Traditionally, heavy cream is whipped up into a delightful, fluffy texture with added sugar for sweetness. Did you know you that you can do this with coconut cream? Coconut cream is the high fat content of the coconut milk that rises to the top. The trick to harvesting just the cream is to place a can of coconut milk in the refrigerator for a couple of hours. Turn the can upside down, open it up, and once the liquid is poured out, you are left with rich, creamy, and decadent coconut cream. The texture is divine—creamy, smooth, soft, and buttery. With a little vanilla, sugar, and beating with a hand mixer, you are left with an outstanding whipped cream.
The shortcake takes on a toasted, buttery crust in the oven. The pecans help out with the butteriness. (They can’t help it—that’s just what they do.) And what better vehicle for shoveling whipped coconut cream studded with juicy, ripe strawberries into your mouth? I fondly remember going strawberry picking as a young boy with my Mom and Dad. Once we arrived home, we’d douse freshly harvested berries with heavy whipping cream and a sprinkling of sugar. There’s really nothing better. Except these bars.
For the cake:
- 1 cup coconut oil (refined or unrefined)
- 3/4 cup raw Louisiana cane sugar*
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup Bergeron pecans,* finely chopped
- For the topping:
- 2 cans coconut milk (full fat), refrigerated overnight
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
- pinch of salt
- 1 pint of fresh Louisiana strawberries*, sliced 1/4 inch thick
For the shortcake:
- Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Cream together the coconut oil, sugar, and salt using a stand or hand mixer, mixing until fluffy.
- Slowly add the flour, mixing with a fork. Fold in chopped pecans. Make sure to mix just until incorporated and not to overmix. Press the mixture evenly with hands in a 9" x 13" pan lined with parchment paper and bake for 40 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Once baked, remove and set aside to cool. Refrigerate for 30 minutes before adding topping*.
- Remove the two cans of coconut milk from the fridge. Very important: Turn the cans upside down and then open them up. The cream from the milk will now be at the bottom of the can and the liquid will be at the top. Pour the liquid out and set aside.** Scoop the cream into a large mixing bowl. Repeat with the other can. Do note that the cream is rather hard at first, but it softens up quickly.
- Using a hand or stand mixer, beat the cream until smooth. Next, add the vanilla and a dash of salt. Mix well.
- Slowly sift in the powdered sugar and whip until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Using a large spoon, spread the whipped cream evenly over the cooled crust.
- Stud in the strawberry slices*** and press them down gently. Refrigerate for 1 hour. Slice and serve immediately.
*I love supporting local companies and businesses, hence the sugar, pecans, and strawberries. I particularly like using raw sugar because it gives the crust a nice crunch. You can certainly use non-local ingredients (regular sugar will work) if you don’t have access to the ones provided. But if you do, go show them some love!
**You can use the liquid from the can of coconut milk for smoothies, soups, dressings, or best yet, a cocktail! It’s actually quite delicious on its own. I do recommend refrigerating 3 cans, just in case the fat in one of the cans does not solidify. It’s a rarity, but it sometimes happens.
***Try studding these bars with other fresh berries like blackberries, blueberries, or raspberries. The coconut whipped cream is truly the perfect glue to hold anything.
****This ensures that the crust is set and allows easy spreading of the whipped cream.