Sugar Dish Me

"if you can read, you can cook" -my momma

Celebration Ruination

with 24 comments

I am a self-proclaimed fireworks junkie.

Growing up, every year for the 4th, we would spread blankets in the shady grass of a little park tucked into the corner of uptown Charlotte, North Carolina, and wait for the action to happen. Usually we’d swing by Kentucky Fried Chicken for a meal to tote with us. Sometimes my mom would make sandwiches. Always the recipe for the afternoon and evening was the same:

You have to arrive at the park hours before the show to find parking and just the right spot to spread out. The shady blanketed place where mom and dad sat was home base. We were free to run through the grass, make friends with neighboring children, feed the geese, do cartwheels, and take a zillion trips over the bridge to peer into the pond below. Reporting back to home base meant a drink, a snack, stretching across one of my grandma’s old quilts, and watching the clouds roll overhead. If you situated yourself just right mom would play with your hair. Asking my dad the time every fifteen minutes was a necessity because between 9:30 and 10 pm the 5 minute warning shot went off and then the fireworks would commence.

We loved the deafening boom that echoed off the buildings. The loud crackles that lit up the air and made us smile and laugh involuntarily. We’d try to pick our favorite displays of color, each one outdone by the one that followed. We’d sit together, faces tilted toward the sky, and watch in awe. Notes of the national anthem would float by, broadcast from a car stereo manned by one of our for-the-night neighbors sharing in the experience. The “grand finale” was a spectacular display of lights, colors, and sounds, all blending together, that seemed to go on and on and on forever until your senses could barely stand it.

When it finally stopped and the sky went dark, there was always a pause. A silence so big and full of awe it was almost audible. Then the night would erupt with cheers and clapping and whoops and hollers as the entire city reveled in the celebration. You could hear crowds cheering from parking lots, stadiums, and rooftop decks for blocks upon blocks, the joy spreading from one picnic blanket to the next.

Then we’d snatch our belongings and race to the car so my dad could try to “beat the traffic”.

I would use every color in my crayon box to recreate the fireworks on construction paper for days.

This tradition peresevered for years and years for our family and many others. I adore the 4th. As we’ve all grown older our Independence Day traditions have moved zip codes and morphed a bit, but we still celebrate and share each other’s company as much as distance and schedules will allow.

Last year Chad and I made every attempt at being present for every fireworks event in a 60 mile radius. We were mostly successful in our endeavor, sitting on the roof of the car in the sticky summer heat watching the sky light up and glitter before our eyes. The town we live near was off their game last year, setting their show off a day earlier than usual. We only caught a glimpse of it by accident while making a late night run to the store for a gallon of milk. I was so disappointed.

Yesterday I came to find out that one of the more amazing shows we caught last year in a tiny mountain town nearby has already happened. The 2012 4th of July Extravaganza was scheduled for June 29th. WHAT. IN. THE. WORLD.

Rescheduling this most important national holiday has become a very common practice; most of the fireworks shows in our area are not even happening on the 4th. What’s worse is that we’d already missed many of them before the weekend even got started good. THAT is celebration ruination. For real.

For me, strawberries, buttermilk, and a cast iron skillet are the kitchen essence of July the 4th. They ring of freshness and tradition with just the right amount of comfort. I need lots of comfort when I miss out on happy holiday things that have carried on my whole life; things I’m only missing out on because of poor event planning and subsequent advertising. Strawberries and buttermilk definitely do the trick.

I baked this cake in my cast iron skillet using Joy the Baker’s flawless recipe. I loaded finished slices of my skillet cake with fresh whipped cream and more sliced fresh strawberries, picked and purchased that same day, courtesy of Knob Creek.

Roasted Strawberry Buttermilk Cake from Joy the Baker


1 small (8 ounce-ish) carton of strawberries, hulled and halved

2 tablespoons maple syrup

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teensy pinch of kosher salt

2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

1 1/2 cups buttermilk

1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled just a little

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 tablespoons turbinado sugar for sprinkling on top

To Make

Pre-heat the oven to 375 and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Put the strawberries in a bowl and in another smaller bowl whisk together the maple syrup, olive oil, and salt. Drizzle this mixture over the strawberries and toss to coat. Spread the strawberries evenly across the parchment paper in a single layer. Roast them for 25-35 minutes; watch them closely! Remove them when the juices thicken but before they start to burn (mine started to burn around the edges and I had to snatch them out!). Empty the strawberries AND their juices into a bowl and toss them with the balsalmic vinegar. Set aside.

