Oh hey, internet. Did you know Saturday was my youngest brother’s birthday? Well, it was, and as a dutiful older sister I made him a birthday cake. It wasn’t as awesome as the birthday cake I made for my OTHER brother, which involved marzipan mushroom decorations and pistachio cake, BUT, since it’s spring I could make use of fruit instead of having to turn to nuts and chocolate for solace.
I searched far and wide for a strawberry shortcake that wasn’t actually a shortcake. I had no interest in biscuits and individual servings. I wanted big, I wanted layers, and I wanted about a ton of whipped cream, because in reality my youngest brother is the tallest member of our family. So he needed to have the tallest shortcake possible. The answer was, of course, found on Deb’s blog. That woman. It’s like she knows what I’m thinking.
I halved the recipe from her blog, but I was nervous about it coming up like 7/8 of the way on my 8″ round, so there was a last minute transfer to 2 8″ rounds. I’m glad I did it. Then I was able to slice both cakes in two and make a 4 layer cake, and that just sits much better with me than a huge cake cut into 3. My friend Marge was over (because we were also making bagels–DON’T WORRY, YOU’LL SEE THEM AND YES THEY ARE FANTASTIC) and so she was able to capture me expertly cutting the layers in half. Also known as me fumbling through trying to cut them with a piece of thread and then realizing I needed a much rougher method. Preferably a knife. A big serrated one. Then things made sense. Turns out I am not a delicate thread-type person. I’m more of a give-me-the-fucking-knife-and-let’s-hack-this type of person.
The strawberries were in season and wonderful, and who can complain about fresh whipped cream with vanilla and sugar? Since the cakes were so spongy they did a stellar job of soaking up all the sweet sweet strawberry juice. It was perfect. It was everything I ever envisioned for this cake and more.
I decided to ice the sides with the whipped cream too, and I don’t regret it. The more whipped cream, the better.
Strawberry Chiffon Shortcake
from the Joy of Cooking via SmittenKitchen
Cake layers: (this is the halved recipe, it fit 2 8″ rounds for me)
1 1/8 cups sifted cake flour
3/4 cups superfine or regular sugar, divided
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup cold water
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large egg yolks at room temperature
4 large egg whites at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
2 cups heavy cream
6 tablespoons confectioners sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 quarts strawberries, hulled and sliced
1. Make cake layers: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Have two 9-inch round cake pans ready, lined with parchment paper that has been lightly sprayed with cooking spray, but otherwise ungreased. (Alternatively, this recipe yields on classic tube chiffon cake. Leave the cake pan ungreased, and use one with a removable bottom.)
2. Sift the flour, 1 1/4 cups sugar, baking powder and salt together twice into a large bowl.
3. In a another bowl, beat the yolks, water, oil, zest and vanilla on high speed until smooth. Stir into the flour mixture until smooth. In another large bowl, or the bowl of your stand mixer, beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar until soft peaks are formed. Add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, and beat on high speed until the peaks are stiff but not dry.
4. Use a rubber spatula to fold one-quarter of the egg whites into the egg yolk mixture, then fold in the remaining whites. Do so gently, only until the egg whites are no longer visible. Overdoing it will deflate the egg whites, and yield a denser, shorter cake.
5. Scrape the batter into the two prepared pans and spread evenly. Bake them until the top springs back when lightly pressed and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean 40 to 50 minutes (or 55 to 65 for the tube pan).
6. Let cakes cool on a cooling rack for at least an hour (or, if in a tube pan, upside down over a bottleneck or resting the pan on four glasses for at least 1 1/2 hours). When completely cool, run a knife around the sides to release, then flip out onto a plate and then another plate.
7. Make the whipped cream: Beat heavy cream, powdered sugar and vanilla extract in a clean mixing bowl until it holds stiff peaks.
8. Assemble the cake: Carefully split each cake layer in half, leaving you with four cake surfaces. One by one, scoop one-quarter of the whipped cream onto the surface of the cake and spread it evenly to the edges, without going over, with an offset spatula. Arrange one-quarter of the sliced strawberries over the whipped cream in one or two layers, depending on your preference. (If you use only one layer, you’ll likely have leftovers.) Repeat with the remaining three layers.
9. The cake can refrigerated for a few hours before eating it. In fact, as some of the moisture from the whipped cream and berries seeps into the cake, I think the texture is improved.
* In the comments, we’ve gotten into another approach to the strawberry filling part: macerating them for one hour with a couple tablespoons of sugar and 1 tablespoon of either creme de cassis or fresh lemon juice. This softens the strawberries and creates more of the saucy variety you’d get in a bakery cake. To create the cake layers this way, spread the strawberry mixture then the whipped cream over each layer, proceeding otherwise as directed above.