Normally, I post a picture of JUST the final product here…but I feel like we need to gaze at these strawberries for a minute. I love these small, red fruits. My mom picked up a pint of berries (locally grown!) from a farm stand and they just looked so…delicious. Delectable. RED. They made me think of this children’s book that my sister and I would always read (and quote) :
In any case, my sister found this gorgeous cake recipe that I figured we had to try as it featured strawberries as the star. It is a riff on the French “fraisier,” a creation that is creme and strawberries between layers of thin yellow cake. Our spin uses a very light sponge cake with a rum glaze, whipped cream and strawberry filling smothered in sliced almonds. For a summer night, it’s essentially perfect.
For the cake :
1 cup white sugar
1/4 cup water
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1/4 tsp salt
2 pints fresh strawberries
2 cups sliced almonds
Preheat the oven to 350F. Prepare two 9-inch round cake pans – I usually use parchment paper to line my pans but I’m all out…so wax paper will have to do.
It usually works fine but can be a little tricky if you let the cake cool in the pan. You have been warned. Separate the eggs, putting the whites aside for later and placing the yolks in a large mixing bowl.
Add the vanilla and turn on mixer to medium speed, beating the yolks. As they start to change color, pour the sugar in slowly. Beat until the yolks take on a light, lemony yellow color.
This is called ribboning, a process where you beat air into the yolks and dissolve the sugar. When the egg mixture cooks, this intense beating keeps it from turning grainy. Add the water and the flour, mixing until just combined – no more. The batter will be mixed more when the egg whites are added.
Speaking of egg whites…in another bowl, combine salt, cream of tartar, and egg whites. Beat on high until stiff but not dry. They should form peaks that hold all on their own – like little mounds of snow. When eggs are beaten, the proteins in the white are sort of…taken apart and put back together again in such a way that the eggs hold air bubbles really well, allowing them to double in volume.
Fold the egg whites into the batter, being careful not to over mix. The whites add the spring to the cake and will give it that “spongy” texture.
Pour into the pans and bake for about 20-25 minutes and golden brown on top. You’ll know they are done when you can poke them with your finger and the cake bounces back. Let cool.
For the syrup :
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup rum
Pour the sugar and water together and boil over medium heat until everything is dissolved. Add rum. Set aside and let cool.
For the whipped cream :
3 cups heavy (whipping) cream
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
Prepare your bowl by placing it in the freezer before pouring the cream in. Beat on high speed, adding the sugar and vanilla while mixing. The whisk beats in air to the cream, whose fat particles trap it and allow the cream to double (triple?) in size.
Take one layer of the cake and place it on a cake plate (or platter…or something….). Paint the top with the rum syrup. I love this flavor, so I think adding plenty of it is a nice idea BUT if you aren’t a fan of rum, just paint lightly.
Place the whipped cream on top and smooth out. Place strawberries on top, being sure to distribute evenly.
Put more whipped cream over those berries, followed by the second cake. Again, paint with the rum syrup and then cover the entire cake with whipped cream.
Plop the rest of the strawberries on top of the cake. We made a nice design but I think it would be just as lovely with a heaping pile of red, juicy joy.
Cover the sides of the cake with sliced almonds. We did this by essentially throwing almonds at the side of the cake. You can achieve this look by taking handfuls of almonds and just smothering the sides of the cake OR rolling the entire cake in the almonds….that seemed too daunting for my sister and I so…chucking almonds at the side of the cake was our choice. It worked out just fine…aside from the mess. :)
Slice and eat on a hot summer night…maybe after a daiquiri…or two.
Bon appétit !