My sister was supposed to swim today. She’s 6 months pregnant and hot all the time. To stretch, lay out, relax, she said it would be heaven to her. Instead, it rained, so she fell asleep on the couch, curled up in an old blanket a great-aunt made. The room is dark and the light through the lace curtains is grey. Summer is fickle and sometimes you can only lie down for an hour and wait out the storm.
This morning we talked about two uncles we had. One died in a war, the other died from smoking a pack a day. I don’t miss either anymore, really, but we live in the shadows of their totems: tan lines from mowing Tanglewood Baptist Church’s cemetery, a gold ring one wore on his pinky finger, the distrust of feminine men and women who don’t put wear makeup. We live in these totems and don’t talk of them much. My dad keeps a used shell from his brother’s 21-gun salute. My mother had a bumper sticker on her Nissan for the longest time: “All gave some, some gave all” for her brother, too.
They were uncles with nothing to do with one another, but we visited both in one day. One July in Indiana, a few days in the Midwest so we could visit our family there. We played basketball with John and picked blackberries with Mike. I remember the clouds were as curt and monosyllabic as their names. The sun was hot, no shade out in farm country. We rode our bikes to Dairy Queen and John sang “Sex and Candy” under his breath the whole way there. I remember it because later, on the way to my uncle’s to pick berries, I said her brother said a curse word.
It stormed when we got to Mike’s. Summer is fickle and so we made dessert. He kept an old ice cream bucket in his fridge that was full of bruised berries, smashed and crammed to close the lid. We stayed there for two hours, my mother made a yellow cake. We ate it with ice cream and those bruised and bleeding berries. I remember it all so vividly, a world I was only acquainted with. One July when the summer was still fickle, too.
Wild Berry Shortcake
Inspired by my summers in Indiana and Nordic Ware's Shortcake Basket Pan. Makes 6 shortcakes or 2 8-inch square cakes.
Ingredients for Shortcakes
- 1 ¼ cup AP flour
- ½ cup corn flour or a fine-ground cornmeal
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- Pinch of salt
- ¼ cup half ‘n half
- 1 TB pure vanilla extract
- Zest and juice of 1 lemon
- 1 cup butter, softened
- 1 cup white sugar
- 5 egg
Directions for Shortcakes
- Preheat oven to 350*F
- Prepare your NordicWare shortcake pan with vegetable shortening and flour, as recommended by the care instructions
- Sift together flours, baking powder, and salt four times until very airy and light. Set aside
- Whisk together half ‘n half, vanilla, and lemon until well-mixed. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy
- Add eggs, one at a time. Make sure you turn off mixer once in a while to scrape the edges and bottom with a rubber spatula. Mixture will look curdled, but it is just fine
- With your rubber spatula (not with the stand mixer), lightly fold in flour mixture, a half-cup or so at a time
- When all flour is incorporated, your mixture will be pretty thick. Thin it out with your milk mixture and beat for fifteen seconds with the stand mixer on medium-high to aerate slightly
- Split batter between your 6 prepared shortcake cups
- Bake for 24-28 minutes or until tops of cakes are golden and slightly puffed (while this is baking, make your whipped cream)
- Allow to cool completely before removing from pan and assembling your desser
Ingredients for Cream
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream, cold
- ½ cup confectioner’s sugar
- 1 TB pure vanilla extract
- Pinch of salt
- ¼ cup crème fraiche (or Greek yogurt)
Directions for Cream
- While cakes are baking and cooling, work on your cream
- In the bowl of your stand mixer, now fitted with the whisk attachment, whip your cream until soft peaks form
- Add your vanilla and continue beating on medium
- Slowly add your confectioner’s sugar and your pinch of salt
- Turn mixer off
- Gently fold in your crème fraiche or yogurt. The whipped cream will deflate slightly, but the added dairy will thicken the mixture to a nice, heavy consistency
- Set aside until ready to assemble cake
Assembly: When cakes are cooled, top each with a couple tablespoons of your cream mixture and a few wild berries (as I did in this recipe) or blackberries (really, though, any berry will work). Sift a little more confectioner’s sugar for good measure and enjoy!
A special thanks to Nordic Ware for sponsoring this post. Nordic Ware has been producing quality kitchenware products in their 70 years and are now one of America's most beloved and iconic brands. For more information or products, check out their website!