- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 6, 2006

There’s something magical and romantic about early June, the most popular time of year for getting married. Look at the newspaper listings of engagements and weddings, or just look on your bulletin board or refrigerator. Chances are you are headed to a wedding or wedding shower pretty soon.

If you are hosting one, the menu most likely is on your mind. Keep it festive, keep it simple, keep it light. A universal favorite among brides-to-be is chicken salad and cheese souffle. You can’t miss with hot rolls and a green salad and, for dessert, an elegant cake of white chocolate.

Baked in a loaf pan, this white-chocolate loaf is both bread and cake, easy to slice for a few people, easy to slice for many. It’s pretty on a silver tray, perhaps alternated with your favorite chocolate cake and with fresh strawberries to the side.

Five time-shaving ways to serve fresh berries

Savor fresh strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries this summer while they are in season and taste their best.

• Sweeten and spoon them over vanilla ice cream. Add a tablespoon of orange liqueur or a smidgen of grated lemon zest if you like.

• Dip them in chocolate. Look for those handy microwaveable cups of dipping chocolate, found in the baking aisle.

• Bake a pie crust, and when it has cooled, spoon in sweetened berries to fill. Slice and serve this fresh berry pie with whipped cream.

• Instead of croutons, top your favorite green salad with berries, toasted pecans and crumbled blue cheese.

• Fold any of these berries into pancakes and muffins for breakfast or gift giving.

White-chocolate pound cake with strawberries

The preparation time is 15 minutes, and the baking time is 40 to 45 minutes.

Vegetable oil spray for misting pans

Flour for dusting pans

6 ounces white chocolate, coarsely chopped

1 18.25-ounce package plain white cake mix

8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, melted

1 cup whole milk

3 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

Fresh strawberries for garnish

Lightly mist 3 8-inch loaf pans with vegetable oil spray, then dust with flour. Shake out excess flour and set pans aside.

Heat chopped white chocolate in a small saucepan over low heat until melted, stirring constantly. Set aside to cool slightly.

Place cake mix, melted butter, milk, eggs, vanilla and slightly cooled white chocolate in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed for 1 minute.

Stop machine and scrape down sides of bowl with a rubber spatula. Increase mixer speed to medium and beat 2 minutes more, scraping down sides again if needed. Batter should look well-blended.

Divide batter evenly among prepared pans, smoothing it out with a rubber spatula. Place pans on middle rack of preheated 350-degree oven, side by side.

Bake loaves until they are light brown and spring back when lightly pressed with your finger, 40 to 45 minutes. Remove pans from oven and place on wire racks to cool for 10 minutes.

Run a dinner knife around edge of loaves and invert them onto racks. Turn on one side and let cool completely, 35 to 40 minutes, before serving. Garnish with strawberries. Makes 18 servings.

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