I had this same feeling when I saw an email in my inbox from a person whose name I did not recognize. I read it, and I just knew. It was an email from a mother. She said that her son lives in Los Angeles while the rest of the family is in Brazil, and she said, "we would like to send him a strawberry cake with fresh whipped cream, for his birthday, because he loves it." She used to make this cake for his birthday all the time. She said that she and her mother looked through photos of cakes for an hour, and then, she saw a photo of my cake and said: "look, mom, this cakes look so good, and this strawberry cake looks like ours, it must be made by a jewish mother." It made me cry, and I am not the kind of person who cries easily at all, because I know that if I was far away, my mom would do the same thing, she would find a way to send me something familiar so that I know she is thinking about me and that she loves me. With a mother like that, no one can be alone, even in a strange country half the world away. I am not a mother yet, but this is the kind of mother I hope I will be. Of course, I had to make this cake. I was honored to do it.
Life is a strange and beautiful thing, my friends. How wonderful it was that she found me, me to do this lovely thing for her son. Happy birthday, dear S., and best wishes to your whole beautiful, loving family!
Strawberry Cream Cake
1 chiffon cake (recipe below)
2 lb strawberries
Whipped cream filling (recipe below)
Milk/rum mixture (below)
1/2 cup heavy cream and 1 tbsp sugar for the topping
After the cake has cooled, slice it into three layers with a very sharp, serrated knife. Remove the stems from the strawberries. Set aside the best 20 and slice those in half. Chop the rest of the strawberries and set aside. Prepare the whipped cream filling. Also prepare the milk/rum mixture.
Line the sides (not the bottom) of a 10-inch springform pan with plastic so that there is enough overhang to cover the cake completely. Place the bottom layer of the cake inside the springform pan. Moisten it with one-third of the milk/rum mixture. Arrange a ring of strawberry halves, cut side down and ends facing out, around the perimeter of the cake layer.
Spread half of the chopped strawberries on top of the cake layer. Gently spread half of the whipped cream on top of the strawberries. Place the second layer on top. Moisten and repeat with strawberries and cream. Place the third layer on top and moisten with the rest of the milk/rum mixture. Wrap the top of the cake in plastic and press gently to distribute filling. Refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.
Whip half a cup of heavy cream and 1 tbsp sugar until stiff peaks form. Frost the top of the cake and decorate with more strawberries.
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp of salt
1/2 cup of vegetable oil
6 large egg yolks (I used 5)
3/4 cup of water
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp lemon zest, grated
10 large egg whites (I used 8)
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
Preheat the oven to 325F. Line the bottom of a 10-inch springform pan with parchment paper cut to fit the bottom exactly. Do not grease the sides of the pan.
Sift together the flour and baking powder into a large mixing bowl. Add 1 1/4 cups of sugar and add the salt, whisk to combine. In a small bowl, whisk the oil, egg yolks, water, vanilla and lemon zest. Make a well in the flour and add the yolk mixture, and then whisk thoroughly and quickly until very smooth.
In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg whites on medium speed until frothy. Add the cream of tartar and beat on medium-high until the whites hold soft peaks. Slowly add the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar until the whites hold firm, shiny peaks.
With a rubber spatula, fold about one-third of the whites into the batter to lighten and then gently fold the remaining whites until combined.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top with a spatula if necessary. Bake for 45-55 minutes until the top springs back and the tested inserted into the center comes out clean (note: in my oven, this took an extra 30 minutes - I was checking every 10 min after the 50 minute mark). Let the cake cool in the springform pan (so the cake holds its shape) and then run a sharp knife around the edges and unmold.
Whipped Cream Filling
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp salt
Place the heavy cream in the bowl of a mixer with a pinch of salt. Whip on medium-high until frothy, then slowly add the granulated sugar and vanilla. Whip until stiff peaks form.
3/4 cup whole milk
2-4 tbsp rum (depending on how boozy you want it to be - optional)
1/4 cup of sugar
Place the milk and sugar in a small saucepan. Heat on low-medium heat, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved (do not let the milk come to a boil). Take off the heat and add rum. Allow to cool to room temperature.
Assemble the cake and decorate! For the decorations, I melted about 4 oz of white chocolate in a double-boiler (well, my make-shift double boiler, which is a heat-proof bowl set over a pot of gently-simmering water - make sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water and that steam does not get into the bowl). I drizzled some of the white chocolate over halved strawberries, left them in the refrigerator for an hour to set and then arranged them on top of the cake. I mixed the rest of the melted white chocolate with about 3 drops of yellow food coloring and piped the letters (as you can see, my calligraphy is atrocious... sigh... at least the white chocolate is tasty! I use Callebaut white chocolate and it melts like a dream). Continued after the jump...