Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Strawberry Country Cake

I requested this cake from my Mother, the baker in the family, as the "baked good" for my birthday. I've been drooling over the picture of it in Ina Garten's wonderful Barefoot Contessa Parties! cookbook that I've had since 2001, but I've yet to bake it, mostly due to my crotchety old oven, who prefers to be preheated for close to an hour before attempting to bake anything. Pairing the tempermental oven with the girl who doesn't like to fail in her culinary pursuits results in a simple solution: farm the baking out to someone who is good at it and loves it, enjoy the fruits of their labor. Rinse. Repeat.
This cake is like a pound cake, but better. You can really taste the brightness of the lemon and the orange zests. And with the addition of the homemade whipped cream (which I did make), and the fresh strawberries, it's like a summertime party in your mouth. It would be equally as tasty with other seasonal fruits - I'm particularly fond of raspberries.
The recipe suggests baking both 8" rounds and then freezing one for later, but we used both rounds to make one collosal cake.
Strawberry Country Cake
The recipe makes two 8-inch cakes. To freeze second cake, cool it completely, wrap in plastic, and freeze for up to 6 months.

3/4 cup unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks) at room temperature
2 c. sugar
4 extra-large eggs at room temperature
3/4 c. sour cream at room temperature
1/2 tsp grated lemon zest
1/2 tsp grated orange zest
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 c. cornstarch
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp baking soda

For the filling for each cake:
1 c. heavy whipping cream (1/2 pint), chilled
3 T. sugar
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 pint fresh strawberries, hulled & sliced

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter & flour two 8-inch cake pans.

Cream the butter & sugar on high speed until light and fluffy in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. On medium speed, add the eggs, one at a time, then the sour cream, zests, and vanilla, scraping down the bowl as needed. Mix well. Sift together the flour, cornstarch, salt, and baking soda. On low speed, slowly add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and combine just until smooth.

Pour the batter evenly into the pans, smooth the tops with a spatula, and bake in the center of the oven for 40 to 45 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then remove to wire racks and let cool to room temperature.

To make the filling for one cake, whip the cream by hand or in a mixer until firm; add the sugar and vanilla. Slice one of the cakes in half with a long, sharp knife. Place the bottom half of the cake on a serving platter, spread with half the whipped cream, and scatter with sliced strawberries. Cover with the top slice of the cake and spread with the remaining cream. Decorate with strawberries.

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