Lemon Thyme and Ginger

Nifty Cake with Strawberries Peaches and Cream

Nifty Cake: Buttermilk Cake with Strawberries, Peaches and Cream cake recipe

A tribute to my father for his many gifts and love. Dad gave me my first photography lesson and encouraged me to continue with it along the way. Included with this tribute is a cake recipe for Nifty Cake. An updated version of the birthday cake I baked for him when I was a teenager. This cake recipe features his favorite fruits, strawberries and peaches.  GS

Over the past few weeks my dad and his memory has filled my thoughts. His forward presence came around for no other reason than it is strawberry season. Dad loved strawberries, especially strawberries and cream. I can clearly see him sitting at the head of the table with a bowl of strawberries, pouring heavy cream all over them and then add a sprinkle of sugar. Whenever strawberries were in the house, this was his impromptu dessert.

Nifty Cake: Buttermilk Cake with Strawberries, Peaches and Whipped Cream cake recipe

Nifty Cake: Buttermilk Cake with Strawberries, Peaches and Whipped Cream cake recipe

I would watch his strawberry and cream routine with a raised eyebrow and a sideways smirk, “Really Dad? You’re drinking heavy cream.” I could not see how heavy cream, even adorned with strawberries, was worthy of such attention. Eating sweetened whipped cream I understood, but cream straight out of the container was gross. Ignoring my smirky adolescent attitude, Dad would dive into his bowl of strawberries and cream like a seasoned athlete, ever so focused and determined to savor every drop. Eventually, he would look up seeing my adolescent stare and say, “What? It’s great. Do you want some?” He was always eager to share the things that brought him joy.

It amazes me how random and small instances, or thoughts, can bring out strong emotions and memories. Once the strawberry trigger hit me, memories of my life with Dad filled me with his spirit, and it hasn’t left. I am not sad with these memories, it is nice to feel his presence since I can no longer see or talk with him. He gave me many gifts over our lifetime together, and I am grateful for the precious time we spent together.

Nifty Cake: Buttermilk Cake with Strawberries, Peaches and Cream cake recipe

Nifty Cake: Buttermilk Cake with Strawberries, Peaches and Cream cake recipe

One common interest we shared is still very prominent in my life. He gave me my first photography lesson. I can’t remember if I initiated it or not, but when I was around 12 years old he took me out to the dry grassy hills above Old St. Hilary Church and taught me how to use his Tele-Rolleiflex camera and his light meter. Tele-Rollei is a 120mm camera that required the photographer to look down into a viewing box to see the image. Also, a separate hand-held light meter was needed to determine the exposure. There was a lot to learn, and each photograph took extra time to set up and capture.

One of Dad’s favorite activities was taking pictures of wildflowers. So, on my first day I wandered along the Tiburon hills photographing wildflowers with apt attention and a new-found love. That day is as vivid to me like a bright California summer day. I wonder if Dad initiated this outing because the two of us were just sitting around the house and he thought we both needed something to do.

I recently found the photographs I took on our day together. Dad saved them filed with his slides as, “Jennifer’s Pictures.” Seeing my slides organized with his, made me feel that day was as important to him as it was to me. After all these years I never knew he had them. Ever since that day on the Tiburon hills, photography has been a significant part of my life. Thanks Dad.

Father’s Day BBQ recipe ideas to serve with Nifty Cake: 

Grilled Sherry Marinated Flank Steak

Garden Vegetable Pasta Salad

Nifty Cake: Buttermilk Cake with Strawberries, Peaches and Cream cake recipe

Nifty Cake Recipe for Dad

When I was in middle school I started making birthday cakes for my family. I would ask my brothers what cake they wanted and set out to bake it for them. For Dad’s birthday I did not ask him what he wanted, I knew. I created a cake overflowing with his favorite fruits: yellow butter cake (from a mix), layered with strawberries, peaches and whipped cream.

