Sometimes, you just need a fancy cake.
Happy Birthday tomorrow, Aunt Renel!! :)
Strawberry Cream Cake (adapted from Cooks Illustrated)
*High-altitude adjustments in italics: 6000-8000 ft*
1¼ cups cake flour (plus 2-3 Tb)
1½ teaspoons baking powder (3/4-1/2 tsp)
¼ teaspoon table salt
1 cup sugar (minus 1 Tb)
5 large eggs (2 whole and 3 separated), room temperature (6 eggs, 3 whole and 3 separated)
6 Tb unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 tablespoons water
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
2 pounds fresh strawberries (medium or large, about 2 quarts), washed, dried, and stemmed
4–6 tablespoons sugar
Pinch table salt
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
½ cup (3½ ounces) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
⅛ teaspoon table salt
2 cups heavy cream
Adjust your oven rack to the lower-middle position and preheat to 325 (340) degrees. Butter and flour one or two round 9 by 2-inch cake pans and line with parchment paper. (Use one pan if you are confident in your cake-cutting skills, I used two, because I am not!) Grease and flour the parchment as well.
Whisk flour, baking powder, salt, and all but 3 tablespoons sugar in a mixing bowl. (If you have a stand mixer, save it for the next step and stick with a mixing bowl.) Whisk in butter, water, extracts, and 2 (3) whole eggs and 3 yolks (reserving whites) until smooth.
In the bowl of your stand mixer, beat the 3 reserved egg whites at medium-low speed until frothy.
Pour the batter into prepared pan (or pans) and bake until golden and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 30 to 40 (25-35) minutes. (If you are using 2 pans, start checking your cake at 20 minutes, 15 for high altitude) Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes, the remove from pan and let cool completely on a wire rack, while you prepare the filling and cream.
Strawberry Filling: Pick about 24 of the prettiest strawberries, cut off the stop and slice them in half. Set them aside. Quarter the remaining berries; toss with 4 to 6 tablespoons sugar (depending on the sweetness of the berries) in a bowl and let sit for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Strain the juices from the berries and reserve them (you should have about ½ cup). In a blender or food processor give the drained berries a few pulses, making a chunky puree. In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, simmer the reserved juices until thickened and reduced to about 3 tablespoons. Pour the reduced juices over the puree, add a pinch of salt, and stir to combine. Refrigerate until cake is cooled and ready to assemble.
Cream: Beat together cream cheese, sugar, vanilla at medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Reduce the speed to low and add the cream in a slow, steady stream; when it’s almost fully combined, increase the speed to medium-high and beat (scraping down sides occasionally) until stiff peaks form.
Assembly: If you baked your cake in one pan, it's time to split it in half! Place one layer on a plate or cake platter and arrange a ring of the prettiest strawberry halves, cut sides down and stem ends facing out, around the edge of the cake.
I love that the strawberries retain their fresh berry flavor too!! This cake is a strawberries and cream masterpiece, I hope you try it!