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Six hour shortcake

I ♥ food -musings and stories from the life of a foodie

How much of your day has to do with food? Thinking about it, buying it, preparing it, fretting about the fats or carbs in it, savouring it, dealing with leftovers, daydreaming about more food … I realised a long time ago that I was fairly consumed with what I consumed! Some people eat to survive. For others, like me, thoughts of breakfast get us out of bed in the morning!

Most of us were taught not to waste food – there are starving children in the world. But are there ever occasions where we should just accept that good food will be wasted and throw it in the bin?

A story from my younger days illustrates the lengths to which I’ve gone in order to be responsible with food. I’d set out to make strawberry shortcake, a favourite dessert in the US. I could cheat by making the shortcake with a popular all-purpose baking mix containing flour, baking powder, salt, etc. Then it was just a matter of buying fresh strawberries and cream.

I knew I was in trouble when I’d just added 1 ¼ cups of melted butter and the recipe instructed me to stir the mixture, forming “stiff peaks”. My bowl contained a sea of yellow liquid. Closer inspection of the recipe revealed that I should have added just ¼ cup (about 50g) of melted butter, not five times that amount!

I phoned my friend, Lora Beth for advice. “You have two options,” she said. “Ditch the mixture and start again, or multiply all of the other ingredients by five. I realised there was just one option for me, and started doing my calculations. Now I had to have a total of 40 cups of the baking mix, 20 eggs, 40 tablespoons of sugar and 12 ½ cups of cream. Did I really want to do this? Maybe I should just bin it? Nah, I’d just have some extra shortcake. And I set to work.

First I phoned a few friends to see whether they had any of the ingredients I lacked. Soon people began arriving at my door with boxes of eggs and baking mix or cartons of cream. Neighbours from the flats above and below mine brought me more pans, and offered me access to their kitchens so I could use three ovens simultaneously. Sure, it would involve running up and down the stairs all afternoon, but that would burn off calories. And then I could enjoy the strawberry shortcake with no guilt.

Six hours after beginning the project, I crawled up the stairs to my flat with the last pan of shortcake to come out of an oven. It was a little well done, but not exactly black. When all 10 pans had cooled, I cut the cake into chunks and placed about eight pieces into each of a stack of resealable food bags I had waiting.

I took the whole lot in to work with me the next day and, after pricing it affordably, I managed to shift it. Strawberries were in season, and my colleagues were only too happy to buy bags of freshly baked cakes to go with them. I even managed to sell, at half price, the slightly smoke-damaged batch.

Later, I noticed the name on my recipe card was “Speedy Shortcake”. I knew that one day I would see the humour in that.


Published in Konect October 2021

Author: Suzanne Green


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