Isn’t it amazing how some foods can evoke distinct memories? White cake with berries and cream instantly takes me back to 4th of July at my grandparents’ house.
My sister Michele and I were in charge of making our traditional American Flag cake every year. It was sliced Sara Lee pound cake layered with Cool Whip in a 9×13 pan, and topped with fresh blueberries and strawberries in an American flag design.
When I was asked to make dessert for our friend’s 4th of July party, I took to my cookbooks. Once I saw the recipe for Strawberries & Cream Cake in The Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook, I knew I had to make it!
Fresh strawberries are sandwiched between layers of cake along with cherry-strawberry sauce and whipped cream flecked with vanilla bean.
Berries & Cream Cake (adapted from The Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook)
Serves 8 to 10
1 1/4 cup cake flour, plus extra for the pan
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1 cup granulated sugar
5 large eggs (2 whole and 3 separated)
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
About 1.5 quarts fresh strawberries (medium or large), washed, dried, and stemmed
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons kirsch or fresh cherry juice (from about 6 fresh dark cherries)
Pinch of table salt
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
1/8 teaspoon table salt
2 cups heavy whipping cream
- FOR THE CAKE: Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position, and preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and flour a 9-inch-wide by 2-inch-high round cake pan and line it with parchment paper. Whisk flour, baking powder, salt, and all but 3 tablespoons of the sugar in a mixing bowl. Whisk in 2 whole eggs and 3 yolks (reserving the whites), the butter, water, and vanilla; whisk until smooth.
- Using a hand-mixer or stand-mixer, beat the remaining 3 egg whites on medium-low speed until frothy, 1 to 2 minutes. With the machine running, gradually add remaining 3 tablespoons sugar, increase the speed to medium-high, and beat until soft peaks form, 60 to 90 seconds. Stir one-third of the whites into the batter; add the remaining whites and gently fold into batter until no white steaks remain. Transfer batter to the prepared pan, smooth the top with a rubber spatula, and lightly tap the pan on the counter three times to settle the batter. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, 30 to 40 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking time. Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then invert onto the wire rack and peel off the parchment. Invert the cake again and cool completely on the rack, about 2 hours.
Tip: Cake can be made the day before. Once completely cool, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and store on the counter top until ready to assemble the finished cake.
3. (OPTIONAL) FOR THE FRESH CHERRY JUICE: Fresh cherry juice can be used in lieu of kirsch. To make, crush about 6 fresh dark cherries in a mortar and pestle. Strain to remove the skins and pits. You should have 2 to 3 tablespoons of juice.
4. FOR THE STRAWBERRY FILLING: Halve 10 of the best-looking berries and reserve. Reserve a few extra berries for decoration. Quarter the remaining berries; toss with 6 tablespoons sugar in a medium bowl and let sit for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Strain the juices from the berries and reserve (you should have about 1/2 cup). In a food processor, give the macerated berries 5 pulses (you should have about 1 1/2 cups). In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, simmer the reserved juices and the kirsch (or cherry juice) until syrupy and reduced to about 3 tablespoons, 3 to 5 minutes. Pour the reduced syrup over the macerated berries, add the salt, and toss to combine. Set aside until the cake has cooled.
5. FOR THE WHIPPED CREAM: When the cake has cooled, whisk together the cream cheese, sugar, vanilla paste, and salt until light and fluffy, about 1 to 2 minutes (use either a hand-mixer or a stand-mixer fitted with the whisk attachment). Scrape down the bowl as necessary. Reduce the speed to low and add the heavy whipping cream in a steady stream; when almost fully combined, increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the mixture holds stiff peaks, 2 to 2 1/2 minutes more, scraping down the bowl as needed.
6. TO ASSEMBLE THE CAKE: Use a serrated knife to cut the cake into two even layers. Place the bottom layer on the serving platter and arrange a ring of 20 strawberry halves, cut sides down and stem ends facing out, around the perimeter of the cake layer. Pour the macerated strawberry filling in the center, then spread to cover any exposed cake. Gently spread about one-half of the whipped cream over the berry layer, leaving a 1/2 inch border from the edge. Place the remaining cake layer on top, pressing gently (the whipped cream filling should become flush with the cake edge). Spread the remaining whipped cream over the top, decorate with remaining berries (either halved or sliced). Serve and enjoy!