Thursday, May 5, 2011

Children's Book Week: Red Riding Hood's Strawberry Streusel Cakes


Searching for good fairy tales for my boys, I've felt a bit like Goldilocks: They're usually too dark, or too sanitized. What a thrill, then, to find Lucy Cousins' giddy Yummy: Eight Favorite Fairy Tales! It showcases her bold, bright artwork, familiar to fans of her Maisy books -- and it delights in fairy-tale mayhem. Her telling of Little Red Riding Hood not only includes the hunter whacking open the wolf to free grandma, but it has a gleeful illustration of exactly that, with a "CHOP!" as the wolf's head sails clear to the next page.

11_CPE_Yummy2It isn't everyone's cup of tea, but it's a favorite for our family. (Full disclosure: I received my copy to review for Common Sense Media, a terrific resource for families.)

Reading Yummy got me thinking: What, exactly, is in that basket Little Red Riding Hood is taking to her ill grandmother?

Cousins doesn't say, but I remember at least one version in which the basket carries bread, cake and wine. I also remember one in which Red, after encountering the wolf, gets distracted by wild strawberries, letting the wolf get a head start toward granny's.

These petite streusel cakes are inspired by her adventures. Hoping she won't dawdle in the forest, I baked the strawberries right into the cake, adding a splash of balsamic vinegar to deepen the flavor and hint at the darkness lurking in the woods. Serve with wine, if you wish -- we stuck to sparkling juice.


Little Red Riding Hood’s Strawberry Streusel Cakes

You can adapt this recipe for muffins or a larger cake, if you're careful to adjust the baking time.

Strawberry filling
1 1/2 cups strawberries, washed, hulled, and sliced
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons arrowroot or cornstarch
squeeze of lemon juice

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup plain, unsweetened yogurt

Streusel topping
1 cup flour
1/2 cup oats
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch salt
6 tablespoons butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil four mini loaf pans.

Combine strawberry filling ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to low and cook, continuing to stir, for a few minutes until thickened. Mash strawberries with a fork to desired consistency and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar together until fluffy. Adds eggs and blend well, then add vanilla. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and stir well to combine. Add a third of the flour mixture to the mixing bowl, combine, then mix in half the yogurt. Then mix in another third of the flour, the other half of the yogurt, and finally the rest of the flour mixture, stirring in each addition well.

In a separate bowl, combine flour, oats, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt with a fork. Stir in melted butter until mixture is chunky and crumbly.

Divide cake batter among four loaf pans. Spoon strawberry filling on top. With a butter knife, gently swirl the filling into the top of the batter to marble it a bit. Spread the crumbly streusel topping over each loaf. Garnish the tops, if you wish, with a strawberry slice or two.

Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of a cake comes out clean.

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