Strawberry emergency!
August 6, 2010 3:05 PM   Subscribe

Emergency cooking help! I am cooking a vegan strawberry cake for a birthday party Sunday and my recipe calls for strawberry extract. I ordered some pure natural strawberry extract online and had it expedited but unfortunately the store messed up and it wont get here in time for the party.

I've called everywhere local to me (Provo, UT) and nobody has it. I don't want to use imitation extract. Could I puree fresh strawberries and boil them down? Can I make strawberry extract? What is the best thing to do? Thank you so much!
posted by long haired child to Food & Drink (13 answers total)
What's natural?
You could try soaking strawberries in vodka but you don't have a whole lot of time to let the flavor develop before Sunday.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 3:15 PM on August 6, 2010 [2 favorites]

If you puree the fresh strawberries and boil them, it isn't going to taste nearly as fresh because you are cooking the strawberries at that point, plus it will be more liquidy than the extract. That means you are going to need to subtract liquid from somewhere else in your recipe, which may throw everything out of whack. (Baking is too science-y sometimes!)

Your best bet may just be to bake a plain/vanilla cake and add fresh strawberries to the top.

Good luck!
posted by karminai at 3:16 PM on August 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

I don't suppose you could link to a recipe? In generally I'd go with your puree-and-reduce method, but I would increase the amount used (and reduce some liquid elsewhere to compensate), since the extract would likely be much more concentrated.
posted by deludingmyself at 3:16 PM on August 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Are you open to using alcohol, as otherworldyglow suggests? If the strawberries-in-vodka ideas meets your needs/ suits the dietary restrictions, don't let the time constraints put you off. I've made strawberry vodka twice this summer and it infuses pretty quickly. Inspired by the fellows at Infusions of Grandeur, I tried a four-day infusion for the first batch and and it was gorgeously rich and berry-flavored.

The second time, I was using home-frozen strawberries and the vodka took on their flavor and color even faster. I suspect that the slight break-down of the berries' cell walls in the freezer helped speed flavor transfer once they were put into room-temp vodka.

Once caveat: use the very best strawberries you can get your hands on. For extract, you probably want to use a higher berry-to-vodka ratio than they suggest for drinking spirits.
posted by Elsa at 3:23 PM on August 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: otherworldlyglow: I am aware that the word "natural" on food labels doesn't mean much. In this case I actually checked with the maker and made sure it was pure and natural in the true sense. Thanks!

: thanks, I would but it has to be strawberry cake.

deludingmyself: here is the recipe.

Thank you all!
posted by long haired child at 3:25 PM on August 6, 2010

Looking at the recipe, it's not clear whether the 1/4 cup strawberry jam is strictly for spreading on the finished cake, or if it's incorporated in the raw batter. If it's in the batter I'd say you'd be safe to increase the strawberry jam to 1/2 cup (adding another quarter cup) to make up for the lack of extract, and you'd still maintain all the berry flavor. If it's not in the batter originally, then add 1/4 c. jam to the batter. If you're nervous that adding the jam would make the batter too runny, you can slightly reduce the volume of soymilk by a few tablespoons, but I think you'd be fine. FYI 1/4 cup = 4 tbsp.
posted by cuddles.mcsnuggy at 3:33 PM on August 6, 2010

Oh, another option, if you have a juicer you could just juice fresh strawberries and use a few tablespoons of that, up to possibly 1/2 cup, reducing the soymilk appropriately. The berries make a very rich juice. (This should've occured to me earlier since my spouse ran some fresh strawberries through the machine today for his afternoon juice. He only did 3 berries & the whole kitchen smelled yummy.) You have a couple days to experiment, try making up a half batch or two of the batter trying different substitutes to see what works. Bonus: you get cake for you. :-) Good luck!
posted by cuddles.mcsnuggy at 3:39 PM on August 6, 2010

Substitute strawberry liquor for the black currant liquor (It's available. Google brands (like Bols) and call around to high-end & well stocked liquor stores.)

Sub in a Tbls of water, or better, add a bit more strawberry preserve to makeup the liquid difference.

There is no drama here and your recipe isn't sunk.

BONUS: It's strawberry season! Make your own macerated fresh strawberry compote (mixture) to sub in for the strawberry preserves. Use ripe fruits and unrefined sugar. Or raw honey.


***the extract is to "bump up" the strawberry flavor during off-season using unripe fruit. This is a non-issue issue in August when Strawberries are AWESOME. Proceed accordingly.
posted by jbenben at 3:43 PM on August 6, 2010

I'd just make the cake without the extract, and replace the tablespoon of extract with a tablespoon of soymilk. It'll turn out just as good and no one will know the difference.
posted by agent99 at 4:17 PM on August 6, 2010

Just leave it out and top the cake with fresh strawberries. It will be more awesome that way anyway.
posted by oneirodynia at 4:31 PM on August 6, 2010

I've done A LOT of vegan baking. I would definitely replace the strawberry extract with almond extract. Maybe half almond/half vanilla. It would be better to use that instead of just leaving out the extract altogether. And strawberry liqueur (I have a bunch in my liquor closet!) is strawberry....ish. It's not going to add much to the *hello i'm strawberry!*-ness of the cake.

I'm kind of leery about the small amount of jam in the cake, personally. If it were me i'd dump the cordial/extract and bump the jam up to 3/4 or a full cup. But that's me and I'd have to be making it gluten-free/vegan, too.
posted by hecho de la basura at 8:07 PM on August 6, 2010

use a different type of extract like lemon or vanilla (or orange blossom water, all of these usually available at Whole Foods). If I were doing this, I'd make a trial cake before I serve the real thing to taste test it.
posted by Jason and Laszlo at 9:26 AM on August 7, 2010

So how'd it turn out?
posted by otherwordlyglow at 9:17 AM on August 9, 2010

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