This is a strawberry post. Strawberries were used in the making of this dessert. Strawberries are a fruit. And they happen to be my favorite fruit. I say this with a sense of caution and fear. Caution because I know that once I write it as such, then it’s out there for everyone to read. Fear because once the words are written and submitted into the world of internet, there is no going back. I can not retract them. I can not just say “Oh nevermind. They no longer are my favorite fruit.” I say that strawberries are my favorite fruit with caution and fear because I, myself, am not one hundred percent sure if they are my favorite fruit. I mean, they are tasty and delicious, sure. They are red, fuzzy and have seeds all over them. What’s not to like? They are a summer fruit and grow during the summer months of April, May, June, July and so forth. Apparently April is a summer month now. Southern California weather seems to agree with me. I like this fruit because when I see them in grocery stores or in farmer’s markets, I know it’s summer. The beginning of summer. Summer is about to commence. When strawberries are fresh and in season they smell extraordinary. They give out an incredible aroma that brings me back to all sorts of happy memories. Summer days filled with heat and swimming pools. Summer days filled with me lying around eating nothing but strawberries. Summer days filled with strawberry fields forever. Those are not my words. They are lyrics to a song. A song by the Beatles. They too liked strawberries.
I decided to make a strawberry shortcake. A multi-layered bonanza of a cake. Tons of whipped cream and fresh sliced strawberries in between two layers of sponge cake, doused with – what should be – illegal amounts of rum simple syrup. A rum simple syrup because a regular, plain simple syrup would not have sufficed. Illegal because it tastes so good that the food police should send out warrants for anyone and everyone who consumes such a cake. They’d arrest people only to eat the cake themselves. The food police would not share said cake. Not even toss a crumb or two our way. No, they’d lick their plates clean. Bastards. We like cake too. Cake makes us happy. Especially a tall cake filled with strawberries, doused with rum simple syrup, and covered in sweet whipped cream. Everyone should eat cake. We should eat it everyday. I’m sure our doctor’s and dentist’s would love it if we did. Everyone should eat strawberry shortcake.
On the second thought, perhaps watermelon is my favorite fruit. This isn’t a watermelon post. Watermelons weren’t used in the making of this dessert. Watermelons, like strawberries, are also a summer fruit. They grow during the months of May, June, July and August. Watermelons are green on the outside and have juicy red insides. Watermelons have black seeds – No, wait – I take that back, most watermelons have black seeds inside. Some are seedless. I prefer seedless watermelon, because the prospect of accidentally swallowing a seed and having a watermelon grow inside my stomach, scares me. Why take that risk? Now I wish I had made a watermelon dessert instead of one made with strawberries. But that’s another post. Another time. For now enjoy this strawberry dessert. Made with strawberries. My favorite/maybe favorite fruit.
We start with the sponge cake.
I’d never made a sponge cake before this, and seeing as it was my first time, I was nervous. I prepared the batter, poured it into the pans, put them in the oven, crossed my fingers, said a little prayer and waited…
Turns out, I can make sponge cake. Who knew?
How did I start?
The first thing you want to do is separate the eggs between two bowls, placing the yolks in one mixing bowl and the egg whites in another.
You can separate the eggs by hand, the good ol’ fashioned way. The way your grandmother and mother did it. The way my mother and grandmother did it. By juggling the egg yolk between the two shell halves, letting the whites fall down until you’re left with only the yolk – Or you can just use a handy dandy egg separator like I use. Just crack, pour, walk away and let the work be done for you.
Pour the sugar in with the egg yolks.
The next part is very crucial. You want to beat the yolks and sugar until light in color. Smooth and has thickened.
It will happen in three steps.
Stage 1: Chunky and dark in color.
Stage 2: Lumpy, somewhat thickened, and medium tone in color.
Stage 3: Smooth, extra thick and pale lemon colored. High volume.
At this stage it is time to add the water.
And vanilla extract.
So add them.
Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
Turn on and mix again. Mix until everything is well incorporated.
Mix until it is smooth.
Add the flour.