This was my first “original” cake recipe. I piled the middle layer with whipped cream and fruit, then frosted the entire cake with more whipped cream and decorated with strawberries and peaches. It was a miracle the cake did not topple over. This cake is a strawberry, peaches and cream lover’s dream come true, and I made it for him every year until I went away to college.

Dad often used the expression “nifty” when he described something fun. In his honor, I decided to recreate my cake recipe I made for dad and call it Nifty Cake. When I first developed this cake recipe for Dad I used a cake mix. Now, I make cakes from scratch and had a lot of fun figuring out the type of cake to make. After testing several cake recipes, I decided on a Buttermilk Cake from Rose Levy Beranbaum’s book, The Cake Bible. I slightly adapted her cake recipe and substituted all-purpose flour instead of cake flour, because it is an ingredient people can easily get.

Nifty Cake: Buttermilk Cake with Strawberries, Peaches and Cream cake recipe

This buttermilk cake recipe with strawberries, peaches and sweetened whipped cream can be dressed up or kept simply adorned. If you are a person who does not like frosting, this is the cake for you. This is a delicate cake with slight tang and prominent butter flavor. It is delicious all by itself, or covered with any type of frosting. This cake is a blank canvas for endless varieties of frosting and toppings. It is the perfect cake for the strawberries and cream lover in your life.

Love and miss you Dad.

Nifty Cake: Buttermilk Cake with Strawberries, Peaches and Cream cake recipe

Nifty Cake: Buttermilk Cake with Strawberries, Peaches and Whipped Cream

Nifty Cake is a buttermilk cake with strawberries, peaches and sweetened whipped cream. It is a delicious and simple cake that is appropriate for any occasion. The buttermilk cake can easily be eaten plain, topped with whipped cream and fruit on the side. It is the perfect cake for those who do not like frosting, as well as served with any variety of frosting you wish. The buttermilk cake recipe was slightly adapted from Rose Levy Beranbaum recipe, "Buttermilk Country Cake" in "The Cake Bible Cookbook".
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Servings 8 -10 servings
Author Ginger


Buttermilk Cake

  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 2/3 cup / 5.5 oz / 160 g buttermilk
  • 1/2 tea pure vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cups plus 2 Tbls / 7 oz / 200 grams sifted all-purpose flour see note
  • 1 cup / 7 oz / 200 g sugar
  • 1 TB / 15 g baking powder
  • 1/2 tea / 3.5 g Kosher salt
  • 8 TBS/ 4 oz / 113 g unsalted butter - softened

Fruit Filling

  • 8 oz / 225 g Fresh Strawberries
  • 1/2 Fresh Peach
  • 1/3 cup / 75 ml best quality strawberry or peach jam

Whipped Cream Frosting

  • 2 cups / 16 oz / 500 ml heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 tea pure vanilla extract
  • 2-3 tea sugar
  • Decorate the top of the cake with additional peach slices and strawberries.


Buttermilk Cake

  1. You will have more success if all your ingredients are at room temperature when you begin mixing the cake batter.
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit /175 degrees Celsius/ Gas Mark 4
  3. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch (23 cm) springform cake pan. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper, then butter the paper. Lightly flour the bottom and sides of the cake pan. Shake out excess flour.
  4. In a medium bowl lightly mix together the egg yolks, 1/4 of the buttermilk, and vanilla.
  5. In a mixing bowl of a stand mixer add the sifted flour, sugar, baking powder and salt and mix together for a few seconds on low speed so they are all fully blended. Add the butter, cut up in tablespoons pieces, and the remaining buttermilk to the mix. Mix the ingredients together on low speed until the dry ingredients are incorporated with the butter. Increase the speed to medium and beat for 1.5 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and scrape the batter off the
  6. paddle/beaters.
  7. Add the buttermilk/egg mixture to the flour in 3 intervals, beating the batter for 20 seconds between each addition. After mixing the batter, scrape down the sides of the bowl and paddle attachment.
  8. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and smooth out the surface with an offset spatula. Bake the cake for 30-40 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean and dry.
  9. Take the cake out of the oven and let it cool for 10 minutes in its pan on a cooling rack. Run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the cake from the sides. Turn the cake out of the pan and remove the parchment paper from the bottom of the cake. Turn the cake over, right side up, and place on the cooling rack. The cake should be completely cooled before frosting and serving.
  10. This cake is best eaten the same day it is made, but will last wrapped airtight in plastic wrap, for 3 days on the counter, 5 days in the refrigerator, and for 2 months in the freezer.

