Some Favorite Pals: Strawberries & Cream & Cake

Strawberry Yogurt-Shortcake

Strawberry Yogurt-Shortcake

Oh, tiny dessert, at last I’ve found you (sung to “Sweet Mystery of Life”).

Why do I like tiny desserts so much? My eye just always goes for the miniature. I love the detail. The care. It doesn’t feel overwhelming. I like small bites. (Remember YEARS ago the movie…I think it was called “Gemini”…and the commercial would always isolate the moment when one character is wolfing down a plate of food and another character watches in disgust yelling: “Take human bites!”)

That’s what I like: human bites. Did you ever get a salad in a restaurant and the leaves are the side of your face? So now you have use a fork and knife and get it into pieces you can fit in your mouth. What’s wrong with serving a salad someone can actually eat with a fork?

Same with wine pours. I’ve spent a lot of time in Italy. Nowhere have I found anyone to fill a glass of wine…or fill it to 3/4…odd to see even 2/3 full. A few swallows in the glass. Then pour some more. When someone pours me a too-full glass I get a passing feeling of almost drowning. Too much liquid to comprehend. Sip human sips!

But back to desserts. I never even ate desserts until the last few years. And so I naturally love the little desserts. Pastries, cupcakes, cookies, and slim slices of cake and tarts.

Strawberry Yogurt-Shortcake? Let’s make ’em small. And this isn’t really a shortcake. I use the word to evoke the traditional sweet of strawberry-short-cake. But this is a pleasant surprise of a taste that gives you what you expect and then adds more yumminess.

Mix 2 cups of sliced strawberries with a couple of teaspoons of sugar. Let sit at room temperature for about an hour. Brings out the juices.

In a medium mixing bowl whisk together 2 cups of flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon baking soda, healthy pinch of salt and 3 tablespoons sugar. Cut a cold stick of unsalted butter (8 tablespoons) into chunky dice. Add it to flour mixture and using a pastry cutter or 2 knives, cut butter into small or pea-sized pieces. Make a well in the center and pour in a very generous 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt and 1 large egg. Mix until just combined well.

Knead dough gently on a lightly-floured surface, then pat into a ½ -inch to 1-inch thick circle. Using a biscuit cutter, cut out circles and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Reform leftover dough into a disk and cut out more until all the dough is used. Sprinkle the tops with sugar. Bake for about 12-15 minutes in a 400 degree oven until golden. Let them cool.

Add 1 cup cream to a medium mixing bowl. Beat until soft peaks form, add 1 tablespoon of sugar and a drop of vanilla. Beat till stiffer peaks form.

Cut cooled cakes in half horizontally. Add a layer of cream to the bottom half and a layer of sliced strawberries. Top with top half. Add a small dollop of cream to top, and place a slice of strawberry in the cream.

These cakes have a soft consistency with a little chew-bite. The flavor & texture the yogurt brings is perfect for the addition of strawberries and cream.

Strawberries and cream.

Such a perfect pair, you can picture them hand in hand skipping down the lane. Seems a dessert deserving of a Proust-memory-zapping experience. That perfect pair leads us groping around with closed eyes in the days of our childhood. Ah! Here’s Buster, my teddy bear. And here’s my little white furniture desk that my mom painted with a few delicate pink and red flowers. And here’s my strawberries and cream…in a bowl…held by my small hands.

Strawberries & Cream Yogurt Cake

Strawberries & Cream Yogurt Cake


Amaretti Almond Cake w Lemon Glaze Recipe

Amaretti Almond Cake

Amaretti Almond Cake

This cake is a spinoff from another cake that I love. I was inspired by the spiced sliced almonds that my mom gave me. She got a bag of them in Trader Joe’s and split them with me. I stared at the ziplock bag with slivered spiced almonds for a week or more. They tasted great on their own but they begged to be included in something bigger. Something more elaborate. Something to make the SHINE. So I came up with this cake, tweaking and altering that other cake that used pinoli nuts and oranges.

Italians love almonds. This cake has almond paste, too. And amaretti cookies, which have almond in them, too. AND I’ve added some almond extract to the recipe. It’s a very fragrant and moist cake. The lemon glaze gives it a fun lift.

