Thursday, June 23, 2011

Fireworks on the 4th Can Sure Be Sweet!

How to Create a Glamorous Outdoor Dessert Bar
When it comes to dessert spreads for all holidays, my mind drifts unwittingly to pie. I do love pie, and on the Fourth of July, it’s easy to picture a flaky crust bursting with berries and topped with a great big dollop of vanilla ice cream. But…if you’ve come to my blog expecting another pie recipe, you’re out of luck this time. I’ve decided to feature two lighter than air, summer desserts from my “Show Stoppers” list. So what looks stunning dolled out into a full body set of 8 Marquis by Waterford goblets? Mixed Fresh Berries with Zabaglione Sauce. This is just what you want on a sultry summer’s night: a light and foamy wine, cream and berry soaked creation to ring in the fireworks.

This dessert is tops in my house guest recipe file because it’s light and yummy and the sweet sauce it requires can last for days, making any spare fruit a heavenly experience. Made traditionally with Marsala wine, it’s a delicious upgrade from whipped cream. Use the freshest, ripest berries available and display the dessert in an inviting circle of glasses on your deck or patio table; your guests will forget they’re in your backyard and mistake their surroundings for the bar on a cruise ship.

Happy Birthday America Cake
Another summer confection that melts in your mouth with patriotic flair is Strawberry Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting; picture it sitting atop an antique silver beaded cake stand, its faux diamonds shining brighter than the fireworks in the night sky. This is a grand strawberry cake, and you can cut it, quite easily, into the shape of a star, just like the image pictured with this blog. Because you’ll also want blue accents on the cake, I think the blueberries pushed into the border at the bottom are a very nice touch. On the cream cheese frosting top, place a few small American flags and sliced strawberries.

And remember…
It certainly doesn’t have to be 7/4/11 to enjoy this dessert. It’s also just right for a ladies luncheon, bridal shower, or birthday party. The technique of folding the egg whites into the batter produces a very light cake that holds up to the rich frosting. It’s a breeze to prepare and in this summer heat, we could all use a breath of fresh air! Just don’t tell the guests watching their girlish figures that the recipe contains, not one, but two packages of cream cheese!

Red, White and Bloom
A few days before the party, visit a Home Depot or reliable nursery and pick up a few big terracotta pots and flowers for planting; it’ll set the picnic scene for the most beautiful and apropos summer evening possible. This is a list of what Better Homes and Gardens calls “Red, White and Bloom”. Plant these guys in nutrient rich soil and flank either side of your outdoor buffet table with gorgeous mixed flowers.

  • Red & White flowers: Geraniums, Petunias, geraniums, verbena, snapdragons, Zinnias and Cosmos

  • Just Red: Cannas, red dahlias, red begonias or even the somewhat fleeting red gladiolus. Red cockscomb and a red globe amaranth such as “Strawberry Fields” are also strong possibilities. Also look at vines such as cardinal climber or cypress vine.

  • Mostly White Flowers: White Lilies, Clematis, Hydrangea, Dianthus, Daisies, Zinnias, Salvia, Impatiens and Begonias

  • Blue Flowers: Bachelor buttons, Morning glorys, Pansies and Forget-me-nots, Blue verbena, blue salvia, blue lobelia, blue petunias and delphiniums, and, especially blue hydrangeas…

    Sigh…all so lovely. Here’s wishing you luck and fun in sewing the seeds for a yummy 4th of July weekend.

Strawberry Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Serves 10 to 12
Prep time: about 1 hour and 30 minutes

2 ¾ cups cake flour
21/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 cups granulated sugar
1 3-ounce box strawberry flavored gelatin
1 cup margarine
4 egg yolks
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon strawberry extract
6 to 8 strawberries, pureed, about ½ cup
4 egg whites

1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon powdered sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

½ cup shortening
2 8-ounce packages cream cheese
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
8 to 10 sliced strawberries (about ¾ cup)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Prepare 3-inch round layer pans by coating with cooking spray and then dusting with flour.

In a medium bowl combine the flour and baking powder. Set aside.

Use an electric mixer to combine the sugar, gelatin and margarine until fluffy.

Add the egg yolks one at a time. Mix well.

Add the flour mixture in 3 parts, alternating with the milk. Stir in the strawberry extract and pureed strawberries.

Pour the batter into a large mixing bowl. Set aside.

Beat the egg whites until stiff. Fold the egg whites into the batter.

Divide the batter into 3 pans. Bake in the center rack of the oven for about 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Cool the cakes in the pan for 10 minutes. Continue cooling by removing each cake from the pan to a rack.

Use an electric mixer to combine the whipping cream, powdered sugar and vanilla. Whip until stiff. Set aside.

Use an electric mixer to combine the shortening, cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar and vanilla to form the frosting.

Mixed Fresh Berries with Zabaglione Sauce

Serves 6 to 8
Preparation time about 30 minutes

1 pint strawberries, hulled and halved
1 pint blueberries
1 pint raspberries

4 egg yolks
¼ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup Marsala wine
½ cup heavy cream

Wash the berries, place in a large bowl and chill.

Wisk the egg yolks and sugar together in the top part of a double broiler over medium high heat.

Whisk in the wine.

Continue beating until the sauce has doubled. It will thicken, become fluffy and turn pale yellow.

Remove the top of the double broiler to a large bowl filled with ice. Continue whisking the sauce until it cools.

Place the heavy cream in the chilled bowl of an electric mixer. Beat until the cream forms peaks. Do not overbeat or you will end up with butter!

Fold the whipped cream into the Zabaglione sauce. Chill until ready to serve.
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