My mom is the main reason I got in the kitchen. Since I was a little girl, there was always a permanent seat in the kitchen for me. At first, I would just watch her do her thing. To me, it was magical. I’d ask for a kitchen set for Christmas almost every year, just so I can pretend to cook like her. I grew up hearing the praises of everyone around me because my mom is that much of a fantastic cook. As a teen, I started to help her make dinner; chopping onions and peppers, stirring pots, all while laughing and chatting with her about anything. After my sister and I grew up, she started working as a cook in a deli. We were fortunate to have our mom at home when we were kids, but times got hard and she decided to make money doing what she loved most. Even then, we’d hear customers regularly praising her cooking. Now that my mom is no longer cooking for work, we get together in the kitchen several times a week and pick up where we left off. I hate to brag, but she really is an awesome cook. I can eat the exact same thing made by someone else and it’ll never taste the same. In fact, I’m so picky about home cooking that I rarely eat anyone else’s. It’s just that good! I know kids are supposed to say their mother’s cooking is superior, but I am not lying when I tell you my mom’s is the best.
She is the quintessential Dominican cook. If you’ve seen my Thanksgiving and Christmas posts, you’d know what I was talking about. Her sazón is like no one else’s; often imitated but never duplicated. Everyone asks my mom how she cooks such good food and all she does is smile. Sitting in the kitchen with my mom all these years, I witnessed her magic and the secret behind her amazing food. It’s simple (and ridiculously cliché) but it’s just love. My mom is passionate about cooking and pours tons of love into every little thing she makes. You can hear her humming, or even singing while she stirs a pot or chops veggies and herbs. It’s in there and you can feel it. She is truly her happiest in the kitchen, making food for the people she loves. Even when she did it for work, she’d sing and laugh and smile.
That passion and energy is what pushed me into the kitchen. I look up to my mom a lot because not only is she a fantastic cook, but she’s an amazing person. I know, everyone says that about their moms but she really is. She’s my number one cheerleader in life, and has always given me all of her support and love. She’s more than just my mom; she’s my friend, too. We talk about absolutely everything and even give each other advice. Granted, I don’t have much life experience but I like to believe I can be wise sometimes! I’m her shoulder to cry on just like she’s mine. She taught me how to be strong, loving, caring, and thoughtful. I’m not even sure that she knows how much she’s taught me or how much I value what she says.
Every year, I try to make Mother’s day extra special. I show my mom how much I love her on a daily basis but on days like these, I like to put in a little extra. This year, we were a little tight budgeted so we settled on just me baking her something. I decided on a strawberry shortcake because I had been dying to try my hand at a chiffon cake. The strawberries were perfect, so I went ahead with it. Unfortunately, my oven is still on an angle, so one of my layers came out really lopsided. I messed up royally attempting to even it out so I can tort it into two layers. I did my best to remedy it with the cream and strawberries but it ended up not looking too presentable. I almost didn’t even want to post it! I actually apologized to my mom for its appearance and she just smiled at me and said “it’s the thought that really counts.” I told her that I knew that, and internally rolled my eyes because it’s so cliché but accepted it and realized that was the point. Her whole deal is doing things with love, which is what I aim to do when baking. I made this cake with a ton of love and excitement, and she knew that. This alone was enough of a gift for my mom and I’m glad I was able to give that to her.
Despite its not so good looks, the cake came out fantastic. The chiffon cake was super light and fluffy. The strawberries went perfect with the coconut whip, against the fluffy and slightly lemony cake. My mom loved it, as well as the rest of my family.
I’m grateful to have my mommy because without her, I don’t know what I would be doing these days. I’m thankful for her endless support and hope that I can continue to be there for her, like she is for me. Because of her, I will continue to bake with love and happiness and hope that I can make her proud.
Strawberry Chiffon Shortcake – adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Makes 2 9″ round cakes
- 2 1/4 cups sifted cake flour
- 1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup cold water
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 5 large egg yolks at room temperature
- 8 large egg whites at room temperature
- 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
Coconut Whipped Cream
- 2 (13.5oz) cans full fat coconut milk, refrigerated at least overnight
- 1/4-1/3 cup powdered sugar, sifted
- 1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line the bottom of two 9″ round cake pans with lightly greased parchment paper. Leave the rest of the pans ungreased.
In a large bowl, sift the flour, 1 1/4 cups sugar, baking powder and salt together twice.
In a another bowl, beat the yolks, water, oil, zest and vanilla on high speed until smooth. Stir into the flour mixture until smooth.
In another large bowl, or the bowl of your stand mixer, beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar until soft peaks are formed. Add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, and beat on high speed until the peaks are stiff but not dry.
Using a rubber spatula, gently fold one-quarter of the egg whites into the egg yolk mixture. Gently fold in the remaining whites until the egg whites are no longer visible. Do not overmix, as it’ll deflate the whites and result in a shorter, tougher cake.
Pour the batter into the two prepared pans and spread evenly. Bake them until the top springs back when lightly pressed and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean 40 to 50 minutes Please check your cake every five minutes or so from the 30 minute mark on for doneness. Do not overbake!
Let cakes cool on a cooling rack for at least an hour in the pans on a wire rack. When completely cool, run a knife around the sides to release, then flip out onto a plate (or your hand) and then another plate.
Coconut Whipped Cream:
- Open both cans of coconut milk. The cream should’ve solidified and risen to the top. Scoop out the cream into a bowl. If there is any liquid at the bottom of the can, discard it.
- Using an electric mixer, whip the coconut cream for 2-3 minutes or until it reaches soft peaks. Sift in the powdered sugar and cornstarch, and add the vanilla. Continue whipping until the sugar, cornstarch and vanilla are incorporated.
- 2 pints of strawberries, hulled and sliced
- You can make this a two layer cake but if you’re feeling lucky, tort both of the cakes into four separate layers. If you have a cake cutter, now would be a good time to use it. If not, grab a ruler and several toothpicks. Measure your cake’s height, marking the halfway point with a toothpick. Rotate the cake, continuing to mark the halfway point with a toothpick all around. Use as many toothpicks as you need, just make sure they are consistent all around the cake. Using a serrated knife, gently saw through the middle of the cake, using the toothpicks as a rest/guide. Once split, remove the toothpicks. Repeat with the other cake.
- Place one of the four layers on your cake plate or platter. Spoon on about a quarter of your cream, and gently spread it evenly to the edges. Take care not to go over! Arrange a quarter of the sliced strawberries atop the cream. Repeat with the rest of the layers. Refrigerate if desired.
- The floss trick won’t work here! Use the serrated knife
- When halving the cakes, try to keep your wrists straight to prevent slanted cuts on the layers
- You can omit the cornstarch in the coconut whip; I only added it for stability and so it wouldn’t solidify in the fridge
- Alternatively, you can use regular whipped cream; just sub 2 cups of heavy cream for the coconut milk
- To get the milk to solidify, the cans need to be refrigerated at least overnight. I like to keep mine in there for several days before use; just as security so I’ll know it’ll be solid. You may get lucky (depending on the brand) and have the entire can solidify without any remaining liquid.