3 cups amaretti cookies

13 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided (plus a  little more to butter pan)

1 can almond paste (8 oz)

1 cup sugar

3 large eggs

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1 cup flour

1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

pinch salt

blanched slivered almonds, toasted w a little spice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Amaretti Cookies

Amaretti Cookies

Put the amaretti cookies in the food processor and pulse until they are as fine as bread crumb. Melt 5 tablespoons of the butter. Mix melted butter and cookie crumbs together.

Butter & Amaretti Crumbs

Butter & Amaretti Crumbs

Lightly butter a 9-inch spring form pan. Spread the cookie-butter mixture evenly on the bottom and bake for about 10 minutes until poofy. Take out of oven.

In a stand mixer with paddle attachment, combine remaining 8 tablespoons of butter, sugar, and almond paste. Mix until smooth. Add the eggs one at a time until well incorporated. Add the extracts. In another bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Pour all into batter and mix until just combined.

Pour batter into pan on top of baked cookie bottom and smooth level. Sprinkle with slivered almonds. If you don’t have spiced almonds, plain sliced almonds works as well.

Almond Cake in Oven

Almond Cake Going into Oven

Bake for about 40 minutes until golden and a toothpick stuck in the middle comes out clean. Let cool a bit in the pan. When it’s cool enough (but still a little warm), run a knife along the sides to make sure the cake isn’t sticking, then remove the sides of the spring-form pan. Make the glaze.

For the Glaze:

Zest and juice of 3 small lemons

1/2 cup powdered sugar

In a small saucepan, heat & mix the zest, juice and sugar until the sugar melts. Spoon glaze on top of cake (spoon some along the edge so that it drips off to the sides, too). Let cool. Cut and serve.

Mmmm. That's good.

Mmmm. That’s good.

Just a few spots left in my Fall Cooking Classes

cooking class

cooking class

These classes listed below have a few openings left!


Renaissance Tastes – Wednesday October 2, 6:30 pm

Cocoa-Flavored Fresh Pasta w Spicy-Cinnamon Beef Ragu

Fennel, Frisee & Escarole Salad w Parmigiano Vinaigrette

Amaretti Cake w Spiced Almonds and Lemon Glaze


Lunch in Perugia – Saturday October 19, 12:30pm

Fresh-Made Orecchiette Pasta (little ears) w Savory Sausage Ragu

Fennel Parmigiano Braised in Milk

Sweet Rosemary & Grape Clafoutis (Cake)


Cozy Hilltown Night – Wednesday October 23, 6:30 pm

Baked Sausage, Peppers & Potatoes w Rosemary Cannellini Beans

Sautéed Garlicky Escarole w Pine Nuts, Currants & Marjoram-Infused Olive Oil

Pear & Almond Mini-Cakes w Vanilla Glaze


Comfort Favorites – Wednesday October 30, 6:30 pm

Spiced Shrimp in Lemony Cream Sauce w Baby-Penne

Artichokes Stuffed w Garlic & Herbed-Panko

Fresh-Baked Focaccia w Asparagus, Red Onion, & Hot Pepper


Greek Island Cruise – Saturday November 2, 12:30 pm

Lemony Hummus

Smoky Eggplant Babaganouj

Spinach & Feta Pies

Walnut & Honey Baklava


Fireside Supper – Wednesday November 6, 6:30 pm

Gorgonzola Polenta w Fennel-Scented Lamb Ragu

Roman Peas & Asparagus w Pancetta & Onions

Pumpkin-Ricotta Mini-Pies


Home Cooked Italian – Saturday November 23, 12:30 pm

Sautéed Crispy Peppery Pork Scallopine Cutlets

Aunt Mary’s Sweet Peppers w Walnuts & Capers

Buttery Mashed Potatoes w String Beans & Parsley

Tender-Crust Hand-Pies w Mascarpone & Blueberries


Christmas Cookie Bake (Take-Home Tins!) Wednesday, December 18, 6:30 pm

Italian Rainbow Cookies

Biscotti Regina – Sicilian Sesame Seed Cookies

Chocolate Mini-Biscotti w Craisins & Pistachio Nuts