Despite Mother Nature's best efforts, the summer growing season is fighting its way into existence. Its first gift to us is the almighty strawberry, the first berry of the summer and a versatile ingredient in the kitchen. While some like to toss a few strawberry slices to lighten up a salad, we all know its true magic is in the desserts. Strawberry shortcake and strawberry syrup and strawberry jam and strawberry rhubarb pie and oh so many more possibilities from one little red berry. Two of the really popular cakes at Julia's Bakery (Christmas Tree Plaza, 220 Indian River Road, Orange, (203) 799-7106) are made with strawberries, says general manager Jennifer Montgomery. They can make their strawberry shortcake two ways, either open faced (a more traditional style), or like a birthday cake with the strawberries on the inside. The bungalow cake, which is a layer a vanilla cake, a layer of chocolate cake, and fresh bananas and strawberries, is popular all year 'round. "The seasons have been a little strange for fruit, but we've been able to have fresh fruit in our cakes," Montgomery says.
Visitors to the Orange Strawberry Festival on June 8 should take note that Julia's is providing the biscuits for the strawberry shortcake that day. Strawberry shortcake is highly popular this time of year all over the state, not just at the many strawberry festivals coming up, but in traditional bakeries as well. Both Shaquaya Wilson, baker and cake decorator at Billy's Baker (1885 Black Rock Tpke., Fairfield, (203) 337-5349) and Gino Mozzicato, owner of Mozzicato DePasquale Bakery and Pastry Shop (329 Franklin Ave., Hartford, (860) 296-0426) say strawberry shortcake is a big seller. Starting this week, we begin to celebrate the strawberry with a ton of outdoor merriment and, of course, a whole lotta shortcake.
Strawberry Shortcake Festival: Fri., June 7, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. South Meriden Trinity United Methodist Church, 145 Main St., South Meriden, (203) 235-6002. Dine in, take out, orders of 10 or more shortcakes delivered. $5 per shortcake. Outdoor dining weather permitting. Call (203) 235-8402 for more info.
Strawberry Thanksgiving Celebration: Fri., June 7-Sat., June 8, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center, 110 Pequot Trail, Mashantucket, (800) 411-9671, pequotmuseum.org. Stories at 11 a.m., shop for spring bows for your hair made by Mishki Thompson (Narragansett), traditional strawberry drink tasting. Free with museum admission, free to museum members.
Strawberry Festival 2013: Sat., June 8, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. High Plains Community Center, 525 Orange Center Rd., Orange, (203) 891-4790, orange-ct.gov. Dozens of craft and home show vendors, kids' rides and games, strawberry food offerings and a raffle. Free parking and admission. For more info: (203) 795-9749 or orangecongregationalchurch.org.
95th Annual Strawberry Fair: Sat., June 8, 9 a.m.-2 p.m. South Congregational Church, 1301 Forbes St., East Hartford, (860) 568-5150, southchurcheh.org. Homemade strawberry shortcake, kids' activities, Grandma's Attic Tag Sale, a raffle and more.
Gloria Dei Caring For Kids' Strawberry Festival Craft & Tag Sale: Sat., June 8, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, 355 Camp St., Bristol, (860) 582-0629, wordpress.gdeichurch.org. Food, drinks, tag salers and vendors. Annual fundraiser, this year benefiting the families of 7-year-old Lexi Medina, who has Leukemia, and 7-year-old Byron Schiffres, who has a brain tumor, to help with medical costs, transportation and living expenses, etc.
Emerson-Williams PTO Strawberry Fest: Sat., June 8, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Emerson-Williams Elementary School, 461 Wells Rd., Wethersfield, (860) 571-8360, ewpto.com. Food and fun, rain or shine.
76th Annual Cheshire Strawberry Festival: Sat., June 8, 11 a.m.-4:30 p.m. First Congregational Church, 111 Church Dr., Cheshire, (203) 272-5323, cheshirecongregational.org. Strawberry shortcake, hot dogs, hamburgers, cotton candy, live music, kids' activities, a petting zoo, craft fair and more. Free.
Strawberry Festival: Sat., June 8, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Stony Creek Church of Christ Congregational, 192 Thimble Islands Rd., Branford, (203) 488-7827, stonycreekchurchct.org. Fresh strawberry shortcake, burgers and hot dogs, refreshments, the Eunice Medlyn Cookie Walk and more. Rain or shine. Free.
Strawberry Festival: Sun., June 9, 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. United Church of Christ, 283 Main St. N., Southbury, (203) 264-8807, uccsouthbury.org. Homemade strawberry shortcake, chocolate covered strawberries, burgers and hot dogs, hot and cold beverages, kids' activities, a craft fair, the Hardcore Sweet Cupcake Truck from Waterbury, live music from Doug Mahard and more. Rain or shine. Free.
5th Annual Preserve New Fairfield Strawberry Festival: Sun., June 9, 1-4 p.m. New Fairfield Senior Center, 33 Route 37, New Fairfield, (203) 312-5665, newfairfieldseniorcenter.org. Jim and Joe's homemade strawberry shortcake, strawberry jam, chocolate covered and cheesecake stuffed strawberries, live music, face painting, a craft fair, raffles and more. Rain or shine. Free. For more info (203) 733-6826 or preservenewfairfield.org.
