CRAFT by Under My Host® Issue No. 17 Made in America: Part II - Page 100

W W W. C R A F T BY U M H . C O M Strawberry shortcake was the dessert in the Tuohy household when I was growing up. It was the accompaniment to all special occasions-- family reunion, graduation, home coming or going away party, none were com- plete without the ubiquitous, two-tiered white cake carefully smeared with sweetness and topped with fresh strawberries. Strawberry short- cake was the dessert of family memories. My mother’s dessert was a strawberry shortcake in name only, that is to say, it was not a shortcake. Mom would start with two nine-inch angel food cakes. Sometimes she would make scratch whipped cream, lightly sweetened with a splash of vanilla extract. Other times she would use the most famous of original whipped toppings—Cool Whip. I preferred the Cool Whip version. Unlike me, my mother is detail-oriented planner. She would make the angel food cake a day before, and the cake would sit and cool on the counter—sweet anticipation of what was to come the next day. My brother and I would sneak little chunks from underneath the cake and from slightly over-cooked edges. The next day my mother carefully applied the topping--placing each strawberry in an exact spot on the cake. If the strawberries were scat- tered all willy-nilly, Mom would not be able to build the cake to its maximum height. The cake also had to be architecturally sound for the purposes of slicing and plating. Once the cake was locked and loaded, it would go back in the fridge. Before serving the strawberry shortcake, Mom would inevitably have to smooth out the finger marks from sam- pling by my brother and me. About fifth grade, I had a mouth full of braces, including those tiny rub- ber bands that connected the top and bottom braces. The bands made my jaw ache, but they were perfect to flick at my brother to instigate regular brotherly battles. One time, a rubber band war ensued in the kitchen during the cake cooling phase of strawberry shortcake. The next day, my mother shared this strawberry shortcake at a neigh- borhood cookout where it was enjoyed by everyone until one of the neighbor boys, while eating the cake, pulled a tiny rubber band from his mouth. He wasn’t a braces wearer, and it was determined that the rub- ber band was came from my mother’s cake! Everyone enjoyed a hearty laugh, even though my mother was mortified. I will never forget the moment or the fact that the rubber band didn’t deter anyone in the neighborhood from polishing off Mom’s strawberry shortcake.