This is one of my most requested recipes from my newspaper column — a light, refreshing, creamy yet fruity fluff ball of a dessert that I have made for a potluck in April (as soon as strawberries are abundant in the stores), Mother’s Day in May, and a pool party in June. My daughter has asked for it as her birthday dessert in August, too.
Put it together in the morning to serve after dinner, or better yet, make it the day before. Just wire the lid shut or you’ll go to serve it and the pan will be empty from little fingers that wanted “just a little taste”!
When you see fresh strawberries, you know it’s time to make Strawberry Cloud.
Strawberry Cloud Dessert
For a fancier presentation, you could certainly layer this in a large clear trifle bowl. If doing so, start with a layer of cake, then creamy filling, then strawberry filling, then repeat, ending with strawberry filling.
6 cups fresh strawberries (about 2 pounds)
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup water
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Red food coloring (optional)
1 medium-sized rectangular (10 ounces or so) angel food cake
1 cup powdered sugar
1 (8-ounce) package low-fat cream cheese (or use regular)
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 (8-ounce) container non-dairy whipped topping, thawed (such as Cool Whip)
Garnish: Thinly sliced strawberries
Make Strawberry Filling first: Wash and remove caps from strawberries. Finely chop 1 cup of the berries. Mix sugar and cornstarch in a 2-quart saucepan. Stir in water and vanilla extract and mix until smooth. Add the 1 cup chopped berries and a couple of drops of food coloring (optional). Cook and stir over medium heat until it begins to thicken, becomes clear and comes to a boil. Boil for 1 minute, then remove pan from heat. While mixture cools, slice remaining berries in half or quarters (or eighths, if they are gargantuan). When mixture is cool, fold in sliced berries, stirring gently to coat them well.
Assemble the dessert: Break or cut angel food cake into small bite-sized pieces, placing cake pieces evenly in an ungreased 13- by 9-inch pan (use one with a lid if you have it). Using an electric mixer, beat powdered sugar, cream cheese and almond extract together until smooth. Add thawed whipped topping and stir by hand to blend it in. Spoon the white cream mixture evenly on top of the cake layer.
Spoon the Strawberry Filling evenly into the pan, covering the white cream layer. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve; should be refrigerated at least 4 hours for best results (cream mixture will soak into the cake a bit). Can be made the day before, and some people believe it is better made at least 24 hours in advance.
When ready to serve, garnish with a few thinly sliced strawberries.