Strawberry Cream Cake

July 8, 2011

Margaux says….

I made this for my Granny’s 86th birthday.  The strawberry season is much too short, and this year it seems even shorter (and even non-existent).  All the strawberries I’ve gotten so far have been pretty flavorless, and when my mom went to get some for this cake, she said that they’re already gone from the farmer’s market in Peoria (IL).
Luckily, Aunt Suzy (not knowing of my strawberry troubles) sent me a text on Tuesday asking if I wanted her to pick up a bucket of strawberries at a farmer’s market in Menomonie, WI that she stopped at on the way down for the party.  YES!  I was seriously considering buying supermarket strawberries because I was determined to make this cake!  I’ve made it a few times over the years, and I was NOT going to let a strawberry season go by without making it.  And the strawberries she got were the biggest, most beautiful and sweetest ones I’ve had this year.  So my strawberry season went out with a bang!

Aunt Suzy says . . . 🙂

This cake isn’t the easiest to make, but it’s also not the most difficult. I think more than anything, it’s just time consuming, because you have to hull and slice all the strawberries. Otherwise, the cake is a cinch to make, and the frosting is just as easy! And it’s really fun to build. Adding the cream layer is a little tricky. I found it was easiest to place dollops on and then gently spread them outward to the edges.
Voila! The cake is light and spongy, so the puree soaks in nicely. And the cream cheese/whipped cream topping is so velvety-smooth! It really is a crowning culinary achievement, and your friends will ooh and ahh when you bring it out!

Best Strawberry Cream Cake

from Cook’s Illustrated 2006

If using a cake pan, you will need one with straight sides that are at least 2 inches high; otherwise, use a springform pan. The cake portion can be made ahead of time, wrapped in a double layer of plastic wrap, and frozen; thaw the frozen cake, unwrapped, at room temperature for about two hours before proceeding with the recipe.

Cake
1 1/4 cups cake flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
5 large eggs (2 whole and 3 separated), room temperature
6 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 tbsp water
2 tsp vanilla extract

Strawberry Filling
2 lbs. medium or large strawberries (about 2 qts), washed, dried and stemmed
4-6 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp kirsch
pinch table salt

Whipped Cream
8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp table salt
2 cups heavy cream

1. For the cake: Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour round 9 x 2-inch cake pan or 9-inch springform pan and line with parchment paper. Whisk flour, baking powder, salt, and all but 3 tbsp sugar in mixing bowl. Whisk in 2 whole eggs and 3 yolks (reserving whites), butter, water and vanilla; whisk until smooth.
2. In clean bowl of standing mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat remaining 3 egg whites at medium-low speed until frothy, 1 to 2 minutes. With machine running, gradually add remaining 3 tbsp sugar, increase speed to medium-high, and beat until soft peaks form, 60-90 seconds. Stir one-third of whites into batter to lighten; add remaining whites and gently fold into batter until no white streaks remain. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake until toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean, 30 to 40 minutes. Cool in pan 10 minutes, then invert cake onto greased wire rack; peel off and discard parchment. Invert cake again; cool completely, about 2 hours.
3. For the strawberry filling: Halve 24 of best-looking berries and reserve. Quarter remaining berries; toss with 4 to 6 tbsp sugar (depending on sweetness of berries) in medium bowl and let sit 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Strain juices from berries and reserve (you should have about 1/2 cup). In workbowl of food processor fitted with metal blade, give macerated berries five 1-second pulses (you should have about 1 1/2 cups). In small saucepan over medium-high heat, simmer reserved juices and Kirsch until syrupy and reduced to about 3 tbsps, 3 to 5 minutes. Pour reduced syrup over macerated berries, add pinch of salt, and toss to combine. Set aside until cake is cooled.
4. For the whipped cream: When cake has cooled, place cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, and salt in bowl of standing mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Whisk at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes, scraping down bowl with rubber spatula as needed. Reduce speed to low and add heavy cream in slow, steady stream; when almost fully combined, increase speed to medium-high and beat until mixture holds stiff peaks, 2 to 2 1/2 minutes more, scraping bowl as needed (you should have about 4 1/2 cups).
5. To assemble the cake: Using large serrated knife slice cake into three even layers. Place bottom layer on cardboard round or cake plate and arrange ring of 20 strawberry halves, cut sides down and stem ends facing out, around perimeter of cake layer. Pour one half of pureed berry mixture (about 3/4 cup) in center, then spread to cover any exposed cake. Gently spread about one-third of whipped cream (about 1 1/2 cups) over berry layer, leaving 1/2-inch border from edge. Place middle cake layer on top and press down gently (whipped cream layer should become flush with cake edge). Repeat with 20 additional strawberry halves, remaining berry mixture, and half of remaining whipped cream; gently press last cake layer on top. Spread remaining whipped cream over top; decorate with remaining cut strawberries. Serve, or chill for up to 4 hours.

