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Saturday, August 24, 2019

Strawberry Shortcake in Cake Form

When my dear friend requests a birthday cake and then says strawberry shortcake is her favorite, I get to work. There are basically three elements: a great sponge cake or genoise for the layers; a strawberry filling; and stabilized whipped cream. For the cake layers I go to my baking mentor Susan Purdy for a great recipe I'm very familiar with. It's from Pie in the Sky the high-altitude cookbook I helped her with, back when I lived in Santa Fe. (Even though it's mainly for high altitudes, the book also includes a version of every recipe for sea level — that's what I used here.) It's a foolproof recipe which requires carefully following the explicit instructions and using many bowls, but it's totally worth it. The cooked strawberry filling is pretty basic but the inclusion of a little Yuzu juice keeps it very fresh and not too sweet. The whipped cream which frosts the outside is held a bit firmer with the inclusion of folded-in melted and cooled white chocolate with a little heavy cream in it. Then you just put it all together — it's divine! Of course, this would be fabulous with a cooked peach filling and almond scented whipped cream, or cherry filling and a chocolate Genoise. The possibilities are endless!

Ingredients for genoise
1 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon sifted cake flour
pinch salt
6 large room temperature eggs separated
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 cup plus 1/2 cup granulated sugar divided
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon orange extract
1 teaspoon lemon extract
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon grated citrus zest (your choice)
6 tablespoons melted and cooled unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Prepare two 9 inch cake rounds with non stick spray, line the bottom with parchment, re-spray, flour pans, and tap out excess flour.

Sift flour and sugar into small bowl and set aside. Put egg whites in bowl of electric mixer,  add cream of tartar, and whisk until foamy on medium speed. Gradually whip in 1/2 cup granulated sugar increasing mixer speed to high. Whip until stiff peaks form and when you raise up the whisk the egg white peak stands firm and tall and glossy. Carefully, with a rubber spatula, remove the egg whites into a medium size bowl and, without washing the eggy bowl, return to mixer stand and add egg yolks and remaining 1/2 cup sugar and whip until mixture thickens and lightens in color. Then add the extracts and zest and continue mixing at a high speed until it forms a ribbon as the batter drips off the whisk (which will take between 5-7 minutes, depending on your mixer). Now it's time to combine parts. Start by folding 1 cup of whipped egg whites into the yolks carefully with a good rubber spatula. Then alternately fold the flour mixture and the whites into the yolk mixture. Once everything is combined, remove 1 cup of batter and put into a small bowl. Fold the melted and cooled butter into the batter and then incorporate the batters together with yet more folding.

Using a spatula, divide batter between 2 pans and place on middle rack in oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until top is golden brown and it springs back when touched. Let cool. Can be made ahead of time and frozen.

Ingredients for strawberry filling
2 cups strawberries, cut into quarters
1/4 cup Yuzu (or lemon) juice
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch stirred in 1/4 cup cold water

Combine the berries, sugar, and juice in a sauce pan and cook over medium heat about 10 minutes, or until the berries create a nice bit of juice and get tender. Do not overcook, you want to see the pieces. Then taste for sweetness — you can add more sugar or more juice to your taste. Mix the cornstarch with the water just to make a paste and stir it into the boiling berries. Cook another few minutes so cornstach flavor cooks out. If it's too thick, add a splash of water and then let cool.

Ingredients for whipped cream frosting
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup confectioner's sugar

In the top of a small double boiler, melt chocolate chips with 2 tablespoons of heavy cream over low heat, stirring with a rubber spatula. When everything is melted and combined, remove from heat and set aside to cool. In bowl of electric mixer, whip heavy cream until it is soft but thick. Sprinkle in confectioner's sugar and vanilla and whip a bit more. Then add melted white chocolate mixture and mix until thick. Watch closely, as over mixing can cause it to separate. Refrigerate until ready to use.

I like to brush the cake layers with a little simple syrup to keep them moist (this is optional). Simple syrup lives up to its name — it's just equal parts of sugar and water which is boiled a few minutes until sugar dissolves and mixture is clear. You can also add some rum or Grand Marnier if you want to add another layer of flavor ... or even coffee. So place the first cake layer on a flat plate and put some of the whipped cream in a pastry bag and pipe a tube around the edge of the cake to keep the strawberry filling in place then put half the filling on top of first layer and smooth it out. Next top it with the second cake layer. Repeat the edge piping and berries. Then take the whipped cream in a pastry bag with a star tip and make festive little stars in rows up the sides and eat all of it. Happy end of summer!