Few things are lovelier than a perfectly ripe berry, filled with electric flavor and sweetness. When I’m at the farmer’s market, I just wander from stall to stall, tasting ever farmer’s offering until I find the best ones. But I’m pretty spoiled when it comes to strawberries, being from Southern California. We provide 88% of the world’s strawberries, every year, and because of this amazing proximity, it means that our farmer’s markets tend to have more delicate, rare varieties that can’t be shipped. Easy to bruise, small, and short of this world mean they are terrible for the shelf, but wonderful on your kitchen counter that day. When you get your hands on truly wonderful berries, just eat them as they are. But, if you insist on gilding the lily, then you can do a lot worse than this sponge layer cake covered in whipped cream cream cheese frosting, packed with lemon zest. The flavors and textures are light, letting the fresh strawberries act as the star. If strawberries aren’t in season, or you want to try something else, this recipe is also lovely with yellow peaches, raspberries, blackberries, and fresh cherries. Enjoy!
two 9-inch sponge cakes (recipe below)
1 recipe whipped cream cream cheese frosting (recipe below)
1 recipe strawberry sauce (recipe below)
1 pint strawberries, thinly sliced
Put a quarter of the frosting on top of the bottom layer of the cake, smoothing it out evenly. Add some strawberry sauce. The sauce is thin, so add as much as you need to cover the layer. Add a layer of sliced strawberries. Follow with the second layer of cake, and then half of the remaining frosting on top. Use an offset spatula or butter-knife to gently spread the frosting over the cake. Use the remaining frosting to cover the edges.
Decorate the cake with slices of strawberry on top. I then took a little extra sauce and scraped it around the sides of the cake to add a little bit of color. Enjoy!
INGREDIENTS (SPONGE CAKE)
For two 9 inch round cake pans
1 1/3 cups cake flour, sifted then measured
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 eggs, separated
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest, packed
1/4 cup water
Preheat oven to 350 F. Adjust rack in the lower third of oven.
Grease or spray 2 nonstick 9 inch pans and line the bottom with wax paper. Grease the paper as well. Sift flour, half of the sugar, and salt into a bowl; set aside.
Whisk egg whites in bowl of a heavy-duty mixer just until frothy. Add cream of tartar; whisk until soft peaks form. Add 3/4 cups sugar in a steady stream, whisking until thicker, stiffer, glossy peaks form – about 2 to 3 minutes. Whisk in vanilla, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Scoop whites into a VERY large bowl (trust me, you’ll need it) and set aside.
In the same bowl you used for the whites, beat the egg yolks with remaining sugar until thick and pale yellow, about 2-3 minutes. Add water and beat until thickened, about 4 minutes. It should be very thick and pale. Pour yolk mixture over whites and gently fold together with a rubber spatula.
Sprinkle a third of the flour mixture over the egg mixture; fold to combine. Repeat two more times just until ingredients are incorporated. Gently pour batter into the pans and level tops with a spatula.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until top springs back slightly when lightly touched and a toothpick comes out clean. Invert pan onto a cooling rack, and cool for about 45 minutes.
To remove cake from pan, slip a butter knife down one side of pan and slowly trace perimeter to release the cake. When sides are free, cover cake with a rack and invert. Remove cake pan and the wax paper. Let the cakes cool completely.
INGREDIENTS (WHIPPED CREAM CHEESE FROSTING)
3 cups heavy whipping cream
18 ounces cream cheese, room temperature and soft
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Chill a metal or glass bowl in the fridge, then use this bowl to whip your heavy cream to stiff peaks. Careful not to over beat the cream though, as it will curdle if over worked. Set aside.
In a large bowl, mix the cream cheese (I used an electric mixer with a paddle attachment), salt, sugar, lemon zest, and vanilla, until very smooth. Add the whipped cream a third at a time, folding in to combine.
INGREDIENTS (STRAWBERRY SAUCE)
2 egg whites
1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup crushed strawberries (I put mine in a plastic bag and squished them with my hands)
2 tablespoons butter, melted
Beat the egg white until soft peaks form, then sprinkle in the powdered sugar while beating, until stiff peaks form. Fold in the crushed berries. Then drizzle in the melted butter and beat together. Set aside.