Another reason I miss my recipe notebook acutely at this time of year is BIRTHDAYS. Lots and lots of birthdays. Jake’s is January 27, John AND Emily’s is February 4, Teddy’s is February 15, and William’s is March 5. That’s a lot of cake.
We’ve been through one whole set of birthdays since the fire, so I’ve rounded up all the tried and true cake recipes. Jake had Milky Way Cake this year, and John had Strawberry Cake.
Ah, Strawberry Cake. Twenty-five years ago was John’s first birthday with us as a couple. It was a fantastic birthday–my gift to him was his college ring, and my roommate and her boyfriend and I “kidnapped” him and took him to the Kennedy Center to see HMS Pinafore. And I baked him the first of many birthday cakes.
“What kind of cake do you want?” I asked him. And he, no doubt envisioning a box of pink nastiness from the grocery store shelf, asked for a strawberry cake.
My mother did not have a recipe for strawberry cake. The Georgetown University Library is not exactly overflowing with cookbooks. And there was no Internet to consult. And I haven’t used a box cake mix since I was maybe 12. So I set out to invent my own recipe.
I don’t remember what I did, but although I am sure John appreciated my efforts, he probably would have preferred the box.
But I got better, and I’ve had years to work on my recipe. The one I made this year was the best one ever, and I am pleased to share it with you.
It starts with a recipe called “Old-Fashioned White Birthday Cake.” That came out of one of my mother’s cookbooks years ago. Then I added some things (strawberries!).
One container of strawberries, washed and drained
sugar to taste
1 c. butter, softened (REAL butter, mind you. Don’t you dare use that nasty margarine.)
2 c. sugar
3.5 c. flour
1/2 t. salt
3.5 t. baking powder
1 t. vanilla
8 egg whites
1/8 t. salt
It helps if you are an experienced baker when you make this cake, because I cannot give you exact measurements for the strawberry part of this. Slice up the strawberries and puree them in your blender with enough sugar so that they are not tart. If you need to add milk to get them pureed, you can. Sometimes I’ve needed to; this time I did not. You want to end up with about 1.5 cups of liquefied strawberry.
Halve the remaining strawberries and reserve.
Cream butter and sugar. Add salt and baking powder and beat well. Add vanilla and beat. Add flour, alternating with liquid strawberries, beginning and ending with flour. The recipe calls for 1 cup liquid. If it doesn’t look like cake batter should, you can add more. This is where experience comes in handy!
Now wash your beaters and beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry. (I gave all the yolks to the dog, but you can use the for scrambled eggs or french toast!) Add 1/8 t. salt to the beaten whites. Fold lightly into cake batter.
Grease two round cake pans and dust with powdered sugar, and pour in your batter. Bake at 350 until done. I know that is not very exact, but the recipe really calls for 1 hour in a tube pan. I started checking at 30 minutes.
When your cake is cool, spread the bottom layer with strawberry preserves. Actually, I use one of the “all-fruit” strawberry spreads. Make a basic buttercream frosting, and thin as needed with the rest of your strawberry juice for color and flavor. Frost cake, and garnish with sliced strawberries. Everyone will tell you it is the best cake they ever ate.