Family Meal

by Chef David Ferguson




Filtering by Tag: desserts

Balsamic Macerated Strawberry Shortcake, with Thai Basil

Prep time:  40 mins    Cook time:  20 mins    Serves:  8

Using both sweetened and raw strawberries gives this classic dessert great flavor without being too sweet.  Maceration is a technique to sweeten  and soften fruit, as well as add flavor, without using heat.  This preserves flavor, and allows for greater expression of the ingredients.  Traditionally this technique is done by just letting the fruit sit in sugar, but by adding a couple tablespoons of balsamic vinegar and some chopped Thai basil, other flavors can be introduced to the fruit.

When making the biscuits, work the dough by hand.  As any self respecting southerner will tell you, overworking biscuit batter will make them tougher.  The more you work the batter, the glutens will develop, and the worse off you’ll be.  Finish the batter on a cutting board and fold until the ingredients just come together.  

Thai basil has a slightly sweeter profile, which is why I chose it over traditional basil.  If you can’t find it, regular basil would suffice, as would mint.  I would also recommend whipping the cream by hand for improved texture.  If you aren't in the mood for the arm workout though, and electric mixer will do fine, just avoid the stuff in a can.  



  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for surface
  • 6 tbsp (¾ stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 large egg, beaten to blend

Berries & Whipped Cream

  • 1 lb fresh strawberries; hulled and quartered
  • ½ lb fresh strawberries; rough chopped
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 4 tbsp sugar; divided
  • ¼ cup thai basil; chopped and divided
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 400°.  In a large mixing bowl, whisk sugar, baking powder, salt, and two cups of flour.  Using your fingers, work in the butter until the the batter becomes the texture of coarse meal with a few small pieces of butter remaining. Add in the cream and mix until the dough just comes together.  At this point, the dough will be sticky.


Turn out your dough onto a lightly floured cutting board or surface and pat into a 12x4” rectangle about ¾” thick. Cut out rounds with a 2½” biscuit cutter, re-rolling the scraps as needed to make 8 rounds. Transfer rounds to a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake until tops are golden brown and shortcakes are cooked through about 15–20 minutes.

While your shortcakes are cooking, take 1lb of  your strawberries and add to a mixing bowl with 2 tbsp of sugar and balsamic vinegar.  Toss strawberries,  vinegar,  and sugar together, then add in half of your chopped basil and let sit 20-30 minutes.  

Whisk heavy cream, reserved sugar and vanilla extract together in a mixing bowl by hand until peaks form.   Set whipped cream aside.

Peel layers of biscuits apart and layer macerated strawberries and whipped cream.  Top with more whipped cream and garnish with fresh rough chopped berries and reserved basil.


Chocolate Caramel Sea Salt Cake

Prep Time:  30 min  Cook Time:  25-30 min  Total Time: 2 hours  Servings:  10  

Even though it's beach season it's hard to resist a recipe like this.  Decadent yet not too dense, this sweet & salty desert is perfect with an ice cold glass of milk.  If you are of the school of thought that the main purpose of cake is to serve as a vehicle for frosting, feel free to double the recipe and pile on as much as you like.  The flaky crystals in coarse seat salt or maldon salt are a perfect textural touch for a garnish



  • Non-stick vegetable oil spray
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups mayonnaise (non low fat)
  • 1 tbl vanilla extract

Frosting & Assembly

  • 12 oz bittersweet chocolate; chopped
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tbl light corn syrup
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 cup (2 sticks) butter (room temp)
  • 1 tbl flaky sea salt (like maldon salt)
  • Extra virgin olive oil; for drizzle (optional)



  • 3 8" cake pans
  • Parchment paper

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Coat cake pans with non-stick spray; place parchment in bottom of pans and spray again.  Make sure to coat the sides of the pans as well.  Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a mixing bowl.  Set whisked ingredients aside.

In an electric mixer, beat together eggs and sugar on high speed until light and the mixture has doubled in volume; about 4-5 minutes.  Add mayonnaise and vanilla and mix until just combined.    Dropping the mixer to low speed, slowly start batching in the dry ingredients in 3rds. Alternate the 3 batches of dry ingredients with 2 additions of  1 1/3 cup lukewarm water.  Once incorporated evenly divide batter into pans.  Rotate pans halfway through baking, 25-30 mins, or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Let pans cool 20 minutes before attempting to remove the cakes.  

Put 12 oz bittersweet chocolate in a mixing bowl while sugar, corn syrup, and a 1/4 cup water come to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Stir until sugar is dissolved.  Boil mixture, swirling pan occasionally making sure to scrape down the sides until mixture turns a deep amber.  Remove from heat and mix in cream (the mixture will bubble vigorously).  Return to medium heat and stir until smooth, about two minutes.  Pour caramel over chocolate and stir until mixture is smooth. Set aside.

Using an electric mixer, beat chocolate on medium speed gradually adding butter.  Frosting should thicken and smooth out after about 1 minute.  Chill frosting until firm enough to spread, 20-25 minutes.

Frost each layer of the cake, sprinkling sea salt in-between the layers and garnishing on the top and sides as well.    You may garnish each slice with a sprinkling of salt and drizzle of olive oil if desired.