I guess you could say I made this cake out of necessity, but I didn't have a birthday to celebrate or a party to take it to. The truth is, I picked up a pound of less than perfect fruit, deceptively red and plump but severely lacking in the flavor department. So to save those berries from themselves I gave them a honey bath and tossed them in the oven. See you later, bland berries!
As I was daydreaming about the best way to use the little jewels roasting away in the oven, the scent of caramelizing fruit began to waft through the apartment. The scent of roasting strawberries is the sweet essence of strawberry, almost artificial in it's intensity.
I was in the mood to bake something tall and towering so I set to work making a tried and true vanilla buttermilk cake, only I swapped out the white sugar for brown to echo the caramel notes in the berry frosting I planned to make. The slow meditation of softening butter, separating eggs and sifting flour gave me time to consider my frosting options. Cream cheese? Buttercream? 7-minute? Swiss meringue, that's the ticket!
I whipped up a batch of my favorite (not too sweet) Swiss meringue buttercream and enriched it with a scraped vanilla bean and a healthy amount of strawberry puree and watched as the frosting turned the loveliest pale pink. Maybe try whipping this up for your Mom this weekend, I hear Moms love pink cake.
In unrelated news, you can stream the entire new Beach House record on NPR here. It's 35 minutes of fun, mellow summertime tunes that will start your week right.
Brown Sugar Buttermilk Cake
adapted from Sky High: Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes
yield 1, 8'' cake
2 egg yolks (save the whites for the buttercream)
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1Tablespoon vanilla extract
3 cups cake flour
2 cups dark brown sugar
4 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
8oz softened butter
Preheat your oven to 350º and grease and flour 3, 8'' cake pans. For safety's sake, I lined mine with parchment too.
1. Sift the cake flour, baking powder and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer. Break up the brown sugar with your hands and whisk it into the flour mixture .
2. Cut the softened butter into chunks and add it into the flour mixture. Mix on low until the butter is evenly distributed and the mixture looks like crumbs. It is helpful to stop the mixer and scrape the bottom of the bowl during this process.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg yolks, buttermilk and vanilla extract. With the stand mixer running, add the milk mixture in three additions. Mix for 30 seconds after each addition, then stop the mixer to scrape down the sides of the bowl and paddle making sure to get down to the bottom of the bowl to ensure the batter is well mixed.
4. Divide the batter between the prepared pans and tap them gently on the counter to release air bubbles. Slide the pans into the oven and bake the layers for 28-30min or until a cake tester comes out completely. Cool for 15 minutes in the pans, then turn out onto a rack to cool completely before frosting.
1lb strawberries, cut in halves or quarters if they are large
1T neutral flavored oil (canola or grapeseed)
Toss the strawberries with honey and oil. Spread out in an even layer on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake at 400º for 15-20min or until the berries have released some of their juices and caramelized slightly.
Roasted Strawberry Meringue Buttercream
yield, enough frosting for an 8'' or 9'' cake (plus a little extra)
5 egg whites
1 1/4 cups sugar
1lb butter, room temp
1 vanilla bean, scraped
1/2 cup roasted strawberry puree (room temperature)
1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the egg whites and sugar. Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water and whisk continuously until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is warm to the touch, 5-7min.
2. Using the whisk attachment, beat the egg white mixture until stiff glossy peaks form and the mixture has cooled to room temperature, about 10min.
3. Switch to the paddle attachment and reduce the speed to low and add the salt then add butter a few tablespoons at a time and beat the frosting until smooth. During this step it is very likely that the frosting will "break" and you will think you messed up. Good news! You didn't! Mine breaks sometimes too. All you have to do is turn up the speed on your mixer for a few seconds and the frosting comes back together. Continue until all of the butter is incorporated then add in the vanilla bean seeds and very slowly stream in the roasted strawberry puree.
To Assemble the Cake
Peel the parchment paper from the layers and trim the cakes so the tops are flat. Place one layer onto a serving platter or pedestal and spread 1/2c-3/4c of the frosting onto the cake in an even layer. Place the second layer on top and repeat. Finish by placing the last layer on top, trimmed side down so the top of the cake will be nice and flat and crumb free. Cover the top and sides of the cake with a thin layer of frosting (crumb coat) and refrigerate for about 30min. Pull the cake out of the fridge and add a second, heavier coat of frosting on the top and sides of the cake. Garnish with sliced strawberries. Serve at room temperature. Store any extra frosting in an airtight container in the freezer where it will keep for a few weeks.