With everyone caught up in smoothly merging the families in celebration, I did what I always do: I cooked. Kinda. I volunteered to handle the rehearsal dinner. The menu was simple and reflected my father-in-law's favorites, pizza and strawberry shortcake. This is where the "kinda" comes in...how do you make homemade pizza for a crowd in a church basement with only one oven? You don't. You order take-out.
I did make a couple of salads (tossed with a garlic vinaigrette and Classic Seven Layer) and the Strawberry Shortcake. My version of Strawberry Shortcake seldom includes real shortcakes. Sometimes, I use angel food cake, sometimes sponge cake, sometimes pound cake, sometimes just a delicious, vanilla sheetcake. With the task of feeding a crowd, I chose the sheetcake option for rehearsal night.
For the fruit topping, sometimes I simply macerate the berries with sugar, sometimes the strawberries are roasted, sometimes I make a fruit sauce with Danish Dessert. This leans toward June Cleaver discovering the benefits of packaged foods in the kitchen, but when prepared with lemon juice and a little cinnamon, I love the glossy, jellied sauce. (Although, please forgive the graininess of the sauce in the photos...they were taken with leftover sauce several days after our weekend of parties.)
And then there is the faith, hope, and love of my version of Strawberry Shortcake, the Creamy Cheesecake Whipped Topping. I whip cream cheese and powdered sugar together before folding into Cool Whip. (Yes, another convenience food. I love real whipped cream just as much as anyone, but you simply can't beat the stability of whipped topping when creating a dessert for a crowd.) This is the secret to my strawberry shortcake. This is my faith, hope, and love. Cream cheese.
2 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, softened
4-5 cups powdered sugar
1 (12 oz) container Cool Whip whipped topping, thawed
With a stand mixer, whip cream cheese.
Gradually add powdered sugar until fully incorporated.
Fold in the Cool Whip.
(Makes enough to "frost" a large sheetcake or dollop as for shortcakes.)