Saturday, September 7, 2013

Strawberries and Cream Cake

Note: I had this post all written and ready to publish a couple of days ago. Sometime during my writing, our internet went out, unbeknownst to me. So I just kept typing away, hitting save here and there and thinking everything was A-OK. Then, like I always do, I hit save one more time, shut down my browser and walked away. I like to let my posts kind of marinate in my mind, then come back a couple of minutes, hours, days later and re-read them one more time before publishing, just to make sure it still reads like I want it to. So when I came back, none, I mean NONE of my work had been saved. It was just the pictures and a couple of rough sentences. AGHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!! I was dejected, crushed, the wind had been taken out of my sails. It then took me a day or two to get my thoughts back together and rewrite the post. And the point in telling you all this is: "I'm sorry this post is so over due. I hope you haven't abandoned my blog. Please stick with me." Ok, so, here's the post:

Even though it's past Labor Day, and even though it rained the other day, and even though the kids are all back at school, I'm still not quite ready to let summer go. Fall is just around the corner and all kinds of fall dishes are waiting to be made in my kitchen. I'm totes looking forward to stews and chowders and a whole slew of spicy pumpkiny desserts. I'm just not quite ready for them just yet.

This cake captures summer for me. It's light, fresh and clean. And a cinch to make. I mean super duper easy. It was the perfect dessert with which to wrap up summer. And so, on Labor Day, we did. Prolong summer just a bit longer with this cake. . .

The Cake (can be made a day or so ahead):

You need one 8-inch white cake layer. I made a mix, added a teaspoon of almond extract and used whole eggs instead of egg whites. If you have a favorite recipe use that. The mix made two 8-inch layers so I wrapped the other one tightly in plastic wrap and froze it for later.

The filling (can be made a day or so ahead):

Wash, hull and slice one 16 oz. container of fresh strawberries. Add 1/4 cup sugar and stir together well. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours.

Strain the juice into a medium sized saucepan.

Add 1/2 the sliced strawberries to the pan. Put the rest back in the fridge, covered.

Bring the strawberries and juice to a simmer over low heat. Cook slowly stirring frequently until it's reduced by about 1/2. The fruit will fall apart. That's ok.

Dissolve 1 teaspoon corn starch in 1 tablespoon of water and stir it into the reduced fruit and juice.

Continue to cook just until it's bubbly. It will look cloudy at first when you add the cornstarch but as it begins to boil, it will lose the cloudy look. What you're left with is a very loose (runny) jam or a tight (thick) sauce. Let this cool completely to room temperature.

When the sauce is completely cool,  stir it into the rest of the strawberries and refrigerate until ready to use.

The Cream (make right before you assemble the cake):

To stabilize the whipped cream, stir 1 teaspoon of gelatine into 4 teaspoons of warm tap water. Allow to sit for 5 minutes. Then microwave, 10 seconds at a time, until completely liquid and all gelatine is dissolved. Watch it close, it can boil over VERY quickly. Let this cool to room temperature but don't refrigerate.
(Sorry, I forgot to take a picture here.)
To 1 cup of heavy cream, add 1 tablespoon sugar and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract. Using a hand mixer on high speed, whip until the mixture just starts to thicken. With the mixer on low and running, stream in the cooled (but still liquid) gelatin. Change speed to high and whip until thickened and creamy. It should be just thick enough to hold it's shape but be careful not to over whip.

To assemble the cake:
Slice the cake layer in half and evenly spread all the filling onto the bottom layer.

Top that with an even layer of 1/2 the whipped cream.

Add the top cake layer and spread the remaining whipped cream on top of that. You could get fancy here and use a pastry bag and star tip to pipe a fancy border but I like the "rustic" look of just using a knife. Kind of looks like something yummy that my grandma might have made. YUM! Now cover and refrigerate until you're ready to eat.

This was light, simple and delicious. Just the right ratio of cake, cream and fruit. You can see that I didn't exactly slice the cake layer evenly in half but so what. Seriously, who cares. This isn't some fancy shmancy perfectly made bakery dessert. This is rustic down home deliciousness. Deal with it! Oh yeah, and make it, it's so simple!

Strawberries and Cream Cake

1 8-inch white cake layer

16 oz. fresh strawberries
1/4 C. sugar
1 t. cornstarch

Wash hull and slice strawberries. Stir in sugar, cover and refrigerate for 2-4 hours. Strain liquid into a medium saucepan and add half the strawberries. Cook, stirring constantly, over medium heat until reduced by half. Dissolve cornstarch in 1 tablespoon water. Add to reduced strawberry mixture, cook until thickened and bubbling. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. When cool, stir in remaining half of sliced strawberries. Refrigerate, covered, until ready to use.

Stabilized Whipped Cream:
1 C. heavy whipping cream
1 t. gelatin
4 t. water
1 T. sugar
1/2 t. vanilla extract

Stir the gelatin into the water and let sit for 5 minutes. Carefully heat the gelatin, over hot water or in the microwave 5-10 seconds at a time, until gelatin melts and it's liquid. Let cool to room temperature. In a medium mixing bowl stir together the heavy cream, sugar and vanilla. Using a hand mixer, beat on high speed until mixture just starts to thicken. Turn the mixer down to low and with the mixer running, slowly stream in the cooled, but still liquid, gelatin. Turn the mixer back to high and whip just until stiff peaks start to form.

To assemble cake:
Slice the cake in half horizontally. Put the bottom half on a serving plate and spread the filling on in an even layer. Top with an even layer of half the whipped cream. Top with remaining layer of cake and then spread the remaining whipped cream on top. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

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