I tend to have a backlog of recipes that I start to write about on Superspark only to have them fall by the wayside when things get busy. Often they’re just not that exciting and I couldn’t manage the enthusiasm to finish the deed- copy the recipe, upload the picture, compose a few descriptive paragraphs (case in point: an unfinished brussels sprouts post from this past fall that has lingered untouched since then). On other occasions, the recipe and meal were perfectly good, so much so that I’d look forward to having them again (like the yet-to-be-published pumpkin-walnut pancakes from early 2007), but they’re fairly seasonal or no longer reside on the top of my mind. Still other recipes I have no good excuse for not sharing and they’re just too good to let slide. With that in mind, it seemed high time to share the recipe for this, Dylan’s birthday cake, which we made way back in early May (at least it was 2008).
In fact this was one of two birthday cakes, the primary one, if you will. As I wrote way back in May, when describing the other cake, Smitten Kitchen‘s glorious chocolate whipped cream icebox cake, we were having friends over to celebrate Dylan’s 31st, but unsure how many would actually show up, I decided to make a back-up cake, just in case. (Plus I’d been itching to make that icebox cake, but it had always met with protests from Dylan who seemed to think it less than a true cake if it didn’t require baking.) I hadn’t really planned to make a strawberry shortcake, truth be told. In actuality, I had wanted to make a now legendary coconut-lime curd layer cake that my pals Zarin and Amanda once had at a BBQ and describe as the best cake they’ve ever had. From two veritable cake fiends, that’s no small praise, but between the fact that they never actually got the recipe and Dylan’s dislike of coconut’s texture, it seemed perhaps an unwise choice.
With strawberries just coming into season in May, though, it seemed the perfect time to make a gorgeous strawberry shortcake with fluffy mounds of homemade whipped cream sandwiched in between slices of strawberry and classic white cake. We’re big fans of what I call “pancake-style” layer cakes, where you leave the sides unfrosted, allowing a peek inside the layers, with a “I just whipped this together” insouciance. So it was that this strawberry shortcake came together, from a recipe found in what Dylan considers his cake-baking Bible, The Perfect Cake.
And delightful it was- a perfect creamy, fruity antidote to the chocolate wafer icebox cake. In reality, I think nearly every guest happily accepted a slice of each and consumed them with gusto.
Strawberry shortcake (serves 10+)
Cake (Anna’s Swedish Butter Cake from Susan Purdy’s The Perfect Cake):
(we doubled this recipe to make two 2-layer 9-inch cakes)
2 cups plus 2 tbsp sifted all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup butter at room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs at room temperature
3/4 cup milk
1 tsp almond extract (or vanilla extract)
confectioner’s sugar (optional)
1. Prepare pans by spreading butter or shortening on the bottom and sides. Dust with flour, tap out extra flour. Put rack in center of over, preheat to 350.
2. Sift together flour, baking powder, salt and set aside.
3. In a mixing bowl or with an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until well blended. Add the eggs one by one, beating after each addition. Alternate adding dry ingredients and milk, beginning and ending with flour. Beat and scrape down sides after each addition. Stir in the almond or vanilla extract.
4. Pour batter into pans, level the top, then spread the batter slightly towards pan edges. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until the top is golden and a tester comes out clean. Cool the cake in its pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then run a knife blade around the edge of the cake. Top with another rack or plate, invert, and lift off the pans. Cool the cake completely before assembling the shortcake.
Stabilized whipped cream (from Susan Purdy’s The Perfect Cake; depending on how thick you like your whipped cream layers, you may want to double this recipe):
1 pint heavy cream
4 tbsp confectioners’ sugar
2 tbsp cornstarch
1. Combine sugar and cornstarch in a small saucepan and gradually stir in 1/4 cup heavy cream. Bring to a boil and stir constantly and simmer for a few seconds until thickened. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.
2. Whip remaining cream in electric mixer (chill bowl, cream, and beater first for best results) until it begins to thicken (when beater marks begin to show). Hand-whisk in the thickened cream mixture and whisk until stiff peaks form.
Doubled cake recipe (see above)
1-2 times the whipped cream recipe (see above; we doubled it and had extra)
1-2 pints strawberries, half sliced thin
1. Using a long cake-cutting serrated knife, cut cake layers in half to create 4 layers. Place one on a cake dish.
2. Spoon a thick layer of whipped cream over the cake, up to about 1/2 inch from the edge. Place thinly sliced strawberries (or other berries) across the whipped cream.
3. Put the second layer of cake on top and repeat the layering process. Do the same with the third layer. Put the fourth and final layer on cake on top, then top with a thicker layer of whipped cream and whole berries.