Strawberries. They can be one of the most luscious, juicy, sweet tidbits to ever touch your lips. Or they can be meh… In fact, they can be down right bad – bitter, mealy, crunchy. Yuck. So what do you do when you want to make a light, airy, melt-in-your-mouth Angel Food Cake and top it with deliciously sweet and juicy ripe red strawberries (and a big blob of whipped cream), but finding them when winter has a stronghold on the country is about as likely as picking winning lotto numbers? You’re in luck; I’ve got the secret! (Not to picking the lotto numbers, unfortunately.)
To say the house where I grew up is unique would be an understatement. It was an old 1920s sprawling adobe house sitting on three acres of the most lush, green, and secluded land right in the middle of Phoenix. The walls were authentic hand-packed, sun dried, mud and straw adobe bricks covered with hand-troweled plaster. The floors were original, scored and stained concrete, and the arched doorways and hallways were never-ending. There’s nothing like it. But as a kid, I certainly didn’t appreciate it. In fact, my mom tells me that I was embarrassed to even bring friends over because the house was so “old” and the property was “too much like a jungle.” Apparently, I wanted to live in a two story brand new house with a manicured square of grass like all of my friends. Ha! Looking back now, I can’t fathom how I failed to recognize and appreciate the beauty of that house. But luckily others (like my parents) knew it was special. Many years ago, it was selected as the Home and Garden Designer Show House. Following that, my mom ran a very successful bed and breakfast out of the house (you already know that if you’ve read about my Blueberry Smoothies). She also hosted corporate parties and weddings. She was happy to share the beauty of her home with others, and they were delighted to be included.
But what does all of this have to do with strawberries and Angel Food Cake, you might be wondering… My mom met some very creative, talented, and interesting people during the time she ran her home as a business. Everyone from corporate executives to television stars to the then Vice President of the United States came for events. And those events were catered by some of the most famous chefs of all time. Elaborate weddings and parties were booked a year in advance. The fabulous food was only overshadowed by the beautiful and elegant wedding cakes, and one of the most well respected, highly sought after wedding cake designers was none other than Cathy of Cathy’s Rum Cakes. She was the wedding cake designer go-to person at the time, and she always exceeded the (very high) expectations of the brides – brides who often wanted rich, lush, sweet ripe strawberries dripping off of their cakes. Even in the dead of winter when strawberries were nearly impossible to come by. But Cathy had a secret. And she shared that secret with my mom.
And that secret is why I can make my fluffy, dreamy, airy, Angel Food Cake and top it with delicious strawberries any time of the year. (This is particularly helpful for Valentine’s Day!) So here it is… and it’s oh so simple. Mix equal parts sugar and balsamic vinegar together (you only need about a tablespoon of each) and drizzle it over the sliced strawberries. Let them marinate for a couple of hours, and it’s like magic! Strawberries that were “yuck” now look and taste like they came from your own backyard garden in the peak of summer. It’s an amazing trick, and I use it every time. These strawberries are the perfect complement to the wonderfully light pillowy Angel Food Cake, so pile ’em on! Of all the tips and tricks my mom learned and perfected while she ran her bed and breakfast, hosted weddings, and had major events, this is by far one of my favorites! Pass it on to all the strawberry lovers you know. They’ll thank you for it! And I’m sure Cathy won’t mind.