Vestal makes a dreamy strawberry cake
Written by KAREN NADLER COTA Sentinel Lifestyles Editor
Tuesday, 18 March 2014 08:40
PEMBERVILLE - "It's probably one of your simplest recipes ever," Rosemary Vestal says of her award-winning Strawberry Dream Cake.
|Rosemary Vestal is about to serve her creamy strawberry cake. (J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune)
The great thing is, this dessert doesn't taste or look easy.
And actually, the Cook's Corner has offered even simpler recipes a time or two before, but who's counting?
In any event, I'd advise you to clip it right now and set it aside for a month, as this cake would be the perfect way to end your family Easter dinner, or any spring-themed gathering, on a high note.
The secret is the juicy fruit filling between the layers of white cake. It features a combination of two parts sliced strawberries to one part strawberry frosting - the same kind of light, creamy frosting that tops the cake. The frosting looks a lot like pink Dream Whip but has the added richness of melted white chocolate chips and strawberry jam, an inspired flavor combination.
Vestal recently entered the cake in the annual dessert and chili cook-off at her church, First United Presbyterian in Pemberville.
"Speaking from experience, it was delicious," Pastor Jim Miller said emphatically.
It ended up winning first place.
"The funny part is, my daughter (Jennifer Appelhans) won second place" with a chocolate peanut butter pie - with bacon, of all things, as an ingredient. "She made it like little tarts."
"I like to cook and she loves to bake," Vestal added.
A Pembervillian born and bred, Vestal, the former Rosemary Reef, graduated from Eastwood High School in 1964.
She worked as a hairstylist at Monty's salon in Bowling Green for an impressive span of 45 years, before retiring four year ago.
"I had cut down to three days a week" and then had to quit following double knee replacements.
Like any hair salon, Monty's had plenty of magazines laying around for customers to peruse, and it was in one of those women's magazines that Vestal first discovered a version of the recipe for Strawberry Dream Cake - "probably 10 or 15 years ago."
"I thought 'I don't have time to make a scratch cake,'" so she just substituted a box white cake mix and adopted the rest of the recipe.
"The key," after all, "is the frosting and the filling.
"You take a cup of the frosting out" of the bowl and reserve it. Then you take two cups of fresh strawberries" to the reserved frosting "and that's your filling."
The cake can be made using whole or 2 percent milk, but Vestal opts for 2 percent, saying it's plenty rich enough.
Vestal normally makes a nine-inch layered cake, but for the church cook-off she prepared it in a 13-by-9 pan, single layer, "to make serving easier."
The popular event began as a chili cook-off "and they added the desserts last year."
For the 2013 contest Vestal made a peaches and cream pizza "and it was really good" but it didn't win. "A regular strawberry pie won. That's kind of why I went with strawberry" as the basis for her own entry this year.
It was one of 11 desserts and 12 chili entrants submitted.
"We're just a small church, but we have a lot of good cooks."
Instead of having a formal panel of judges, the church placed a jar in front of each entry and whichever jar had the most monetary donation "votes" that item was declared the winner. All the money raised went to missions.
Vestal said she hasn't made the strawberry cream cake that many times. She plays Bunco, and a couple times she's served it to that group, plus she's made it for her family a time or two.
She'll be hosting bunco again in April and figures they'll want the dream cake again.
Being Irish, Vestal always hosts a family Jiggs Dinner each St. Patrick's Day, with a corned beef and cabbage entree, and normally it's daughter Jennifer's responsibility to bring the dessert.
Appelhans was off the hook Monday as Vestal served the Strawberry Dream Cake instead.
"As we get older, it's hard cooking just for two. I like to try different things and my husband, he's a meat and potatoes man."
The couple knows each other's habits pretty well by now. They've been married for 45 years.
"We met at the Wood County Fair. I was only 15" at the time, says Vestal.
The year they married, they chose Aug. 15 as the date for their ceremony. Considering "it was the last day of the fair," how did the happy couple finish off their wedding day?
"We went to the Demolition Derby," Vestal admits with a smile. "It was pretty new then, and a big deal."
Strawberry Dream Cake
1 boxed white cake mix, baked according to directions on box
2 9-inch pans
2 envelopes Dream Whip (whipped topping mix)
2/3 cup milk
1 cup white chocolate chips (melted)
1/4 cup strawberry jam
Beat whipped topping mix and milk on low speed until blended. Beat on high speed until thick and peaks form. Reduce to low speed and beat in chocolate chips and jam. Beat until well blended. Chill 15 minutes.
1 cup of the strawberry frosting*
2 cups sliced strawberries
Mix well. Place one cake layer on serving plate. Top with fruit filling. Place second cake layer on top of fruit. Frost with remaining frosting.
Garnish with strawberries. Store in refrigerator.