Despite the fact that as of this writing it is snowing like a mad bastard outside and Beloved’s got a fire going in the family room fireplace, spring is here.
Or so I fervently hope.
At any rate, with the coming of spring is the coming of really cheap strawberries at the grocery store. And with the coming of really cheap strawberries at the grocery store comes yummy homemade strawberry desserts.
When I was growing up, my mother’s idea of strawberry shortcake was sliced strawberries on those yellow sponge “dessert shells” that always seem to be in the produce department, topped with a dollop of Cool Whip. If she was feeling really ambitious, she would cover the strawberries with that goopy “strawberry glaze” that seems to always accompany the “dessert shells”. As a result, I’m not really very fond of biscuit-like shortcakes. I’ve also found that I’d rather chew on a piece of foam rubber than one of those damn “dessert shells”.
So, this weekend I made a sponge cake with the intent of making “strawberry shortcake” out of it. In fact, I was going to name this recipe Strawberry “Shortcake” but the sponge cake recipe I used is so good, as well as versatile – I am going to make it again soon, split and fill it with homemade lemon curd then frost it with a lightly sweetened whipped cream – that it can stand on it’s own.
If you want to use it as a base for strawberry shortcake, go right ahead – it is absolutely delicious. Simply hull and slice a quart of strawberries and sprinkle with 1/4 – 1/2 cup of sugar, depending on how sweet the berries are, and allow to macerate for at least 2 hours in the refrigerator, stirring occasionally. Spoon the strawberries generously over slices of the sponge cake and top with whipped cream.
makes a 10″ cake
2 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 1/3 cups sifted cake flour
1 cup sugar, divided
6 large eggs, separated
3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
Preheat the oven to 350° F
In a small bowl, combine the water, vanilla and lemon zest. Set aside.
Reserve 1 tablespoon of the sugar to beat with the egg whites. In small bowl, whisk together the flour and 3 tablespoons of the sugar. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg yolks with the remaining 3/4 cup sugar on high speed for 5 minutes, or until the mixture is very thick and ribbons when dropped from the beater. Lower the speed and gradually add the water/vanilla/lemon zest mixture. Increase the speed to high again and beat for 30 seconds. Sift the flour mixture over the egg mixture without mixing and set aside.
Beat the egg whites until foamy, add the cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks form. Add the reserved tablespoon of sugar and beat until very stiff peaks form. Add 1/3 of the whites to the yolk mixture, and with a large slotted spoon fold until the flour and whites are incorporated. Gently fold in the remaining egg whites in 2 batches.
Pour the batter into an ungreased 10″ tube pan; run a small metal spatula or knife through the batter to prevent any air pockets. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until golden and a cake tester or knife comes out clean when inserted in the center. Invert the pan, placing the tube opening over the neck of a soda or wine bottle to suspend it well above the counter (I had to use a long-handled wooden spoon inserted through the tube opening into the wine bottle, as the bottle was too wide to accommodate the opening of my tube pan). Cool the cake completely in the pan, about 1 hour.
Loosen the sides with a long metal spatula to remove the outer portion of the pan. Disloge the bottom and center core with a metal spatula or thin, sharp knife. Wrap tightly in platic wrap; if you are not going to frost or glaze it whole, cutting it in half will help wrapping it tightly enough to prevent it from getting too stale to quickly.