St. Mary of Czestochowa Ladies Guild Strawberry Festival: Tue., June 11, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. St. Mary of Czestochowa Parish Hall, 79 S. Main St., Middletown, (860) 347-2365. Strawberry shortcake made with Connecticut native strawberries, and refreshments. Large, $5.50; small, $4.50. Advance orders, call Agnes at (860) 347-7638. Orders day of, call (860) 347-1224. Walk-ins welcome.
Strawberry Supper: Tue., June 11, 5-7 p.m. Ledyard Congregational Church, 722 Colonel Ledyard Hwy., Ledyard, (860) 464-9926, ledyardcongregational.org. Ham and bean supper, salads, and strawberry shortcake. $10 adults, $9 seniors, $6 kids age 8 and under. Strawberry shortcake only: $5. Take-out available, call day of.
St. Bridget's Annual Strawberry Festival: Tue., June 11, 6 p.m. St. Bridget of Kildare Church, 27 Moodus-Leesville Rd., Moodus, (860) 873- 8623, mooduslatinmass.org. $5 strawberry shortcake, take-out available. Raffle baskets.
94th Annual Strawberry Supper: Wed., June 12, 5:30 p.m. First Church of Christ Congregational, 511 Amity Rd., Bethany, (203) 393-3116, bethanyfirstchurch.org. Two seatings, 5:30 & 7:30 p.m. Sit-down, all-you-can-eat supper of baked ham, potatoes, green beans, salad and rolls. Strawberry shortcake and refreshments for dessert. $15 adults, $12 seniors age 65 and up, $7 kids ages 5-11, kids under age 5 free.
31st Annual South Windsor Strawberry Fest & Craft Fair: Sat., June 15, 9 a.m. Rotary Pavilion, Nevers Road Park, Sand Hill Rd., South Windsor, swstrawberryfest.org. Miss Strawberry Pageant, kids' activities, a magician, balloon art, crafters and vendors, the "World's Best Strawberry Shortcake," commemorative Avery's Soda and more.
42nd Annual Strawberry Festival Fine Arts & Craft Show: Sat., June 15, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sun., June 16, 12-5 p.m. Monroe Congregational Church, 34 Church Rd., Monroe, (203) 268-9327, mcc-ucc.org. More than 75 juried exhibitors, local artists, strawberry shortcake, strawberry pies, baked goods, games, live entertainment and more.
Lyman Orchards Strawberry Fest: Sat., June 15, 10 a.m. Lyman Orchards, 32 Reeds Gap Rd., Middlefield, (860) 349-1793, lymanorchards.com. Fruit picking, live music, face painting, pie-eating contests, horse-drawn wagon rides and more.
New Horizons Village Strawberry Festival: Sat., June 15, 10 a.m. New Horizons Village, 37 Bliss Rd., Unionville, (860) 673-8893, newhorizonsvillage.com. Classic cars, crafters, live entertainment, kids' games, strawberry shortcake and more.
St. Lawrence Annual Strawberry Festival & Craft Fair: Sat., June 15, 10 a.m. St. Lawrence Church, 7 Hemlock Dr., Killingworth, (860) 663-2576, stlawrencechurch.com. Silent auction, a Giant Tag Sale, Book Sale and Toy Sale, kids' games, homemade strawberry shortcake and more. Free.
62nd Annual Strawberry Festival: Sat., June 15, 11 a.m. North Canton Community United Methodist Church, 3 Case St., Canton, (860) 693-4589, northcantonumc.org. Strawberry shortcake, silent auction, Grandma's Attic Tag Sale (opens at 10 a.m.), plant booth, kids' craft booth, baked goods, burgers and hot dogs. Free.
Strawberry Festival: Sat., June 15, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Hindinger Farm, 835 Dunbar Hill Rd., Hamden, (203) 288-0700, hindingersfarm.com. Hayrides, clowns, entertainment, food from Glenwood Drive-Inn in Hamden, and lots of strawberries. Rain date: June 16.
Winchester Grange Annual Strawberry Festival: Sun., June 16, 2 p.m. Winchester Grange Hall, 100 Newfield Rd., Winchester Center, (860) 626-0326, winchestergrange.org. Large, freshly made servings of strawberry shortcake. $6 adult, $3.50 kids.
Strawberry Palooza: Fri., June 28, 6-8:30 p.m. First United Methodist Church, 941 Old Rock Hill Rd., Wallingford, (203) 269-9100, umcwallingford.com. Kids' activities, live music, food, games, prizes and more. Bring your favorite strawberry dessert. Call (203) 804-2398 for more info.
Pick Your Own Strawberries
Jones Family Farms, 606 Walnut Tree Hill Rd., Shelton, (203) 929-8425, jonesfamilyfarms.com.
New Haven County
Bishop's Orchards, 1355 Boston Post Rd., Guilford, (203) 458-7425, bishopsorchards.com.
Pell Farms, 700 Middletown Ave., North Haven, (860) 749-3582, pell-farms.com.
Rose Orchards, 33 Branford Rd., North Branford, (203) 488-7996, roseorchardsfarm.com.
New London County
Grant's Berry Patch, 188 Mell Rd., Lisbon, (860) 376-5625.
Scott's Yankee Farmer, 436 Boston Post Rd., East Lyme, (860) 739-5209, scottsyankeefarmer.net.