Turn the oven up to 400.

Butter the heck out of your 11 inch cast iron skillet. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. In a smaller bowl whisk together the buttermilk, eggs, and butter. Then add in the vanilla.

Dump the buttermilk mixture into the flour mixture and stir until it is just smooth and combined. Spread the batter evenly in the buttered cast iron skillet and then spread half of the strawberries over the top. Sprinkle the turbinado sugar over the entire top of the cake.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. **WATCH the cake! Mine started to get a little too dark around the edges**

Serve at room temperature with fresh whipped cream and the remaining roasted strawberries.


Written by Heather @ Sugar Dish Me

July 1, 2012 at 10:50 pm

Posted in Sugar

Tagged with , , , , ,

24 Responses

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  1. Haha, i remember trying to beat the traffic when I was a kid. What is up with changing the date. I mean that is way off, not even close. But you cake looks fantastic.


    July 1, 2012 at 11:38 pm

    • The changed date thing has got me sooooo annoyed. We’re gonna try to catch some here on the 3rd. Hopefully there will be SOMETHING on the 4th, but just in case, we drove down to SC yesterday and bought a big bag of fireworks. Ha! I’ll make the best of it 🙂 Loved this skillet cake. Super moist and not too sweet.

  2. I love strawberry season! I can’t wait to try this one! Thanks for the great post!



    July 2, 2012 at 12:13 am

    • We really enjoyed this recipe! Strawberry season is so super wonderful, and now there are peaches, too!!! I need to write a whole post on my love for the roadside produce stand.

  3. You are an amazing writer. I love your stories, your recipes look yummy AND I miss your face!

    Lori Kincade

    July 2, 2012 at 12:18 am

  4. That is awful my friend about the fireworks and celebrations! I can’t imagine why they do this!
    At least this beautiful cake let you celebrate well!


    Choc Chip Uru

    July 2, 2012 at 2:39 am

    • They change the date because they are stupid. That is all I can deduce from it. But we are going to fry chicken, make potato salad, eat a ton of watermelon, and have 15 desserts that are red white and blue. I’ll find fireworks somewhere and the celebration will go on! I’m determined to make the best of it 🙂

  5. Omg Heather I am going to try this, thanks. Great article

    Jill Leonard

    July 2, 2012 at 5:47 am

    • Thanks, Jill! Try it! It’s super great. You could use any fruit, really. I’ll probably go another round with blueberries or blackberries or peaches… or alla that 🙂

  6. Heather! I can’t help with the messed up holiday schedule, except to say this is what happens when a weekend I’d not attached to a holiday. People get all crazy and schedule it for the weekend before AND the weekend after! But here’s a tip on the cake: cast iron skillet, box of Jiffy cornbread mix (use the recipe on the box), and whatever fruit you want (I like blueberries in my cornbread). Here’s the kicker: use your grill and its lid instead of the oven! Looks just like this when it’s done.


    July 2, 2012 at 7:04 am

    • The rescheduling is stupid. Like when Halloween falls on a Sunday and everyone is all confused and the children don’t know when to trick-or-treat. If it’s on a Sunday, HAVE IT ON SUNDAY!!! Gah. And if the 4th is on a Wednesday and you are determined to accomodate people the weekend before, DON”T SKIP THE DAY OF!!! So lame. Aneeeeway… I love love love Jiffy cornbread mix – in my cast iron skillet, in a muffin cup, I really don’t care how I get it 🙂 I usually add savory things to it, but I’ve never done it on the grill!!! What temp do you heat the grill to (we have a gas grill, not charcoal)? I’m all about cooking outside.

  7. I am so mystified by the reschedule…is that even legal? I mean really? There was such hoopla last year about rescheduling Halloween and that’s just Halloween!

    Love this amazing cake…I am all over anything that includes buttermilk.


    July 2, 2012 at 6:06 pm

    • The Halloween rescheduling was soooo on my nerves. If we are not celebrating and watching fireworks on the 4th then why make my life hard and close the bank? Buttermilk is the BEST. The fat free version is my bff.
      I also think rescheduling Independence Day is totally against the law.

