated orange rind. Bake cake as directed. Allow to cool completely. When cool, slice about 1/2 inch off of the top. This piece can be reserved in a medium serving bowl. Put remaining cake in a 9”x13”x4” disposable aluminum serving pan.

Wash and hull the strawberries. Set aside about a dozen nice ones. Slice the remaining berries into halves or more if very large and sprinkle with 2/3 cup of sugar. Cover and put in refrigerator and allow to set for about 4 hours until sugar is dissolved and some juice is released from the strawberries.

Mix strawberries with one can strawberry pie filling. Spoon strawberries over cake, covering cake completely. Don’t put too much in as you have to keep room for the pudding and whipped topping. Pour remaining strawberries over leftover cake. Refrigerate.

Prepare pudding as directed. Whisk constantly during cooking as you do not want the pudding to burn. When done, remove from heat and whisk in butter. Continue whisking until butter is absorbed. Put pan in a cooling bath of ice cubes and water and cool until almost room temperature, whisking occasionally to keep the pudding smooth.

Spoon pudding over the strawberry layer until complete covered. Leftover pudding can be put on the leftover cake and strawberries. Return to refrigerator and chill for about four hours.

Top with whipped topping. Again, use leftover topping for cake, strawberries and pudding that was set aside.

Heat red currant jelly in small saucepan. Stir until dissolved and allow to come to room temperature.
The finished Strawberry Shortcake Trifle.

Slice all but one of the strawberries in half. Gently brush all of the strawberries with currant jelly. Arrange sliced strawberries in a rosette patter on top of the whipped topping using the whole strawberry for the center.

Decorate edges with toasted sliced almonds (optional). Allow to chill for about an hour before serving.

If you have a large enough round glass container, you could break up the cake and then layer in the strawberries and pudding leaving room for the whipped topping on top. It makes for a very dramatic presentation!

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