Fresh Berry Shortcakes



These look a bit like pancakes, but they’re soft, sweet little sponge cakes that go well with berries. They’re best fresh, so eat them right after you make them.
Supplies
baking sheet, parchment paper, bowls, wooden spoon, measuring cups, measuring spoons, baking spatula, dinner knife, cooking spatula (for helper), sifter
Ingredients
1/3 cup (80 mL) ricotta cheese (preferably extra smooth)
¼ cup (60 mL) soft unsalted butter (see “Butter”)
2/3 cup (160 mL) white sugar
1 egg
½ tsp (2 mL) vanilla extract
1 cup (250 mL) all-purpose flour (spoon in, level)
¼ tsp (1 mL) baking soda
pinch of salt
1 cup (250 mL) whipped cream or 4 scoops vanilla ice cream
1 cup (250 mL) raspberries or sliced strawberries
½ tsp (2 mL) icing sugar, if you like
  1. Preheat the oven to 300°F (150°C).
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. In a large bowl, use a wooden spoon to stir together the ricotta and butter. Use the back of the spoon to cream in the sugar. Then mix in the egg and vanilla extract. Set aside.
  4. In another bowl, use a baking spatula to mix the flour, baking soda, and salt. Gradually, use the spatula to stir this dry mixture into the ricotta mixture. Mix into a stiff batter. Use a dinner knife to scrape sticky ingredients off the spatula.
  5. Use the wooden spoon to scoop the batter into eight equal-sized mounds on the parchment, using your finger to scrape the batter off the spoon. Make sure to keep the mounds about 3 inches (8 cm) apart because the shortcakes spread during baking.
  6. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 13 to 15 minutes, until the shortcakes stop spreading and they turn golden like the color of pancakes. Get help turning the shortcakes over with a cooking spatula and bake for another 12 to 13 minutes, until lightly golden. Cool on the baking sheet.
  7. Put four shortcakes into four dessert dishes. Top each cake with whipped cream or ice cream and berries. Place the other four shortcakes on top. Using a sifter, dust each one with icing sugar, if you like.
Makes 4 Fresh Berry Shortcakes.
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Whoopie Pies


These aren’t pies at all. They’re disks of chocolate cake made into sweet, frosting-filled sandwiches. The ricotta doesn’t taste like cheese—it makes the cakes fluffy!
Supplies
baking sheet, parchment paper, bowls, wooden spoon, measuring cups, measuring spoons, sifter, baking spatula, dinner knife, soup spoon, ordinary teaspoon, dinner knife or palette knife
Ingredients
1/3 cup (80 mL) ricotta cheese (preferably extra smooth)
¼ cup (60 mL) soft unsalted butter (see “Butter”)
2/3 cup (160 mL) white sugar
1 egg
½ tsp (2 mL) vanilla extract
¾ cup (185 mL) all-purpose flour (spoon in, level)
¼ cup (60 mL) unsweetened cocoa powder (spoon in, level)
¼ tsp (1 mL) baking soda
pinch of salt
Whoopie Pie Filling or your choice of frosting or ice cream
  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F (160°C).
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. In a large bowl, use the back of a wooden spoon to cream together the ricotta cheese and butter. Mix in the sugar, egg, and vanilla. Use a dinner knife to clean off the spoon. Set aside.
  4. In another big bowl, sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix well with a baking spatula. Gradually stir this mixture into the ricotta mixture. Use a dinner knife to scrape sticky ingredients off the spatula so everything is well blended into a batter.
  5. Use a soup spoon to scoop the batter and push it off with your finger onto the parchment. Make eight equal-sized dollops, keeping the dollops at least 2 inches (5 cm) apart because they spread a lot as they bake. The tops of the dollops will be bumpy. If you want your whoopie pies to be smooth on top, smooth out the bumps before baking by dipping an ordinary teaspoon in cold water and lightly running the back of the spoon over the big bumps—but don’t squash the batter.
  6. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for about 14 minutes, or until the whoopie pies spring back when lightly pressed in the middle.
  7. After the cakes have cooled completely on the baking sheet, use a dinner knife or palette knife to spread the flat sides of four cakes with Whoopie Pie Filling, ¾ cup (185 mL) other frosting, or even softened ice cream. Place the remaining four cakes on top of the filling and serve. (You could also eat the cakes plain.)
Makes 4 Whoopie Pies.
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