  8. What is the point in moving the celebrations to a different date? That is crazy! I love hearing about Independence Day. To tell the truth a big part of me has always wished I was American, probably explains why I am obsessed with the culture and food :0) That strawberry buttermilk cake looks so yummy!


    July 2, 2012 at 6:43 pm

    • Hey Nickki! Independence Day is awesome… or it always has been in years past. I suppose no matter what we do the spirit is there. And even if we don’t find a big display to get to, it’s hard to get through the afternoon and evening without a neighbor shooting fireworks off. And sharing food with family and friends is definitely a part of it that they CAN’T reschedule! Buttermilk in cakes is very American. And Southern. And awesome 🙂

  9. Loved reading about your celebrations as a child – they sound wonderful! gutted you missed the fireworks this year (the rescheduling does sound stupid!) this has started happening in UK as well around Bonfire Night – it arrives and you look for firework displays to go to only to find they’ve happened the weekend before and nobody knew! Strawberry cake looks yummy though – hope you get to enjoy some sort of family celebration tomorrow, fireworks or not!


    July 3, 2012 at 6:31 am

    • We need a “Stop the Rescheduling” campaign. Worldwide. Buncha nonsense!! I have the most fond memories of summer and holidays with my family. I want my kids to have the same. But it’s really hard to do when you miss things because they take place in the wrong month. We will find something to do, no doubt! (bought a big bag of fireworks just in case) What is Bonfire Night? That sounds like something I wanna be a part of 🙂

      • Your kids will have fond memories of their celebrations regardless fo a few missed fireworks – sure they’ll remember the food if nothing else 🙂 Bonfire night is celebrated November 5th and it’s basically exactly what it sounds like – there are lots of big bonfires and firework displays, everyone wrapped up warm, standing in cold – usually rainy – muddy fields to watch. (If you’re lucky there’s some sort of casserole, stew or at least a nearby pub!) Traditionally, it was to remember and celebrate the arrest of Guy Fawkes who was found guarding the gunpowder that was supposedly going to be used to blow up parliament in the 1600s (or thereabouts), but it’s more about watching great fireworks than anything else now!!


        July 4, 2012 at 5:53 am

  10. Honestly you should write a novel, you have such a way with words! The way you described watching the fireworks as a child, I felt like I was there, I love how descriptive you are! “When it finally stopped and the sky went dark, there was always a pause. A silence so big and full of awe it was almost audible.” I love the way you put that! You’re a super talented chef/baker/writer!! Is there anything you can’t do??? haha Chad is a lucky guy, you better remind him of that and tell him to track down some fireworks for you or go buy some sparklers (at least! haha) BTW Your skillet cake is adorable…I heart strawberries! YUM!!!


    July 4, 2012 at 1:18 am

    • Thank you!! What sweet things to say! I was very super blessed to have really super parents, 4 awesome brothers and sisters, and a boatload of really great memories. I’m glad that translates on the page. Mostly I write to get the words out of my head. If I didn’t I’d probably never stop talking! Chad DID buy us some sparklers 🙂 I freaking love those things. AND we caught fireworks last night in a town nearby. They were sort of amateur and lame, but they did the trick. And now I’m going to gorge myself on BLT’s and watermelon. Happy 4th!!!

      • Well you should consider writing a book! Maybe even a cook book with your stories in it!! I would totally buy it!! I’m happy you guys got sparklers…they always add a little pizazz to any occasion lol Lame or not at least you saw some cool fireworks, I accidentally fell asleep and completely missed them haha


        July 4, 2012 at 11:56 pm

  11. You don’t mess with the date! That’s just wrong! Great childhood memories you shared. We had the best block parties on our street when I grew up. Relay races, food, running around all day and night, and our own firework show!! Where we live now, it’s so low key, and because of funding our town doesn’t have a firework show! A few bites of your buttermilk cake just might help me forgive this town for the injustice I’m enduring :))

    • Oh we had parties like that at the pool! I distinctly remember diving to the bottom of the deep end for quarters and cans of soda 🙂 No fireworks is so sad!! Hopefully you have neighbors that enjoy shooting fireworks so you can see the sky light up without having to go to an organized event. We drove a few towns over to enjoy a BIG show last night. It was great.

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