I didn’t even realize it, but I’ve been waiting to make this cake since I was about seven. My mom had this calendar of cakes, and there was one luscious, towering pile of cake, whipped cream and strawberries that looked like the most unreal, delicious thing that I had ever laid eyes on. I used to ask all the time if I could have it for my birthday and …well, my mom has made many a fine cake in her day, but she never seemed to get around to it.
I had totally forgotten about this, but when I presented my mom with this cake today for her birthday (Happy Birthday Mrs. Bolt!) she immediately recognized it as the relic from my childhood imagination that it is, exclaiming “That’s the cake! The cake from the calendar!” Of course, she was right….and it was every bit as delicious and wonderful as I had always imagined.
You could *probably* make this cake a lot healthier. Maybe something involving stevia, chia seeds instead of all the eggs and oil, and yogurt as a topping? I think I’ll try that as a project sometime. In the meantime, here’s the all-out, birthday-approved version.
Recipe after the jump:
Strawberry Chiffon Cake
(adapted from Smitten Kitchen)
I used a recipe from Smitten Kitchen, which is in turn a recipe adapted from the Joy of Cooking. I followed the recipe fairly closely, and found it to actually be pretty simple.
A few notes:
*Lemon zest is SO EASY. You literally just peel the skin off (without the white part!) and chop it up very finely. It adds so much flavor to so many recipes. I put it in muffins all the time, too.
*Make sure that you beat the egg whites separately. This might sound fussy and overly complicated, but that’s what makes this cake what it is: springy and light. This is KEY. Also, SIFT the ingredients. don’t be tempted to skip this. It’s easy and really makes a difference.
*I baked the cake in two disposable aluminum cake pans. That way, you can just cut the pan and peel it away from the cake. I did this because I didn’t have any parchment paper as suggested in the original recipe, but I thought it worked really well. This also cut down on the baking time, so keep that in mind if choosing this method.
*Did you know that you can make whipped cream in a blender? Forget about standing there whipping away by hand. Mix it on a low speed for 30 seconds to a minute and voila….whipped cream!
2 1/4 cups sifted pastry flour
1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup cold water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 large egg yolks at room temperature
8 large egg whites at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
2 cups heavy cream
6 tablespoons confectioners sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 quarts hulled strawberries (this just means that you cut out the stems. Here’s a guide). Then slice them lengthwise and macerate them for an hour with a few tablespoons of sugar and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice.
Ok, here’s what you do:
1. Make cake layers: Preheat the oven to 325°F and get two 9-inch round cake pans.
2. Sift the flour, 1 1/4 cups sugar, baking powder and salt together into a bowl.
3. In a another bowl, beat the yolks, water, oil, zest and vanilla until smooth. Stir into the flour mixture until smooth. In another bowl, beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar until peaks are formed. Add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, and beat on high speed until the peaks are stiff.
4. Gently fold 1/4 of the egg whites into the egg yolk mixture, then fold in the rest. Do this carefully. You don’t want to beat them in, just delicately turn the batter over with a spatula just until the egg whites disappear. You should see little air bubbles in the batter.
5. Evenly pour batter into the two pans and bake them until the top springs back a little bit and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean ( around 40 to 50 minutes, but check it often after it’s been baking for 30 minutes or so. I have a weird little apartment oven that baked them in 30 minutes, even though it was supposed to take 10-15 minutes longer.
6. Let the cakes cool for about an hour. When completely cool, run a knife around the sides and then flip the cake onto a plate. Or, if you use the disposable pans, cut them away.
7. Whipped cream: Beat the heavy cream, powdered sugar and vanilla extract in a mixing bowl (or a blender!) until it holds stiff peaks. I did this beforehand and refrigerated it.
8. Pile On The Cake! Carefully split each cake layer in half, leaving you with four thin cakes. I opted to only use three of them, and now I have some extra cake lying around. Not. a. problem. Take about a quarter of the strawberries and arrange them onto the surface of the bottom cake. Put the ones with the nicest, thickest edges around the outside. This not only looks pretty but also makes the cake more architecturally sound. Spread 1/3 of the whipped cream over the strawberries. Repeat with the remaining two layers. If you have any leftover whipped cream, Put a few dollops on top, around the edge and the middle of the cake.
9. The cake can refrigerated for a few hours before eating it. I actually put mine in the freezer for a little while to make sure the whipped cream didn’t melt, then transferred it to the refrigerator while we were eating lunch.