My father has been looking for an excuse to make this cake since he first saw it in Cook’s Illustrated (May/June 2006). With dual imperatives of Mother’s Day being two weeks away and my brother John’s birthday (never mind that John lives in Oklahoma and we live in California) dad finally had the motivation he needed. Cook’s Illustrated mentions in its write-up that this is a “special occasion” cake, and indeed it is. The cake is much more involved than our usual strawberry shortcake, but perhaps more suited to a formal occasion. In the following, our adapted recipe, we omit the 2 Tbsp of Kirsch from the strawberry purée, and we mash the strawberries with a potato masher instead of using a food processor.
- 1 1/4 cups cake flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon table salt
- 1 cup sugar
- 5 large eggs (2 whole and 3 separated), room temperature
- 6 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
- 2 Tbsp water
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 pounds fresh strawberries (medium or large, about 2 quarts), washed, dried, and stemmed
- 4-6 Tbsp sugar
- Pinch salt
- 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/8 teaspoon table salt
- 2 cups heavy cream
Bake the cake 1 Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position. Preheat oven to 325°F. Grease and flour round 9 by 2-inch cake pan or 9-inch springform pan and line with parchment paper. In a large bowl, by hand, whisk flour, baking powder, salt, and all but 3 Tbsp of the sugar in mixing bowl. Whisk in 2 whole eggs and 3 yolks (reserving whites), butter, water, and vanilla. Whisk until smooth.
2 Using a mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat remaining 3 egg whites at medium-low speed until frothy, 1 to 2 minutes. With machine running, gradually add remaining 3 tablespoons sugar, increase speed to medium-high, and beat until soft peaks form, 60 to 90 seconds. Stir one-third of whites into batter to lighten. Add the remaining whites and gently fold into batter until no white streaks remain. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake until toothpick or wooden skewer inserted into center of cake comes out clean, 30 to 40 minutes. Cool in pan 10 minutes, then invert cake onto greased wire rack; peel off and discard parchment. Invert cake again; cool completely, about 2 hours.
Strawberry filling 3 Cut in half 24 of best-looking berries and reserve. Slice or quarter remaining berries; toss with 4 to 6 tablespoons sugar (depending on sweetness of berries) in medium bowl and let sit 1 hour, stirring occasionally. The sugar will macerate the strawberries, making them soft, and generating liquid. Strain the juices from berries and reserve (you should have about 1/2 cup). Put the strawberries in a bowl and use a potato masher to mash them; set aside.
In small saucepan over medium-high heat, simmer reserved juices until syrupy and reduced to about 3 tablespoons, 3 to 5 minutes. Pour reduced syrup over macerated berries, add pinch of salt, and toss to combine. Set aside until cake is cooled.
Whipped cream 4 When cake has cooled, place cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, and salt in bowl of standing mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Whisk at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes, scraping down bowl with rubber spatula as needed. Reduce speed to low and add heavy cream in slow, steady stream; when almost fully combined, increase speed to medium-high and beat until mixture holds stiff peaks, 2 to 2 1/2 minutes more, scraping bowl as needed (you should have about 4 1/2 cups).
Assemble the cake 5 Using large serrated knife, slice cake into three even layers. Place bottom layer on cardboard round or cake plate and arrange ring of 12-20 strawberry halves, cut sides down and stem ends facing out, around perimeter of cake layer. Pour one half of puréed berry mixture (about 3/4 cup) in center, then spread to cover any exposed cake. Gently spread about one-third of whipped cream (about 1 1/2 cups) over berry layer, leaving 1/2-inch border from edge. Place middle cake layer on top and press down gently (whipped cream layer should become flush with cake edge). Repeat with 12-20 additional strawberry halves, remaining berry mixture, and half of remaining whipped cream; gently press last cake layer on top. Spread remaining whipped cream over top; decorate with remaining cut strawberries.
Serve immediately, or keep chilled. If the whipped cream warms to room temperature it will be harder to keep stable while cutting. Serves 8 to 10.