Strawberries are the essence of summer and complement many other flavours, including rose, hazelnut and vanilla. Here are four recipes to try
Juicy red berries, jam-packed with sweetness, are just perfect for sunshiny shakes, bakes, brunches and cocktails. I love when the first of the Irish strawberries hit the shops and roadside stalls. It’s a true sign of summer and brings with it the hope for warm bright days and balmy evenings. Strawberries are surely the sunniest fruit of all.
Strawberries pair beautifully with hazelnuts — and many other foods — and this delicious gluten-free hazelnut and strawberry cake, below, has an almost ethereal lightness. It’s topped, pavlova-style, with softly whipped cream and sweet red strawberries, and would make a super end to a summer meal.
Another flavour that works so well with strawberries — perhaps not surprisingly, seeing as they’re both in season at the same time — is rose. And these soft, almost marshmallowy meringues, featured below, are just divine, covered with sweetened cream and rose-scented strawberries.
The strawberry and vanilla buttercream icing, also below — a variation of one from my Cake cookbook — is probably my most favourite buttercream icing of all. Light, airy and gorgeously pink in colour, this will add a sunny, summery flavour to your cakes and buns. The recipe makes enough to top 24 buns, or it could also be spread in between and on top of two 20cm Victoria sponge cakes.
Baking strawberries (as with other berries) softens and sweetens the fruit beautifully. These strawberry and raspberry squares recipe featured here will turn a simple picnic with a cup of tea into a feast and are also sublime served warm at the end of a meal with whipped cream, custard or ice-cream.
You will need:
Butter, for greasing the tin
6 eggs, separated
200g caster sugar
For the topping, you will need:
1 scant tablespoon sifted icing sugar, plus extra for dusting
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
250g sliced hulled strawberries
Mint leaves, to decorate (optional)
1 You will also need a 23cm diameter cake springform or loose-bottomed tin with 6cm sides. Turn on the oven to 170C, 325F, Gas 3. Put the hazelnuts on a baking tray in the oven and allow them to get nice and golden; they may take about 15 minutes depending on how long the oven takes to preheat. They’re cooked when they start to turn light golden under the skins. Once they’re roasted, take them out of the oven, but keep the oven on for the cake. Put the nuts in a tea towel, then rub vigorously to get the skins off (don’t worry if they don’t peel completely).
2 While the nuts are roasting, butter the sides of the cake tin and line the base with a disc of baking parchment (see my Top Tip, below).
3 Put the peeled roasted hazelnuts in a food processor and whizz for a minute or so until they form a coarse powder but there are still a few larger chunks remaining for texture.
4 Using a hand-held electric beater or an electric food mixer, whisk the egg yolks and the caster sugar together for 5–7 minutes or until the mixture is pale, thick and mousse-like, then fold in the whizzed hazelnuts.
5 In a separate, spotlessly clean bowl (and having cleaned the electric beater, if you’re using it), whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Gently fold the whisked egg whites into the egg yolk, sugar and hazelnut mixture until incorporated.
6 Tip the batter into the prepared cake tin and bake in the preheated oven for about 40-45 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean and the cake begins to come away slightly from the edges of the tin. Don’t worry if it dips slightly in the middle.
7 Remove the cake from the oven and allow it to cool in the tin for 10 minutes. Use a small, sharp knife to loosen the sides, then carefully remove the sides of the tin. Leave the cake on a wire rack to cool down completely then transfer to a serving plate.
8 While the cake is cooling, whip the cream with the scant tablespoon of sifted icing sugar and the vanilla extract just until stiff peaks start to form.
9 Spoon the sweetened whipped cream over the top of the cake, leaving a border of about 1cm around the edge — see the photo, top left — and scatter the sliced strawberries over the cream.
10 Decorate with a dusting of icing sugar and some mint leaves if you are using them.
If you’re using a springform tin for the hazelnut cake, make sure the base is upside down, so that there’s no lip and the cake can slide off easily when baked.
