I was visually overcome yesterday in Whole Foods Kensington by a striking tower of strawberries. Boxes of sweet, dark red fruit with long green stems were stacked high and (even better) on sale- 2 for £5. Yes, I know you can get them cheaper in other stores but these smelled and looked liked real strawberries in season. The sad little under-ripe pink ones you see in the supermarket just depress me. Even if they look good, the taste is vacant. I don’t shop often at Whole Foods, but when I do, it’s an all-out pilgrimage. Watch this space because I’m going to do a whole posting on it soon. Its a complete inspiration to go there and the free tastings don’t hurt either. Whatever you buy, you know your precious items are going to taste lovely.
Since I was having friends to dinner in the evening, I thought I would make the strawberry cream cake from my ‘Meals in Heels’ book. It feeds 8-10 people, which is perfect if there are lots of kids about. Instead of two 8 inch cake tins, the batter is poured into a 9 inch spring-form to make a big cake. Sponge cake looks difficult but its really not. The most important thing is too work quickly and lightly when folding in the flour mixture so it doesn’t deflate. When good strawberries are about there is no better combination than whipped cream and sponge. Nothing else is required.
strawberries and cream sponge cake
preparation time 30 minutes
cooking time 30 minutes
unsalted butter, softened, for greasing
150 g/1 cup) plain (all-purpose) flour, sifted, plus extra for dusting
6 eggs, at room temperature and separated
175 g/3/4 cup caster (superfine) sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 litre/4 cups thick cream (48% butterfat)
500 g strawberries, hulled (half sliced and rest left whole)
Preheat oven to 180ºC (350ºF/Gas 4). Line the base of a 23 cm (9 inch) springform cake tin with baking paper. Lightly grease the sides with butter and dust with flour. Place the egg yolks, vanilla and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat for 5 minutes or until light and fluffy. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt using a hand-held electric mixer for 5 minutes or until soft peaks form. Add to the egg yolk mixture. Gently fold in Add the flour and baking powder, in 3 batches, and fold through after each addition with a large metal spoon. Pour into the tin and bake for 30 minutes or until a skewer withdraws clean. Cool completely in the tin.
Cut the cake horizontally into 3 layers with a serrated knife. Whisk the cream until soft peaks form. Place the cake base on a cake stand or serving platter. Spread over one-quarter of the cream and then place a layer of strawberries. Repeat with remaining cake layers finishing with a layer of cream. Use a palette knife to spread on the sides and decorate with whole strawberries arranged upside down. If its a hot day or 8 hours before, keep the cake refrigerated. Otherwise you can make it 3 hours ahead and leave on the counter.
The sugar, eggs and vanilla are whipped in an electric mixer.
The whipped egg whites and sugar egg yolk mixtures are folded together with a large metal spoon.
The dry ingredients are folded through in three batches. This needs to be done with a light hand and quickly so the mixture doesn’t lose its air.
The batter is poured into a greased, floured tin lined with baking paper.
Once its done, it will pull away from the sides. Let cool in the tin.
The sides and top are frosted before placing the whole strawberries on top. Slide pieces of non-stick baking paper under all the sides before you do so that your cake stand stays clean. Gently slip them out when you’re finished.