Updated: Aug 12, 2021
A rescue and recovery mission
At the very end of strawberry season, when the heat was starting to melt our sweet little strawberries into little puddles of juice right in the field, we were lucky enough to have a visit from Birmingham's own Beth Branch of BethCakes.com & her sweet mom Jana. It was hot a sticky outside, but I had such a delightful time getting to know them and share a little about the history of our farm, as well as our plans for the future. We were on a rescue and recovery mission to pick berries to freeze before it was too late - and happy to have Beth and Jana there to help!
photo credit: Beth Branch
Beth began food blogging when she was a student at the University of Alabama, and authored her first cookbook, Hello Sugar, in her early twenties. Beth is a creative and super talented local baker. Her recipes are inspired by her southern roots, but with a modern twist. I knew Beth was the perfect person to help inspire our #DeLoachFarmsFamily to new strawberry heights! You can read more about her visit to DeLoach Farms and get her amazing recipe in the link to her page at the bottom of this post.
You can order Beth's cookbook on Amazon. I did!
Southern comfort meets a modern twist
Beth was inspired to create a new strawberry cake recipe with her strawberries, and I know you are going to love it as much as we did! While a lot of strawberry cakes get their flavor from strawberry jello, there is no artificial strawberry flavoring in this cake. A simple strawberry compote (just strawberries, cornstarch & water!) packs in the strawberry flavor and keeps the cake moist. The strawberries do the work here, so using quality berries is going to make a big difference. It was so nice to be able to grab a few handfuls of perfect DeLoach Farms strawberries out of the freezer and get baking. This cake had no idea it wasn't still springtime :).
Oh, but the frosting... this is where the modern twist comes in. The secret to getting such a vibrant natural strawberry flavor & color into this icing is freeze dried strawberries! There is a long family farm tradition around drying fruit. In fact, John's grandmother was famous for her fried pies that used dried apples from our apple trees. Back at the turn of the last century, Mother Lowe would can as much fruit as she could. When she ran out of jars, she would set the rest out to dry on bedsheets under the oak tree. The children took turns swishing the flies away with branches. That type of dried fruit tends to turn brown though. One of those branch welding children would later describe the fruit as "darker than brown".
Freeze dried berries, on the other hand, retain their color and are perfect for frosting. They also always reminds me of getting to try astronaut food during my 7th grade class field trip to the Huntsville Space & Rocket Center. Next year I need to look into making my own, but for now I am buying it from Dollar General (is it just me or has Dollar General really stepped up their game lately!). Beth used a food processor to grind hers up, but I just crunched mine up inside the unopened pouch until it was dust and then ran it through my sifter to screen out any big chunks.
The buttercream is luscious and tangy, with both butter and shortening. Beth's blog called this "the best strawberry frosting on earth", and I am not about to disagree with her. You'll have to let us know what you think. I'm also going to try adding the strawberry powder to cream cheese frosting. I think it might be just as amazing as the buttercream. I'll report back and let you know.
One batter, 3 ways
I wanted to make this cake for a big family dinner. Since time was short, I made cupcakes instead of the beautiful layer cake Beth created. (This is where we all pretend I could have made my cake look like hers if I had had just a little more time, lol). I've added a picture of the cake she made so you can see how gorgeous this cake is. I shortened the cooking time to about 18 minutes for the cupcakes. I had a little batter left over after making two pans of cupcakes, so I also made a little mug cake in the microwave for the impatient littles. It turned out great too (cook time was 2 minutes).
Layer cake photo credit: Beth Branch. How beautiful is this cake??
Everyone loved the cake and I've already been asked to make it again. Click the link below to read about Beth's visit to DeLoach Farms and get her yummy recipe! You can also find her on Instagram @Bethcakesblog. She's one of my favorite follows. Speaking of follows, if you aren't already following us on Instagram, you can find us @deloachfarms. We'd love to see you there.