Strawberries ‘n Cream Puff "Cake"

by Sarah on May 23, 2011 · 17 comments

Considering this past weekend we* celebrated National Strawberries & Cream Day (May 21st) but also National Vanilla Pudding Day (May 22nd), there was only one recipe to make.
*I don’t know who that ‘we’ is. Perhaps I should just say “I”?

But I didn’t make it.

Now, the above photo was taken last Easter, when my dear friend Katie had an Easter Potluck Brunch, where everything was delicious (and I debuted my Goddess Granola), but my favorite thing of all–no surprise, really–was the vanilla pudding-based strawberry “trifle” you see in the photo above. I stood by the bowl and just picked out the custard-covered berries one-by-one and didn’t stop until they were gone. [Seriously, you put me in front of a pudding-based anything and I couldn’t care less about sharing.]

I’ve thought about this dish often (more than I feel comfortable admitting…considering it has been over a year since I’ve eaten it), and the closest thing I can find is this recipe from Taste of Home, but I know Katie used angel food cake instead of vanilla wafers.

So why didn’t I just recreate it…using angel food or sponge cake and my ‘lazy-baker’ faux-custard recipe (1 box of pudding + 1 1/2 cups milk + one container of Cool-Whip)? Well, because THEN I started thinking about this:

That would be the Chocolate Eclair Cake^ that I credit my roommate in college, Molly, for bringing into my life. I’ve made it once before on my own, and it was the biggest hit of the party (especially when people realized just how easy it was to make).
^Not the actual one…that was PB (pre-blog)…when I took pictures of people, not food. [Now it’s the other way around.]

And what happened after all this mid-elliptical thinking* was that I decided to somehow combine the two into a delicious treat I will now call Strawberries ‘n Cream Puff “Cake”! [That’s because it tastes like a cream puff…with strawberries. I mean, in case you couldn’t figure that out.]
*Yes, my best recipes come while exercising. It’s why I spend so much time at the gym.