Fruit Filling

  1. Clean and remove the stems from the strawberries. Dry with paper towels. Cut the strawberries into bite size pieces and put into a small bowl.
  2. Peal the skin off the peach, then slice into thin segments. Cut each segment into bite size pieces and add to the bowl with the strawberries. Gently mix the fruit together until well combined. Set aside.

Whipped Cream

  1. Chill the bowl you will use to make whipped cream and the beaters in the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes.
  2. Take the bowl and beaters out of the freezer and add cold heavy cream and vanilla to the chilled bowl. Beat the cream mixture on high speed until the cream forms soft peaks. Add the sugar and beat on high until stiff peaks are formed when the beaters are lifted from the cream. Be careful not to over mix and turn the cream into butter. If you are planning to frost the cake with the cream, you will want the stiff peaks. If you are planning to have the whipped cream only for the middle and top cake layers the whipped cream can be softer and not whipped as stiff.

Putting the cake together

  1. Divide the cake in half horizontally to make two layers. (See Note) Put the bottom layer on a serving plate and the top layer on another plate or rimless pan or tray. (Cardboard cake rounds are perfect if you have them)
  2. Evenly spread the strawberry or peach jam across the top of the bottom cake layer. Spread 1 cup of the whipped cream evenly across the jam.
  3. Add the mixed fruit then spread the fruit. Press the fruit evenly into the cream so that there is a flat and smooth fruit/cream layer.
  4. Slide the top cake layer on top of the bottom cake layer, lining up the notches on the side, (see note). Add the remaining whipped cream and spread it over the top of the cake. Decorate the cake with additional peaches and strawberries as you wish.
  5. The cake is best served the same day it is made. Add the fruit and whipped cream to the cake as close to serving time as comfortable. Store the cake in the refrigerator, loosely wrapped with plastic wrap until ready to serve. Take the cake out of the refrigerator 15 minutes before serving.
  6. After 24 hours the cake will get soggy and the whipped cream will loosen.

Recipe Notes

Nifty Cake is a buttermilk cake with strawberries, peaches and sweetened whipped cream. It is a delicious and simple cake that is appropriate for any occasion. The buttermilk cake can easily be eaten plain, topped with whipped cream and fruit on the side. It is the perfect cake for those who do not like frosting, as well as served with any variety of frosting you wish.

The buttermilk cake recipe was slightly adapted from Rose Levy Beranbaum recipe, "Buttermilk Country Cake" in "The Cake Bible Cookbook".

© 2017 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

One Pan! One Meal! Let’s Eat Together and Feel all Right.

Bob Marley’s song, One Love, is swayin’ in my head.  “One Love! One Heart! Let’s get together and feel all right.”   Where it came from is anybody’s guess, but I am swayin’ and singing along with Bob Marley as I write. I hear his soothing and rhythmic voice clearly which is a lot nicer than the lawn mowers and cars that can drudge on in the background for the whole day. “One love! One Heart! Let’s get together and feel all right.” If I am to get a song stuck in my head, this mantra is a good one: a reminder to give thanks.

One Pan One Meal: Roasted Chicken dinner recipe

I am working and dancing around different music genres today, looking for inspiration everywhere. Earlier I had Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite waltzing through my mind while I was editing photographs of baby turnips.  It is so easy to take ordinary things for granted, but I have found since I started photographing ordinary things like turnips, I look for the extraordinary in the ordinary, and I see it within the shape, color and texture of the objects.

