Strawberries and Cream Sponge Cake

My sister turned 25 this past weekend and she came all the way from Switzerland to celebrate her birthday with friends and family. And what was I supposed to do the day before her birthday? Oh yes. Bake my first layered cake!

I always bake vanilla or chocolate cakes for birthdays, so I decided to try something completely new. I found this gorgeous Strawberry Shortcake recipe at The Candid Appetite. I must admit, I really enjoyed looking (gawking) at the step-by-step pictures. They were really helpful in understanding the process of whipping up the cake batter, baking it into two separate pans, making the syrup, then perfectly assembling the cake with whipped cream and strawberries. I read the whole post twice and I thought– hey this is easy, the cake will be done in no time! Well, it was not that drama-free. It took me about 4 hours to finish everything, but then again it is my first time baking a layered cake that I’ve never tested before– for a birthday party. I only had this one chance to make it perfect. You see, I don’t have all the equipment: just one mixing bowl, and one 23 cm (9″) cake pan. So I had to clean the mixing bowl about 3 times and bake the cake batter in two separate batches…  It’s definitely easier to have all the baking equipment and your ingredients ready before starting.

The sponge cakes required beating the egg whites until stiff peaks form then folding them into a sugar/egg yolk mixture. I’m so happy that they came out beautifully on my first try! Next, I had to evenly brush the Rum Syrup on the baked cakes. It might seem like a lot of syrup at first, but it really gives the cake a great flavor, so don’t skip this step! For the whipped cream, I put my metal whisk in the freezer for 15 minutes to make sure that the cold cream will whip up perfectly. Then I swathed the sponge cakes with dollops of whipped cream and slices of deep red strawberries. I finished it all off with more strawberries at the top (you can also add sliced almonds on the sides of the cake). Yum. It’s a really light and slightly sweet cake, perfect for the spring season!

strawberry cream cake closeup

No birthday should pass without a fine bottle of champagne!

strawberry cream cake

Ingredients: Adapted from The Candid Appetite

Sponge Cakes (yields two 23 cm-9 inch cakes)

6 large eggs, at room temperature, separated
1 cup (200 gr) granulated sugar
1/4 cup (60 ml) water, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup (140 gr) cake flour, sifted (I used a substitute here)
1/4 teaspoon salt
About 4 cups (600 gr) of fresh strawberries, rinsed and sliced (reserve 8 whole berries for the top)
2 cups (90 gr) sliced almonds for decoration (optional)

Directions:

Preheat oven at 160 degrees Celsius (325 F)
Separate the eggs into two mixing bowls.
Start by beating the egg yolks until very thick and lemon-colored.
Beat in sugar gradually.
Add water and vanilla extract.
Mix in the sifted cake flour/ or its substitute (above)
In another bowl, beat egg whites until frothy. Then add salt. Beat mixture until whites form stiff peaks.
Fold the whipped egg whites mixture into yolk mixture, carefully, so as to not deflate the egg whites. Do not over-mix.
Pour the batter into two 23 cm/9″ pans lined with parchment paper.
Bake for 55-60 minutes, or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Allow the cakes to cool on a cooling rack, then invert the cakes.
Place one of the layers on a serving plate or stand. Brush on the Rum Syrup (recipe follows) evenly and heavily onto the first layer. Dollop with a spoonful of the whipped cream (recipe follows) and spread evenly over the cake layer. Arrange the strawberry slices over the cream. Top with another spoonful of cream and spread once again.
Top with the second layer of sponge cake, and brush with more of the Rum Syrup. Place a large dollop of the whipped cream. Spread out evenly over the top. Using an offset spatula cover the cake completely with the whipped cream. Smooth it out, removing any excess cream.
Cover the sides of the cake with the sliced almonds. Arrange reserved strawberries at the top of the cake. Store in the fridge.

Rum Syrup (yields 1 cup)

1 cup water (250 ml)
1 cup sugar (200 gr)
1/4 cup rum (60 ml)

In a medium saucepan, combine sugar and the water over medium-high heat.
Cook, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Continue cooking, without stirring, until mixture reaches a boil.
Reduce heat to a simmer, and cook 5 minutes more.
Remove pan from heat, and stir in rum.
Let cool to room temperature. Once it has cooled completely, the syrup can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one month.

Whipped Cream (yields 3 cups)

3 cups (750 ml) very cold heavy cream
1/2 cup (80 gr) powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a large mixing bowl, pour the heavy cream and mix on low-medium speed for several minutes.
Once the cream has frothed and slightly thickened, add the sugar and vanilla.
Continue to whip on medium-high until soft peaks form. Don’t over mix or the cream will turn buttery.

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