You have two options here. Your first choice is to make it the lazy baker, “I don’t care what’s in my dessert because it’s dessert,” way….or you can choose the “Can I make this even slightly more healthy so I can feel good about eating it for, say, breakfast?” way.
Because I like to make things more difficult on myself, I chose the second option. [Of course, I realized as I was laying down the graham crackers in my baking dish that I was already using processed, contains-HFCS ingredients in using those…but whatever.] The question remained: How do I make a healthier pudding? I knew Cool-Whip was out [cue Debbie Downer “wah-wah” sound effect], as well as instant pudding, so I went for something else that could stand in for the creaminess: plain, lowfat yogurt.
I tried to get a yogurt that I knew was relatively thick. I probably should have just gone for Greek yogurt…but I’m cheap, and I can get four servings of plain yogurt for less than the price of two if I stick to ‘regular.’ [And as I didn’t really care about the protein content or anything…I went with the plain, non-Greek style.]To sweeten things up, I stirred in vanilla extract and powdered sugar (I had to get the vanilla pudding effect in there, somehow).[Note: I also tried this with artificial, Truvia-like sweetener, and plain sugar…it’s harder to get the regular sugar to dissolve, and as powdered sugar contains cornstarch I felt like it helped a little bit with the thickening. Do what you want, though. :)]
Yum, really. I ended up making a whole 4 cups and eating the extra with breakfast.*
*I did it 1 cup at a time to get the proportion of vanilla and sugar right…that’s what is shown in the photo.
To complete the “cake” you’ll need graham crackers…[I still had one sleeve leftover from my Banana Graham-a Peanut Butter]
…and strawberries (um…obviously).If you’re lucky, you’ll find a strawberry still with it’s stem! [These are the little surprises that make life joyful, really.*]
*Once again, I think I might be a small child trapped in a 26-year-old’s body with how easily I am amused.
Assembly is easy as pie. [Or “fake cake” in this case.] One layer of graham crackers on the bottom of a square baking dish…If you end up with a hole… …you can either break up a cracker to fill it…or just tuck in* a berry!
*Don’t forget a good-night kiss, though.Top the grahams with a few handfuls of berries…and about half of your yogurt pudding.
Repeat with another layer of grahams.[I figured out how to layer them without strange holes this time. I’m maturing in my puzzle-solving abilities.]
More berries, and the rest of the yogurt “pudding”…followed by a last layer of grahams. [For presentation purposes, I broke them into squares…it will make for easier portioning into pieces.]OK, that was sort of a lie. I’m not really that insightful. The only reason I broke them into squares was because I ran out of graham crackers in the sleeve I had (you’ll need more than one, I discovered) but thankfully had some of these individual serving packets that I brought home from school. [They are offered with the breakfast-in-the-classroom program.]Pretty, pretty “cake”….Pretty, pretty layers….Once you’ve stopped marveling at its cuteness, you’ll want to cover your “cake” with plastic wrap and pop it in the fridge. I suggest putting something heavy on top of it, because you want the grahams to soak up the moisture so they become soft and chewy.*
*Like when you were little and held graham crackers in milk for as long as you possibly could and pulled them out just before they fell apart and sank to the bottom of the glass! [Wait. You mean you didn’t do that?]Of course, since you’ve now used most of the yogurt in the container, it’s really not all that heavy…so perhaps find something else. [My roommate’s container of soymilk fit perfectly I discovered.]For serving, you can add a little berry display to the top, just to make it a little more sprightly. (Can a dessert be sprightly? I say…yes!)
After 2 hours or so in the fridge, the grahams will be softened and easy to cut through. You’ll see that the yogurt thickens up as well.Now, it’s not much to look at really, but it certainly tastes scrum-diddly.*
*scrum-diddly [adjective]: short for scrum-diddly-umptious
And did you really think I’d completely forgo the Cool-Whip? 😉Strawberries ‘n Cream Puff “Cake”
“Healthified” Version

14 graham crackers (whole ‘sheet’)–two sleeves, with two crackers left over (for Sweet Potato S’mores?)
1 lb. strawberries, washed and sliced*
3 cups plain low-fat yogurt
3 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 Tbsp./1/4 cup powdered sugar (or other sweetener)
reserve some berries for serving, optional

1. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, mix together yogurt, vanilla, and sugar.
2. Place a layer of graham crackers in the bottom of an 8″-square baking pan.
3. Scatter about 1/2 of the sliced strawberries over the graham crackers and cover with half of the yogurt mixture.
4. Top yogurt with another layer of graham crackers, followed by another 1/2 of the strawberries and the remaining yogurt mixture.
5. Complete assembly with a final layer of graham crackers.
6. Cover with plastic wrap and put in the refrigerator for at least an hour, until graham crackers have softened enough to easily cut through.
7. Serve “cake” with whipped topping and strawberries, if desired.

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Strawberries ‘n Cream Puff “Cake”
Lazy-Baker “It’s Dessert, So Who Cares?” Version

14 graham crackers (whole ‘sheet’)–two sleeves, with two crackers left over
1 lb. strawberries, washed and sliced*
1 3 oz. package instant vanilla pudding
1 1/2 cups milk
1 8 oz. tub whipped topping, thawed
reserve some berries for serving, optional

1. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, mix together pudding and milk. Stir in thawed whipped topping.
2. Place a layer of graham crackers in the bottom of an 8″-square baking pan.
3. Scatter about 1/2 of the sliced strawberries over the graham crackers and cover with half of the pudding mixture.
4. Top pudding with another layer of graham crackers, followed by another 1/2 of the strawberries and the remaining pudding mixture.
5. Complete assembly with a final layer of graham crackers.
6. Cover with plastic wrap and put in the refrigerator for at least an hour, until graham crackers have softened enough to easily cut through.
7. Serve “cake” with extra whipped cream and strawberries, if desired.

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