One Pan One Meal: Roasted chicken dinner recipe

While I was photographing turnips, I started to admire the grace, shape and color of young turnips, and they reminded of the dancing fairies in Disney’s movie Fantasia. Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite started playing in my head along with images of dancing turnip ballerinas.  Photographing baby turnips inspired fun visual imagines: my next task was to discover what delicious characteristics the humble turnip has to offer.

One Pan One Meal: Roasted chicken dinner recipe

One Pan One Meal: Roasted chicken dinner reicpe

There is nothing sexy about turnips. Even the name is off-putting and harsh. No one is going to lean in and whisper in a sultry voice, “Would you like to taste my turnips?” Who do you think could pull that off?  Before you find your way to the exit door, stop and consider giving the humble turnip a try for your next dinner idea.

One Pan One Meal: roasted chicken dinner recipe

One Pan One Meal: Roasted chicken dinner reicpe
Sheet Pan Dinner with Chicken, Carrots, Turnips and Tarragon

Young turnips bulbs have a smooth and pearly white flesh with fresh green leaves that have a peppery smell. If you can get turnips with their greens intact use them in your meal. Other than soup, turnips can be braised or roasted, and pair well with carrots and other root vegetables. I particularly like turnips braised in butter with leeks, carrots, and fresh tarragon.

One Pan, One Meal roasted chicken dinner recipe

Combining turnips with carrots and chicken makes a simple and delicious family meal, that everyone in your family will enjoy and want to come together for a weeknight dinner. The dinner preparation becomes easier when you roast all the ingredients together in one pan. Oven roasted carrots add body and extra sweetness to the baby turnips, and oomph to the chicken. This sheet pan dinner recipe will make a delicious meal and satisfy the demands of fussy eaters. There will be no disagreements at your family table when you offer everyone’s favorite pieces of chicken along with sweet roasted vegetables.

One Pan One Meal: Rosted chicken dinner reicpe

One Pan One Meal- roasted Chicken dinner recipe


Common does not mean plain and boring. Find inspiration in all things and gather together for a delicious family dinner. One pan! One meal! Let’s eat together and feel all right.


One Pan One Meal: Roasted chciken dinner recipe

Mediterranean Style Roast Chicken with Carrots, Turnips and Tarragon

A Mediterranean style chicken dinner is easily accomplished using one sheet pan to oven roast chicken, carrots, turnips, and mushrooms. The chicken is lightly marinated with Herbs de Provence and can be marinating up to 24 hrs in advance. Fresh tarragon seasons the vegetables and compliments their natural sweetness. It is a simple and elegant dinner that will encourage the whole family to gather at the table and enjoy a family meal together. Serve with a simple green salad with a light vinaigrette.
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Author Ginger



  • 1 4-5 lb 2k chicken, or already cut up (bone in, skin on) chicken pieces (See Note)
  • 1 Tb minced garlic approximately 2-3 large cloves of garlic
  • 1 1/2 tea Herbs de Provence
  • 1 tea Kosher salt
  • 1 Tb olive oil
  • Fresh ground pepper (4-5 turns with the mill)


  • 1 lb about 450 g baby turnips
  • 1 lb about 450 g small carrots
  • 8 oz about 250 g mushrooms
  • 1/2 tea Kosher salt
  • 4 sprigs fresh tarragon divided
  • 1 Tb olive oil

Pan Gravy

  • Juices from roasting chicken
  • 1/2 cup 125 ml dry white wine
  • 1/4 - 1/2 cup 62 - 125 ml chicken or vegetable broth (low sodium if not homemade)


For the Chicken

  1. If you have a whole chicken, cut the chicken up into 8 pieces .
  2. You can follow the instructions on the link or just use already cut up chicken. Once the chicken is cut up spread the pieces across the cutting board.
  3. Sprinkle the Kosher salt evenly over the chicken pieces on both sides of the chicken.
  4. In a large bowl, big enough to hold all the pieces of chicken, add the minced garlic, olive oil, and Herbs de Provence, and ground pepper. Stir to combine. Add the chicken pieces to the bowl with the herbs and mix the chicken with the herb mixture until the herbs are evenly coated each piece of chicken.
  5. Cover the bowl with the herbed chicken with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a couple of hours up to 24 hours.
  6. Take the chicken out of the refrigerator 1 hour before you want to begin the cooking process. This will bring the chicken up to room temperature.
  7. Preheat oven to 375˚ F


