Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Strawberry Sun Days of Summer

It's now August, and I'm still not in my new home. 😞 This makes me sad on multiple levels, not the least of which is the fact that I'm still dealing with the horrendous oven in my temporary digs.  You know, the one that shakes anytime I tiptoe within a twenty square foot radius. . . It had gotten so bad, that I honestly had sworn off anymore projects until I was safely and securely planted in my new home.  But. . . you know, the baking withdrawal was getting pretty seriously miserable.  It was becoming increasingly difficult to resist the thought of biting into a freshly made soft, springy, fine crumbed slice of cake, coated with a thick, rich buttercream.  To be quite frank, I had started dreaming of this mythical slice of cake. And in all seriousness, I haven't been able to find a local place that makes a slice of cake to my (admittedly high) standards.  My resolve finally crumbled completely when I ran across these little beauties at Michaels while browsing away my Saturday afternoon. (What? You know you go into Michaels just to look around, just because, not really to plan on purchasing anything. . . 😇) But really, how could anyone resist these?

Well, spoiler alert, I most certainly could not resist this little impulse buy.  And after I succumbed to that particular pressure, I figured I may as well fold completely and at least put my new favorite tools to use.

I even had the perfect recipe in mind.  A couple of years ago, I tried out this absolutely amazing four layer buttery, beautiful, sunny yellow sponge --  just stuffed to the gills with macerated strawberries and the most luscious creamy custard.  And of course frosted with about a pound of whipped cream.  It's the personification of summer -- in a cake.  I think about making it at least ten to fifteen times a year, but it's a task -- a two day process at minimum, and because I refuse to make a cake which isn't as pretty outside as in, an extra day for decoration on top of that.  So I usually pass.  But this time, I decided to clear a weekend and just get down to it.  So I did.

The recipe comes from Sweet Amandine, and can be found here.  Besides the fact that I didn't want to type up the entire recipe -- pretty much a novella in itself, I really just think everyone should read Jessica Fechtor's blog.  It's funny, and well-written, and if you need yet another reason, she herself is a pretty amazing story of resilience in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles. She suffered from a burst aneurysm while exercising several years ago, and managed to recover brilliantly,  pursuing a PhD at Harvard in Jewish literature (which maybe she has obtained by now?), and publishing her first book a couple of years ago. Really, she writes better than anyone I know -- and that's after suffering a blown aneurysm.   From my calculations, this recipe was published on her blog just about a year after that event. It's mind boggling -- and inspirational.   (Give it a moment for the page to load -- it's a little slow.  And if you love the recipe, you may want to print it.  You know, just in case the blog goes down after the book gets published.  Not that it will, I have no idea.  But just to be safe, you know?) I followed the recipe pretty much exactly -- just cut everything in half (Oh, except for the whipped cream.  I kept that the same.  Because, really, you can never have too much whipped cream.)   And use 6 inch pans instead of 9 in pans. If you use 6 inch pans, drop the cooking time about 5 minutes and just keep an eye on the cakes. And I also didn't refrigerate the cakes before splitting them.  Because I'm impatient.  But everything else, just the same.

I do have to share my own pictures though.  Because they are simply so gorgeous.  Is there anything better than fresh strawberries and custard in the summer? I think not.

You may be forgiven for thinking that this is a picture of the whipped cream and the macerated strawberries.  But it's not.  It's a picture of the strawberries, that is true.  But that fluffy cloud front and center? That's actually a meringue.  The integral part of the cake itself.

 And. . . why it looks like this when it bakes.  Isn't it beautiful? Look at that rise.  Even in my defective oven. . . which says quite a lot in itself.
Split. . .

Fill. . . 

Spread. . .

Stack. . . 

Stop to admire (you can squeal with delight -- this is a  no judgment zone.)
Crumb coat and refrigerate.

And then. . . DECORATE!!!! 

So, as already stated, it's summertime.  And what's more summery than a crate full of flowers? I have no yard, and no patio right now -- so my blooms have to be of the whipped cream consistency. Worse things have happened. . . first world problems and all.  And to be honest, I think I prefer fondant "wooden" crates to the real thing anyways.  At least I don't have to worry about bugs. . .

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