Culinary Masterpieces and Strawberry Cake

On Thursday in Montecito, I was part of “Culinary Masterpieces,” an event for the CEC (Community Environmental Council) hosted by Merryl Brown of Merryl Brown Events and Gay Browne of Greenopia.

Local food purveyors of organic and specialty made products were there to participate (such as C’est Cheese, Green Girl Totes, Jessica Foster Confections, San Marcos Farms Honey…). Your girl Val showcased three different cooking demonstrations throughout the day. My game plan was to provide techniques in cooking garden fresh ingredients, using recipes that can be easily altered depending on what is in season – either in your garden or shopping local farmer’s markets.

My first demo started with my beloved veggie platter – Nasturtium Pesto with Crudités. A  smashing way to use excessive garden produce is to put it raw (or cooked) veggies on a crudités platter and serve it with a spectacular and seasonal dip.

Next,  I made Fresh Pea Soup. This is a  great recipe that can be tweaked for many a vegetable.  In the summer, use tomatoes in lieu of peas or try butternut squash in the fall.

Then I ended my lessons the way I like to end my meals- with a bite of something sweet.  I chose an oldie but a goodie, this Cake with Seasonal Fruit is delicious.  It originated from a 1986 recipe in the New York Times that my friend Samantha shared with me a while ago (not in 1986 mind you, I was still using an Easy Bake Oven).  I made a few tweaks for a healthier approach with the flour, but really it’s cake and it is good! It is so tasty and dense.  My labradoodle, Penny, can attest to that fact- we returned home from Sakana one evening to find she had eaten the whole cake off the counter!

The best thing about this recipe, is that it is easy and can be made into 100 different concoctions.  You can really use it with any seasonal fruit. For the demo, I used Chandler strawberries and smeared it with pureed homemade strawberry preserves (stay tuned for recipe later in the week), then sprinkled confectioners sugar on top after it comes out of the oven.  I love this recipe for entertaining too, you can make it the day before your party, store it in the fridge and then bring to room temperature before you serve – that is, if you are not tempted to eat it for breakfast!

Culinary Masterpieces and Strawberry Cake

Strawberry Cake

Serves 8

Preheat oven to 350 degrees


1 cup sugar

½ cup butter (soft)

1 cup white whole wheat flour or whole wheat pastry flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

Pinch of salt

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

16 ounces strawberries sliced in half

Toppings can vary to your liking- lemon and sugar or  jam and powdered sugar.


Cream sugar and butter. Add flour, baking powder, salt, eggs and vanilla. Beat well. Using a silicon spatula scrape the cake batter into a buttered and floured 9-inch spring form pan. Arrange the strawberries (seeds up) in a circular fashion around the pan. Sprinkle with about 1 teaspoon of sugar and a squeeze of  lemon or in lieu, of sugar and lemon you can brush the fruit with your favorite preserves.


Bake for 1 hour. Remove from oven and serve lukewarm. Serve with crème fraiche or whipped cream.


Note: If you make it in advance and freeze it, you can bring to lukewarm in a 300 degree oven.