Turn the mixer on low and allow it to slowly combine.
Be careful not to over mix the batter. You’ll know it’s ready when the it looks like this:
Next step is to whip the egg whites.
Remember the whites you separated from the yolks earlier? Well the last we heard of them, they were in another mixing bowl.
Grab that bowl, you’re going to need it.
You’re going to whisk it.
Start the mixer on low and begin to whip.
Turn up to medium speed.
Continue to whip the egg whites until they are frothy. Once that stage has been reached, turn off the mixer.
Add the cream of tarter, which helps stabilize the egg whites and allows them to form stiff peaks, and a bit of salt.
Turn the mixer back on medium.
Turn up to high and continue to whip until the egg whites are thick and glossy.
You’ll know they are ready when the whites form stiff peaks that stay when the beater is lifted up.
And just like magic, they’re transformed.
It is now time to mix together the egg yolk mixture with the whipped egg whites.
Grab a scoop full of the whipped whites and add it to the batter.
Working with a little bit at a time, you want to carefully fold the whites into the egg yolk batter.
Fold carefully, and do not over mix as that may cause the whites to deflate.
A folding maneuver looks like this:
Continue folding in the egg whites, in batches, until it is all incorporated.
Divide the cake batter between two 9-inch circle pans.
Do not grease or flour the pans. I know, you’re skeptical. I was too, because I was told that you never grease pans for a sponge cake.
So I went ahead, against my better judgement, and didn’t grease them.
And what do you know? It worked. I am a believer.
Bake the cake until golden brown and a toothpick, inserted in the middle, comes out clean.
Allow the sponge cake to cool in the pans.
In the meantime, you make the simple syrup.
It’s going to be a rum simple syrup.
No other kind.
No, it isn’t the exact same image three times.
Throw the water and sugar into a pot.
Allow the sugar to dissolve in the water and bring to a boil.
Throw in the Rum (Hmmmmmm..) and continue to cook for a couple minutes.
Once done, pour the syrup into a bowl or cup and allow to come to room temperature.
While the syrup is cooling down, invert the cakes onto a cooling rack and allow to continue cooling.
And now for the frosting. It’s a complex, 21 ingredient frosting.
Okay, not really. It’s just whipped cream.
Start with a clean mixing bowl and the whisk attachment.
You can definitely whip it by hand, but why would you want to put yourself through all that agony?
Pour in the very cold heavy cream.
Whip the cream until it is somewhat frothy and thick. (Not too thick)
At this stage, add the powdered sugar.
Add the vanilla extract.
Continue to whip the cream until it thickens and forms soft peaks.
Be careful not to over whip, as it could turn into butter easily. It should look like this:
Once done, reserve.
And prepare the strawberries.
Give them a good wash.
Remove the strawberry stems and slice them.
Reserve nine good looking berries for the top. Unsliced.
Okay, so you’re finally ready to start assembling this cake.
I use a disposable cake board, found at Michael’s, to put my cake on.
If you don’t have any of these wonderful boards, a plate or cake stand will do just fine.
I also have the board on a lazy susan type thingamajig, to help me turn the cake while I decorate.
Lay down one of the cake layers onto the board, plate or stand.
Brush on the cooled simple syrup, heavily, onto the layer of cake.
Now you might be asking yourself, “Why is this mad man soaking his cake in rum simple syrup?”
Well that’s just it! It’s Rum simple syrup! And because sponge cake, I feel, needs a little extra moisture and flavor at times.
This fits the bill.
Now, throw on a bit of the whipped cream. Smooth it out with an offset spatula.
That is an offset spatula.
Now, layer on the strawberry slices.
Continue placing the strawberries until the cream is completely covered. You could also just throw them on if you don’t have the patience to place each, one by one.
I would, but I’m presenting it nicely for you guys. All for you.
Cover the strawberries with another thin layer of cream.
Place the second layer of cake over the cream and berries.
Douse with another heaping amount of the rum simple syrup.
Cover the cake with the whipped cream.
Start with a heaping dollop on the top and work your way around it.
