You never forget your first, right? Today’s dessert will always be a special one because it was my first makeover. I’d been working in a restaurant in Boston for about a year when the chef gave me the opportunity to become Pastry Chef. My test was to come up with a menu that would “wow” both the chefs and the owners. I immediately got to work, and my kicked up strawberry shortcake got me the job!
It really seems like that was forever ago, and I love to look back at that time because it’s when I really started to develop my style and “flirt with dessert.” Over the years this little shortcake has gotten me quite a few jobs, and although it has been fine tuned, it always stays the same. Brown sugar pecan cake filled with white chocolate mousse is good to begin with. Add local strawberries that have been getting cozy with Grand Marnier, and the final dish is both fun and comforting. Another thing I love about this shortcake is that it can be served a number of different ways. The recipe calls for making cupcakes to build your shortcake, but this also works really well as a trifle.
This shortcake also led me to another first in my career, this time in media. Yup, not only was this my first makeover, but it was also my first video. Now I have to tell you, watching this video makes me giggle because I was so nervous, I don’t even think I smiled. I was beyond prepared for this shoot, but once the How2Heroes crew showed up and started setting up lights and cameras, the nerves really set in. I think it was the point when the director Kelsey put my mic pack on that I had the “For the love of God, what did I get myself into moment.” Anyway, I am beyond grateful for that opportunity because videos have become my favorite outlet, and a few dozen later, I think I’m smiling a little more
Enjoy the video!
Video courtesy of How2Heroes
- 1½ sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1½ cups light brown sugar
- 2 eggs
- 2 cups cake flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup pecans, toasted & roughly-chopped, + more reserved for garnish if desired
- ½ lb white chocolate (good-quality) - if using a block, chop into chip-sized pieces
- 1¼ cups heavy cream
- 2 gelatin sheets
- 1 cup heavy cream, whipped to a soft peak
- 1 lb strawberries
- ¼ - ½ cup granulated sugar
- few splashes of Grand Marnier
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
- Add eggs, one-at-a-time until fully combined.
- Sift flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Add ⅓ of the flour and mix until just combined.
- Add half of the milk and vanilla extract, mix until just combined.
- Repeat this alternation of wet and dry ingredients, ending with the last ⅓ of the flour mixture. Do not overmix- each addition should be mixed until just combined.
- Fold in pecans.
- Portion into muffin tins coated with non-stick cooking spray. Only fill cups ¾ full
- Place muffin tins on sheet tray, and bake 18-20 minutes, rotating the pan at about 9 minutes.
- Allow cakes to cool completely before removing from tins.
- Soak the gelatin sheets in ice water bath to bloom.
- Heat 1¼ cups of heavy cream to just a scald. Can be done on stovetop or in microwave.
- Place white chocolate in medium-sized bowl and pour heated cream over top. Whisk until smooth
- Wring out gelatin sheets and whisk into warm ganache to dissolve. Allow to cool, stirring occasionally.
- When the ganache is cool, fold in the whipped cream.
- Refrigerate at least 3 hours (preferably overnight) to set up.
- Wash and quarter strawberries.
- Add sugar and orange liqueur to taste.
- Macerate so flavors can get to know each other.
- Place mousse in piping bag with star tip. If you do not have a piping bag, a plastic sandwich bag with a corner cut will also work- or, you can just spoon the mousse onto the cakes.
- Take one cake, and place on plate. Pipe or spoon mousse around the outer edge of the cake.
- Mound strawberries in middle, pipe mousse atop strawberries and top with another cake, flipped upside-down.
- Add another dollop of mousse on top, and spoon more strawberries to serve.
- Garnish with extra toasted pecans, if desired.