Thursday, July 2, 2009

Strawberry Cake!

For the cake:
One and a half cups of flour
Three tablespoons cornstarch
Half a teaspoon of salt
One teaspoon baking SODA
Nine tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
One and a half cups sugar
Three large eggs
One teaspoon vanilla
Half a cup of sour cream, room temperature

For the topping:
One pound strawberries
Eight ounces cream cheese, room temperature
Fifteen tablespoons of unsalted butter, room temperature
One and a half pounds of powdered sugar, sifted
One teaspoon vanilla

In the bowl of your mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating gently until almost combined after each one.
One egg...Two eggs...Three eggs!Add the sour cream and vanilla and beat until smooth.
Preheat the oven to 350F. Sift together the flour, cornstarch, salt, and baking soda, and add to the bowl. Mix until combined. Scrape the sides of the bowl with a spatula and double check that everything's combined. My mixer packs things away in dark corners and I don't notice my giant pockets of un-mixed-in flour until it's too late.
Pour the batter into a prepared cake pan and smooth the top. Important, kind of: try to use either a pan that's at least two inches deep. You want the batter to stay at the half-way point in the pan, otherwise the top will bake up and be domed, and your cake will be lopsided and doomed. Just kidding. Also, the cake can bake up and out of the pan and make a mess in your oven. I was lucky mine didn't. You can see in the picture just how full my pan was--too full. My cake domed on top because I had no choice in my pan, and I think it still turned out looking lovely. And naturally, about ten minutes after I'd put the cake in the oven, my roommate came home with a present for me from a friend of ours: a beautiful, two-inch deep, 9-inch round cake pan. Naturally!

Bake the cake at 350F for 45-50 minutes, until no longer jiggly. Remove to a cooling rack and ignore for two or three hours until it's absolutely, positively not warm at all anymore. Take a picture of your pretty cake and make fun of your roommate for not being able to get out of the picture.

While you're waiting on the cake to cool, do a load of laundry. Then wash a pound of strawberries, remove their stems, and slice them in half from top to bottom. Put them in the fridge and ignore them. Remove your butter and cream cheese from the fridge to soften up for the frosting.

After a couple hours, when the cake is just barely warm to the touch, remove your strawberries from the fridge. Sprinkle them with three tablespoons of sugar, give them a good stir, and put them back in the fridge for 30 minutes.

After your 30 minutes are up, take them out again, divide them in half on two plates, and smash them up with a fork. Sprinkle a tablespoon of sugar on top of each plate and stick them back in the fridge for another 30 minutes.
While you're waiting on the strawberries, get out your mixer again. Combine the butter and cream cheese. Cream together until fluffy and happy. I used my whisk attachment for this, but I think the paddle would get the job done faster.

Add the vanilla and sift in the powdered sugar. I can't tell you how much a pound and a half is in cups. I had a two pound bag that I'd used a little bit out of already, and I weighed it to make sure I used the right amount. Sorry. Use the whisk attachment to get it fluffy and smooth and beautiful. I was really concerned that my frosting was looking yellow instead of white, so I dumped in some strawberry juice in hopes of making it pink. Didn't work. Ended up white, but with a hint of strawberry sweetness, and it was lovely.

Slice the cake in half through the middle. You can't tell from the picture, but I did a really awful job of making my halves even. Do your best to get them perfect, but don't sweat it if they end up being pretty unbalanced. It's all going to end up in the same place, and the frosting will cover most of the mistakes. If the cake's still warm in the middle after you slice it, walk away for another half hour and let it cool.

Put the strawberries on top of each half of the cake, then stick the whole mess in the freezer for 5-10 minutes to make it easier to frost.
Put a dollop of frosting in the middle of your cake plate. This helps anchor the cake so it doesn't slide off onto the floor when you pick it up and move it. I learned to do this the hard way with last week's dark chocolate cake. I didn't anchor it, and when I moved it from the table to the counter, it slid off. Fortunately, it slid right onto the counter and I was able to slide it right back onto my cake plate with no damage done, but it was still a harrowing experience.

Put the bottom layer on the cake plate. Plop a third of the the frosting on top and smooth it out. Don't worry about being pretty just yet, we'll fix everything later.

Put the top layer on and plop half of the remaining frosting on top. Spread around evenly.
Spread the rest of the frosting around the sides and do your best to make it all pretty.

Use a damp paper towel to clean up any frosting spills on the plate, and store in the fridge. Serve chilled, and enjoy! I never got to eat any of this cake for various reasons, but my sources say it was one of the best cakes they've ever had. Yay life!

Difficulty: 2
Takes about an hour and a half of prep, plus an hour of baking time and two to three hours of sitting around time.