by: Lianna Lee
The day I made this cake I was in a terrible mood. I didn’t have enough sugar in my kitchen, too many dirty breakfast dishes in the sink, and approximately four sad looking CA strawberries in my fridge. Grumpiness sometimes curtails my baking adventures before they even begin, but it was one of my dear friend’s birthdays and I had to conjure up a fragrant cake out of thin air. On your birthday, after all, you can have your cake and eat it too.
Strawberries had to be the prima donnas in this cake, because this particular friend demolishes strawberries like some people eat dark chocolate. He’s been known to inhale entire quarts of strawberries, pause momentarily, and then polish off another quart for good measure. When I saw this Limoncello and Balsamic Strawberry Victorian Sponge Cake recipe on the phenomenal What Katie Ate cooking blog, I decided to finally lift my intentional cake making ban. The last time I baked a cake I was ten years old, and obsessed with creating this hideous pink monstrosity that tasted like cherry syrup and was actually inedible. Even the family dogs wouldn’t touch it. This time around I wanted something more restrained, delicious, and worthy of a 25th birthday celebration.
I made it to the grocery store, located the superfine sugar, mascarpone (if you can’t find this in dairy, check the fancy cheese section), and strawberries, and made it back into my kitchen ready to be a cake boss. The batter came together easily and smelled wonderful thanks to the addition of fresh lemon juice or limoncello. As I pulled everything together, I made the necessary conversions from the metric system into our wack-a-doodle US measurement system. What I realized as I went through the process of combining ingredients for the batter, filling, and cream is that cakes aren’t the unwieldy creatures I had so long imagined them being. In fact, they’re surprisingly easy to create given the right attitude. Directions that are clearer than anything I could write, can be found on What Katie Ate.
1.5 cups unsalted butter, softened
1.5 cups superfine sugar
6 free-range eggs
2 t good quality vanilla essence
2 T Limoncello (or 2 teaspoons lemon juice)
1.5 cups self-raising flour
2 t baking powder
2 T milk
* split evenly between two 9″ greased springform cake pans*
1.5-2 cups fresh strawberries, hulled and quarterer length-ways
2 tablespoons Limoncello (or 1 tablespoon lemon juice)
2 teaspoon top-quality balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon caster sugar
Small handful fresh mint leaves, very finely chopped
*if you increase strawberry volume, adjust everything else according to taste*
1 cup mascarpone
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
Sprinkle confectionary sugar on top, garnish with fresh mint sprigs, and a blueberry if you wish
This recipe was easy to follow, and even though my previous cake was a gloppy sugary mess, this cake is elegant. You expect the strawberries to steal the show, but then the mint cuts through, and under that, the light scent of lemon and sugar. The cream filling mixes with the balsamic reduction and ensures that each bite melts away smoothly, without overpowering the other flavors. Birthday celebrations were had, toasts were made, and the cake steadily disappeared. All in all, a very Happy Birthday!
Lianna Lee is a 20-something graduate of Mount Holyoke College where she earned a degree in Environmental Studies. Currently she is serving as an AmeriCorps member with the Wildlands Trust as their Outreach Coordinator. Lee’s 2013 food goals include making gelato, successfully growing tomatoes, and eating a sublime bowl of chowdah.
For more by Lianna, check out: Chili Cheese Bread