This past week, I’ve felt a little like pinching myself. Between the birthday wishes I got from some of my favorite people and the fact that, on Thursday, when my blog traffic was a little out of control, I discovered that my blog had been mentioned by the New York Times Diner’s Journal, it really hasn’t seemed like my life. My inner nerd has wondered if I somehow managed to find and inadvertently drink a bottle of “Felix Felicis.” My fatalistic side–the one that drew me to Russian literature many years ago–has wondered if my 29th year is perhaps peaking a bit early (the only way from here, after all, must be down). Fortunately however, my reasonable side has trumped the others and I’m now of the mind that I’m just going to enjoy the good things that come my way, try my best not to over-analyze them and just keep on doing what I’m doing. And part of that plan involved baking a beautiful Finnish-style strawberry cake for a dinner we were hosting on Friday evening.
I wish I could tell you that the idea for this cake-a cross between an angel food cake and a shortcake, both covered and filled with puffy whipped cream dotted with strawberries– had come to me in a dream, but that would be a lie. As dreamlike a creation as it is, it actually came from Tessa Kiros’ gorgeous cookbook/family album, Falling Cloudberries, which I was inspired to buy when I was in Finland and extremely curious about the secrets of the Finnish kitchen. The book more than delivers on that front, celebrating berries, smoked fish, pickled cucumbers and cream-simmered vegetables. While the savory dishes sounded appealing, I simply wouldn’t be me had I not be drawn to the strawberry cake that looked a little wild and magical–something like stumbling upon a field of strawberries in the snow.
Sipi’s Strawberry Cake
Yields about 8 generous slices
Adapted from Tessa Kiros’ Falling Cloudberries
Recipe notes: I used a little less whipped cream than was called for (2 3/4 cup as compared to 3 cups) and was perhaps stingy with it since I ended up with more cream than seemed to fit on the cake. This also meant I used less strawberries (1 pound, which was 3/4 of a pound short of the recommended amount), but the good news is that there were enough leftovers for a Strawberry Fool. No matter how you go, since strawberries and whipped cream are involved, this is a win-win scenario.
For the cake:
1 3/4 all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
3 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 sticks butter, melted
3/4 cup warm milk
4 eggs, separated
1 tsp. vanilla extract
For the strawberries:
1 lb. strawberries, hulled and halved
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. sugar
For the whipped cream:
3 Tbsp. powdered sugar
2 3/4 cups heavy whipping cream
-Preheat the oven to 350 F and grease and flour a 9-inch springform cake pan.
-Put flour, sugar and 1 teaspoon of the baking powder in a large bowl and whisk together (N.B. I was using my stand mixer to make the cake)
-Mix in the butter and then, with a wooden spoon, stir in the milk.
-Add the egg yolks and vanilla and beat until well incorporated.
-Whisk the eggs whites to soft peaks, incorporating the remaining two teaspoons of baking powder when the eggs seem fluffy.
-Gently fold the egg white/baking powder combination (don’t be alarmed if it foams!) into the batter.
-Pour the batter into the cake pan and bake for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the top is golden and a cake tester comes out clean.
-Remove from the oven and let cool for about 15 minutes; then, release the cake from the springform pan and turn it onto a rack (the cake’s bottom will become the top).
-Once fully cool, slice the cake in half horizontally and put the bottom half on a serving plate or cake stand.
-Clean, hull and half the strawberries.
-Dice about a third of the berries and sprinkle them with the teaspoon of lemon juice and granulated sugar.
-Whip the cream with the powdered sugar until it forms stiff peaks.
-Take a third of the whipped cream and mix it with the diced berries. Spoon this mixture over the bottom of the cake.
-Place the other half of the cake on top of the bottom half and spoon the remaining (or almost all of the remaining) whipped cream over the top and sides of the cake.
-Decorate the cake with the rest of the halved strawberries.
-Refrigerate the cake until serving time. This cake is best enjoyed within a day since the whipped cream loses some of its fluffy pizzazz as time passes.