  1. If you have organic turnips and carrots, examine them for bruises and dirt and determine if they need to be peeled. Peel vegetables with a vegetable peeler if needed. Cut the turnips into wedges. Cut the carrots into sections similar in length with the turnips. Cut each carrot section in half lengthwise, then cut each half into wedges similar in size to the turnips.
  2. Clean then cut each mushroom into quarters.
  3. Place all the vegetables in to a medium size bowl and mix them together.
  4. Strip the leaves off each tarragon sprig. Reserve the stems and divide the tarragon leaves into two piles. Take one of the piles and bunch the tarragon leaves together into a tight pile then mince with a sharp chef knife.
  5. Add the minced tarragon, olive oil, Kosher salt and black pepper to the bowl with the vegetables. Mix together with your clean hands until the vegetables are evenly covered with the herbs and olive oil.
  6. Save the other pile of tarragon leaves to add when the vegetables are done. Do not mince them until just before you add them to the vegetables.

Putting it all together.

  1. Put the chicken pieces on a large rimmed sheet pan, my pan is 12 1/2" x 17 1/2" (32 cm x 44 cm), then arrange the prepared vegetables around the chicken pieces. Add the tarragon stems with the vegetables.
  2. Put the chicken and vegetables into the pre-heated oven and bake for 40 minutes.
  3. If the vegetables are done before the chicken, remove the vegetables from the pan with a slotted spoon and put in a heat proof dish. Remove and discard the tarragon stems. The vegetables are done when they feel tender, but not mushy, when pierced with a fork. Mince the remaining fresh tarragon and add to the roasted vegetables.
  4. Cook the chicken until the juices from the chicken run clear after the chicken has been pierced with a fork. (Internal temperature of the chicken should be around 165 - 170 degrees F) When the chicken is done, take the pan with the chicken out of the oven, turn on the broiler and move the rack to the upper third portion of the oven. If you have not done so already remove the vegetables from the pan before you broil the chicken. Put the pan back in the oven to broil and crisp up the chicken skin, about 5 minutes.

Pan juices

  1. When the chicken is done and skin crispy, put the baking sheet across two stove burners.
  2. Remove the chicken from the pan and place the chicken on serving plate. Add the roasted vegetables to the platter with the chicken and cover with foil to keep warm.
  3. Turn on the two stove burners to medium and pour 1/2 cup of dry white wine into the pan with the juices. Deglaze the pan by scraping with a wooden spoon, the brown, caramelized goodness off the sides and bottom of the pan. The liquid and the motion of the wooden spoon against the sides will get the golden color and flavor off the sides of the pan and into the juices. Bring the liquid to a gentle boil and slightly reduce. Add the chicken stock and continue you stir the juices until they come to a slight boil. Taste your pan juices and add, more stock, or wine, or seasoning to suit your taste. Be careful not to over salt the pan juices.
  4. Pour the pan juices over the roasted chicken and vegetables and serve. A simple leafy green salad is a great accompaniment.
  5. Enjoy!

Recipe Notes

If you have never cut up a whole chicken before and are not comfortable starting it, feel free to buy chicken already cut up. It is good to have a good sharp chef knife and kitchen scissors when you cut through bone. If you do not own them buy whatever chicken parts you and your family prefer. The cooking time in this recipe is based on chicken with the bone in and skin on the meat. Sometimes already cut up chicken breasts are particularly large. If you cut chicken breasts in half across the middle they might finish cooking before the thighs and drumsticks. The video by NY Times Cooking is very instructive about how to cut up a whole chicken. I have been cutting up chickens for years and I learned new information from it.

Feeling ambitious? Make a delicious fruit gallette for dessert. You can substitute plums for nectarines, or any seasonal fruit.



© 2016 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

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