You will need:
4 large egg whites (see Rachel Recommends, below)
225g caster sugar
1 teaspoon cornflour
2-3 tablespoons rose water
Seeds from ½ a vanilla pod
or ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon sifted icing sugar
1 Preheat the oven to 150C (135 fan), 300F, Gas 2. Line a baking tray with baking paper. Draw six circles with a diameter of approximately 8cm-10cm on the paper, then turn the paper over so that the pencil marks don’t get on the meringues.
2 To make the meringues, put the egg whites into the bowl of a stand mixer, or into a large mixing bowl and use an electric hand whisk. Whisk the whites until they start to form soft peaks. Add a spoonful of the caster sugar and whisk until well combined. Continue in this way, adding a spoonful of caster sugar at a time and whisking in, until all the caster sugar has been added, then sift the cornflour over the top and fold it in thoroughly.
3 Spoon the mixture evenly on to the circles you have drawn on the baking paper and spread it out to the edges. Make sure the nests are a little higher around the edge than in the middle. Put in the oven, then immediately turn the oven down to 120C (110 fan), 250F, Gas 1. Cook for 1 hour. Turn the oven off and leave the meringues in the oven until they are cool.
4 To prepare the topping, hull the strawberries, halve or quarter them and put them in a bowl. Drizzle the rose water over them and toss to coat them well. Leave them to macerate for at least half an hour to imbue the strawberries with a delicate rose flavour. The amount of rose water you need will depend on the strength of the rose water that you’re using, so start with just a little bit, then add a bit more if necessary.
5 Put the cream and the vanilla seeds or the vanilla extract, whichever you’re using, in a bowl. Whisk until thickened, then stir in the sifted icing sugar. You can do this a little in advance and store in the fridge until needed.
6 To assemble, place the meringue nests onto serving plates. Spoon the strawberries evenly into the dip in the centre of the meringue, drizzling any excess strawberry and rose-water liquid over too so that it seeps into the meringue and flavours it. Top the strawberries with a spoonful of the vanilla cream. Serve.
If you have egg whites in the fridge but aren’t sure how many there are, allow a generous 1oz or 40g or 40ml per egg white.
You will need:
175g butter, softened and a little extra to grease the tin
175g caster sugar
Finely grated zest of 1 orange
175g plain flour, sifted
1 teaspoon baking powder
100g strawberries, cut into quarters
Icing sugar for dusting
1 You’ll also need a 20cm diameter square tin with high sides. Preheat the oven to 180C (160 fan), 350F, Gas 4.
2 If the cake tin has a removable base, butter the sides and line the base with a square of baking parchment, otherwise line the base and sides of the tin.
3 In a bowl, cream the 175g of butter until soft or use an electric food mixer. Add the caster sugar and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy.
4 Whisk the eggs together in a small bowl for a few seconds or just until mixed, then gradually add them to the creamed butter and sugar mixture, beating all the time.
5 Beat in the finely grated orange zest and the milk, then stir in the sifted plain flour and the baking powder.
6 Add 50g of the raspberries and 50g of the quartered strawberries and gently fold in.
7 Tip the mixture into the prepared tin, then dot the remaining raspberries and strawberries on top of the cake mixture.
8 Bake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for in the tin for 10 minutes, then carefully remove the cake and leave it on a wire rack to cool down fully. Once it has cooled, put it on a chopping board and cut it into 16 squares. Dust with icing sugar to serve.
Makes enough to ice 12 cupcakes
You will need:
100g fresh or frozen (and defrosted) strawberries
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
175g butter, softened
600g icing sugar, sifted
1 Put the fresh or defrosted strawberries, whichever you’re using, the lemon juice and the vanilla extract in a liquidiser or food processor. Whizz for about a minute to get a purée. Push the purée through a sieve into a bowl, then set aside.
2 In a separate bowl, use an electric whisk to beat the softened butter, then add 150g of the sifted icing sugar until combined. Gradually add the remaining sifted icing sugar in two or three instalments — before the last addition of icing sugar, add the fruit purée you set aside earlier, whisking continuously until the buttercream is smooth and airy.
3 This icing can be made in advance and left at room temperature for 2 hours. You will need to beat it again before using it to lighten it if it deflates while it is sitting. It can also sit in the fridge overnight, just whisk it again before using to soften and lighten it.