Monday, June 9, 2014

Strawberry Cake with White Chocolate Buttercream

There were only three plump berry jewels on the rogue strawberry plant that had sprouted among the pachysandra in my garden.  My two-year-old grandaughter thought it a lovely surprise, to discover them dangling under their protective leaves but was disappointed that there weren't more to pop in her mouth. (I pulled up the berry plants a few years ago, weary of feeding the local birds who always beat us to the harvest.)  This plant had wandered from its parent....the child had not. Her mother, my daughter, must have been born with a strawberry in her mouth.  Her choice for birthday cakes always involved the queen of berries: strawberry shortcake, strawberry cheesecake, even her choice for bed sheets and pajamas - Strawberry Shortcake!  Most of us have fond memories involving strawberries - in fact, can you imagine summer without?  Similar to yours, no doubt, my memories include fresh strawberry pie at summer cookouts, freezer strawberry jam for the hot rolls on Thanksgiving, Emma and Mr. Knightly picking berries on Box Hill, picking berries myself in strawberry fields....forever!  And Jordan.  Not many would associate the Middle East with delicious berries - but so it was. Some of the sweetest strawberries I've ever tasted were sold by the itinerant fruit sellers in this arid climate.  In the spring, the Amman Marriott hotel featured a five layer strawberry cake frosted with white chocolate cream, chocolate curls and sandwiched about fresh berries: this cake became the ideal.  Every May, I experimented, tweaked and fussed but couldn't create a cake that quite measured up.  Until I brought these two recipes together....a moist, deep strawberry flavored cake, frosted with a buttery, white chocolate cream and of course, fresh strawberries!

Strawberry Cake:
2 3/4 cups cake flour
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
2 cups white sugar
1 (3 ounce) package strawberry flavored gelatin
1 cup butter, softened
4 eggs
1 cup milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup strawberries, pureed

3 cups fresh strawberries
white chocolate curls

-Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour two 10 inch round cake pans.

-In a large bowl, beat sugar, gelatin and butter until fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Mix flour and baking powder and beat, alternately with the milk into the sugar mixture.  Fold in 1 tsp. vanilla and pureed strawberries.  Divide equally into 2 prepared pans.

-Bake 25 minutes in the preheated oven or until toothpick inserted into cake comes out clean.  Cool for 10 minutes in the pans, then remove from pans and cool completely.

White - Chocolate Buttercream:

1 2/3 cups sugar
7 large egg whites
1 1/2 pounds (6 sticks) butter, cut into tablespoons, softened
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
12 ounces good quality white chocolate, melted and cooled

-Place sugar and egg whites in a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of simmering water.  Whisk constantly until sugar is dissolved and mixture registers 140 degrees on an instant-read thermometer.

-Transfer hot mixture to an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment; beat on medium-high speed until fluffy and cooled, about 10 minutes.  Continue beating until stiff peaks form.

-Reduce speed to medium-low; add butter by the tablespoon,
beating well after each addition.  Beat in vanilla and white chocolate.  If not using immediately, refrigerate in an airtight container up to 3 days or freeze up to 1 month.  Bring to room
temperature before using; beat on low speed until smooth, about 3 minutes.

To assemble cake:
      -With a long serated knife, slice each cool cake in half horizontally.  Insert knife half way through the cake and rotate the cake carefully as you gently saw through the cake.  Set the 2 cake layers aside and repeat with other cake.

-Place one cake layer on cake platter and frost with about 1 cup of buttercream.  Arrange sliced berries over layer of buttercream.

     -Place another cake layer over first layer and repeat buttercream and fresh berry layer.  Repeat one more time.

     -Frost the top and sides of cake with the remaining buttercream.  Decorate top of the cake and around the bottom with more sliced and halved berries and white chocolate curls.  Chill.  Remove from refrigerator about 20 minutes before serving.

*Cook's Comments:  If you don't have cake flour on hand, combine 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour with 1/4 cup cornstarch and blend well with a whisk.

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