Thursday, December 16, 2010

nitya's strawberries and cream birthday cake

It's birthday season. Not kidding. Three of my closest friends [read: girls I've grown up with since the fourth grade] have December birthdays. What does that mean for me?


Lots of baking. Saturday last was Noosh's raspberry chocolate cake with bittersweet raspberry ganache. Definitely a winner. I set a personal goal to make the other two just as good.

Today was Nitya's twentieth. Nitya is...somewhat picky, dessert-wise. Well, maybe picky isn't the right word. She's just not the biggest fan of desserts, in general. I had her give me a list of her likes and dislikes, in terms of what she'd want for a cake. It was quite the list. I do recall that among the 'dislikes' was cilantro, though. [Needless to say, there was no cilantro in your cake, Nitya. Breathe a sigh of relief.] But she does love strawberries. So that served as the theme. [Not unlike her layered angel food cake with lemon curd and strawberry jam two years ago. But no lemon curd this time.]

White cake layered with vanilla cream and strawberry jam, with a whipped cream frosting, topped with chocolate-dipped strawberries and enclosed in a pirouette border. I'm not gonna lie: I have zero creativity whatsoever, and this idea was not mine at all. It comes from The Art of Two Tarts' blog: an absolutely gorgeous cake that you must go check out; mine isn't half as beautiful in comparison. But I really, really, really, wanted to try and recreate it.


Strawberries and Cream Cake
Adapted from The Art of Two Tarts

For the cake, you'll need:
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 6 large egg whites [save the yolks - they'll be used in the pastry cream]
  • 2 tsp almond extract
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 tsps baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and flour three 8-inch cake pans. Pour the milk, egg whites, and extracts in a 2-cup bowl and whisk with a fork until blended. In a seaparate bowl, blend flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Beat butter into flour mixture until batter has the consistency of breadcrumbs. Pour all but 1/2 cup of the milk into the flour and mix on medium-high speed for 1 1/2 -2 mins. Pour remainder of milk and mix for another 30 or so seconds.

Divide batter evenly among the pans and bake for 23-25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the center of the cakes. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 5 minutes before inverting onto a wire rack. Cool completely before frosting.


For vanilla cream, you'll need:
  • 2 cups half and half
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3 tbsp cornstarch
  • 4 tbsp cold butter, cut into squares

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring half and half, half of the sugar, and salt to a simmer. In a separate bowl, whisk egg yolks, remaining sugar, vanilla, and cornstarch until blended. Once half and half mixture comes to a full simmer, pour half of it into the egg yolks, whisking constantly. Then, pour the egg mixture back into the saucepan and continue stirring until cream thickens, 1-2 minutes. Once thickened, remove from the heat and toss in butter. Mix until blended. Pour pastry cream into a bowl. Once it cools to room temperature, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until set.



For the whipped cream frosting, you'll need:
  • 3 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/3 cup confectioner's sugar

In a large bowl, beat whipping cream and vanilla with a standard mixer until stiff peaks form. Fold in sugar. Refrigerate until using.


To assemble the cake:

Put one of the cake layers on a serving plate. Take a standard can of whipped cream and squeeze a ring of cream around the outer edge of the cake. [This is a really nifty trick - it prevents the filling from seeping out of the edges of the cake. It's totally optional, though, so don't worry if you don't have a can of whipped cream on hand.] Spread about 1/3 cup of strawberry jam or preserves out to the whipped cream ring. Spread about 1/3 cup of the pastry cream on top of the jam and spread gently, trying not to mix the two.

Layer with a second layer of cake, flat side up [to make it easier to frost]. Repeat the above. Layer with the final layer of cake, flat side up. Frost top and sides of cake with whipped cream. Decorate as desired. Refrigerate until serving.

As for how I decorated my cake, I basically followed exactly what 'The Art of Two Tarts' did: dipped some strawberries in bittersweet chocolate, drizzled white chocolate 'artfully' on top, and let them cool on a a sheet of wax paper. Meanwhile, I took some pirouettes [French Vanilla and Chocolate Hazlenut, to be exact], broke them into different sized pieces, pressed them to the sides of the cake, and tied some ribbon around them. Once the strawberries had set, I arranged them on top of the cake.


The entire process was somewhat tedious, just because of all the components that went into it, but the end result was so worth it. It just looks beautiful. And it's really not that difficult it all.

Plus, I braved a snowstorm to drive it the entire 5 miles to her house, so I was rather pleased. And she loved it!

Happy twentieth birthday, Nitya! It's hard to believe we've been such good friends for 10 years already! Here's to more amazing times to come.
Love, with all my heart.


Only downside: it was a beast to cut.


But we managed. :)

10 comments:

  1. it's my birthday every day...

    ReplyDelete
  2. I've visited the other site and ....

    ReplyDelete
  3. ...your cake's prettier!

    ReplyDelete
  4. agreed, yours is prettier :) MUST make this soon!!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hi! I made this cake for my friends 21rst birthday! Everyone was so impressed and thought I bought it! I made a low fat version but it was still amazing :) Thanks for the great recipe!

    ReplyDelete
  6. If you were driving thru a snow storm I would think the cake was ok without refrigeration; but for us in Tropical regions would you know how long the pirouettes would stay crispy in the fridge?

    ReplyDelete
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