Continue to frost the cake, bringing down the cream to the sides and smoothing it all out.
Using the edge of your offset spatula, smooth out the entire cake.
Make it look professional and nice.
The cake needs a little pizazz…
A fresh bakery look to it.
Yes, sliced almonds indeed.
Cover the sides of the cake with the sliced almonds by carefully picking it up over the tray of almonds and grabbing a handful. Press the nuts onto the sides; they’ll stick right to the cake.
Remember our reserved strawberries?
Take off the stems.
Put the remainder of the whipped cream into a piping bag, fitted with a star tip.
Make four rosettes of frosting at the edge of the cake.
North, East, South, West positions.
Make four more rosettes.
One in between each.
Finishing up with one in the center.
Just like this.
Place a strawberry on each rosette.
You could make the middle one even fancier by slicing and fanning it out.
And that’s it.
Your cake is done.
Stare at it.
Feast your eyes.
You have to give it a try. Its the best cake out there.
Well, its the best cake for the summer. Light and filled with strawberries.
I know you might be reluctant to slice it and hand it out to people to share, I was.
I wanted to eat it all by myself. Alas I gave in, and shared.
I was nice, you don’t have to be.
Hide it all for yourself.
If you’ve just got back from a trip to the grocery store or farmer’s market with bushels of strawberries, put them to good use.
Make a strawberry shortcake. You know you want to. Enjoy!
Start the summer off right with this scrumptious dessert. You could easily swap out the strawberries for any other fresh berry,
or even a mixture of berries would be tasty.
Yield: two 9 inch layer cakes
For the sponge cake:
- 6 eggs
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup cake flour
- 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 pints fresh strawberries, rinsed, stemmed and sliced, reserving 9 whole berries for the top
- 2 cups sliced almonds
Separate the eggs into two mixing bowls. Start by beating the egg yolks until very thick and lemon colored. Beat in sugar gradually. Add water and vanilla extract. Mix in the flour.
In another bowl, beat egg whites until frothy. Then add cream of tartar and salt. Beat mixture until whites are stiff, but not until they are dry. Fold the whipped egg whites mixture into yolk mixture, carefully, so as to not deflate the egg whites.
Pour the batter into two ungreased 9 inch pans. Bake at 325° for one hour, or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Rotate the pans halfway through, to ensure even baking.
Allow the cakes to cool on a cooling rack. Invert the cakes.
Place one of the layers on a serving plate or stand, where ever you will decorate it. Brush on, rum simple syrup (recipe follows) evenly and heavily onto the first layer. Dollop with a spoonful of the whipped cream (recipe follows) and spread evenly over the cake layer. Arrange the strawberry slices over the cream. Top with another spoonful of cream and spread once again.
Top with the second layer of sponge cake, and brush with more of the rum simple syrup. Place a large dollop, multiple spoonfuls, of the whipped cream. Spread out evenly over the top and allowing the cream to fall down the sides. Using an offset spatula cover the cake completely with the whipped cream. Smooth it out, removing any excess cream.
Cover the sides of the cake with the sliced almonds. Shake off any loose nuts. Using a pastry bag, fitted with a star tip, make 8 rosettes on the edge of the cake. Making one final rosette in the middle. Place the reserved strawberries on each of the rosettes. Slice and serve. Store any leftover cake, covered, in the fridge. Enjoy!
Rum Simple Syrup
Yield: Makes about 1 cup
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup rum
In a medium saucepan, combine sugar and the water over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Continue cooking, without stirring, until mixture reaches a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, and cook 5 minutes more.
Remove pan from heat, and stir in rum. Let cool to room temperature. Once it has cooled completely, the syrup can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one month.
Yield: about 3 cups of frosting. Enough to frost a 9-inch, two layer cake.
- 3 cups very cold heavy cream
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
In a large mixing bowl, pour the heavy cream and mix on low-medium speed for several minutes. Once the cream has frothed and slightly thickened, add the sugar and vanilla. Continue to whip on medium-high until soft peaks form. Be careful not to over mix the cream, as it could turn into butter rather fast.