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Margaux says  . . .

I want to make EVERYTHING in the November Martha Stewart Living issue.  Yes, I love Martha Stewart.  The magazine is beautiful and smart, and has tons of good recipes in it (most of the time).  I realize that it’s not cool to like Martha Stewart, but I don’t really care!  It’s the only magazine I get, and I’m proud of it. November’s issue was the best one in months…every page has delicious looking goodies that I can’t wait to make!  This is the first of many things I’ll be trying out from it.

I absolutely love pumpkin anything, and make lot’s of pumpkin treats all through the fall.  The goat cheese frosting is what stood out to me in this recipe, plus the quince compote sounded really interesting, as I’ve never tried quince before!  You could do the cake without the compote, and it is very tasty.  But the compote really makes the cake, I think…it adds a little extra sweetness, and is a nice light balance with the heaviness of the cake and frosting.   The frosting isn’t super sweet, which I love, but for you sweet tooths out there, I would add a little more powdered sugar.  The batter is very thick-not a typical cake batter.  And it took mine much longer to bake than 35 minutes-more like 45.  But the oven I was using wasn’t completely accurate, so make sure you check it at 35 first!

I made this for my Aunt Annie’s 70th birthday party, and we were at my mom’s house down in central Illinois, so I had to “rough it” while baking.  I only had a hand mixer, and the lighting in her kitchen is pretty dim.  She hates cooking (although her kitchen is beautiful!), so she doesn’t have all the luxuries I’m used to.  However, it was lucky that I was there because she has 8″ cake pans, and I don’t!  So it worked out perfectly.

I am definitely going to make this particular cake recipe a regular for fall!  I love the addition of fresh ginger.  I usually make a pumpkin cake at least once every fall season, and the one I’ve been using isn’t nearly as good!  It would also be a good recipe to use for brunch muffins…plain, no frosting or topping.


Pumpkin Layer Cake
from Martha Stewart Living November 2010 issue

2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pans and parchment
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for parchment
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
salt
2 cups packed light-brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups solid packed pumpkin (from one 14.5 oz. can)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
3/4 tsp grated peeled fresh ginger
1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk

1. Preheat oven to 350. Brush two 8-inch round cake pans with butter; line with circles of parchment, and brush with butter. Dust with flour, tapping out excess. Which together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and 1/2 tsp salt.
2. Beat butter and sugar with a mixer on medium speed until pale and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Beat in eggs 1 at a time. Beat in pumpkin; add vanilla and ginger. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with buttermilk, and beginning and ending with flour. Scrape down side of bowl as needed. Divide batter between pans.
3. Bake cakes until golden brown, pulling away from sides of pans, and until a toothpick inserted into the center of each comes out clean, about 35 minutes (mine took about 10-12 minutes longer than that!).  Let cool in pans set on wire rack for 15 minutes. Invert cakes on to racks. Let cool.
4. evenly spread half the goat cheese frosting on top of 1 cake. Top with the second cake, and frost top with the remaining frosting. Top cake with some quince-ginger compote, and serve remainder on the side.

Goat Cheese Frosting

Makes 3 cups.

1 lb. cream cheese, room temperature
8 oz. goat cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

Beat cheeses until combined. Gradually add sugar, and beat until smooth and creamy.

Quince-Ginger Compote

Overly ripe quinces may not retain their shape as the simmer, so it’s best to use ones that have just ripened.

3 cups off-dry white wine, such as Riesling
1 1/2 cups water, plus more if needed
1 1/2 cups sugar
12 thin slices peeled fresh ginger (from one 2-inch piece)
3 lbs just ripened quince, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch wedges
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

1. Bring wine, water, sugar, and ginger to a simmer in a medium saucepan over high heat. Cook, stirring, until sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes. Add quinces. (Add more water if needed to cover fruit.) reduce heat, and simmer gently until quinces are tender, 25 to 45 minutes, depending on ripeness of fruit.
2. Transfer quinces to a bowl using a slotted spoon. Bring liquid in saucepan to a simmer, and cook until slightly syrupy, about 5 minutes. (This part took me about 15-20 minutes…you really need to cook it down quite a bit to get the right consistency. Remove and discard ginger. Stir in lemon juice. Pour syrup over quinces. Let stand until cool. Refrigerate if desired.