Happy Canada Day! Canadians from coast to coast to coast are celebrating our nation’s 148th birthday today at all manner of gatherings, public and private. And just think, my urban cottage has been here for about two-thirds of that time. What history these walls have witnessed. Perhaps it’s no wonder I’ve been hankering for old-style recipes lately, including this simple and ever so red-and-white patriotic strawberry cream cake.
The cake itself is a simple two-egg layer cake that I’ve been making for years from a cookbook received as a wedding gift back in the mists of time. Nothing fancy, just a yellow cake flavoured with vanilla that can be mixed up and baked in just over 30 minutes total. The filling is whipping cream fortified with confectioner’s sugar, just sweet enough to set off the tartness of the fresh local berries that are the real star of this dessert.
I’ve made this twice in the last week. The recipe makes two eight-inch pans, and the first time I used both layers in one cake. It was good, but there was too much cake for the delicate filling (my guests didn’t complain, though). The second time around I cut each cake in half, making two layer cakes, and there was still enough whipped cream filling for both. That’s a great way to both maximize your baking efforts and win friends and influence people. Yes, I gave both of them away.
Cakes like these remind me of the desserts Mom used to make on the farm where she had such a huge strawberry patch that she used to set boxes of them at the roadside for passersby. Living in this lovely old cottage with its crunchy gravel driveway that reminds me of the farm laneway makes me nostalgic for the best of country life: simple generosity, welcoming company with something made from scratch and sending them home with a sweet treat.
Strawberry Cream Cake
Basic Two-Egg Butter Cake
I develop most of my own recipes for this blog, but for this cake I wanted something old-fashioned and familiar. I turned to my battered copy of The Doubleday Cookbook by Jean Anderson and Elaine Hanna, published in 1975. The recipe calls this “an economical all-purpose cake.” I’ve adapted it slightly for the modern cottage kitchen where margarine isn’t an option and a wider range of flours is available than 40 years ago. For this recipe I replaced cake flour with white spelt flour, and its soft texture worked very well.
I’m writing this recipe for two two-layer cakes, but you can assemble yours any way you like.
Pre-heat the oven to 375℉. Butter two 8-inch baking pans. Line the bottoms with parchment paper rounds, butter those lightly, and then flour the pans.
- 1-3/4 cups white spelt flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 eggs, at room temperature
Sift the dry ingredients together and set aside, then combine the milk and vanilla.
Cream the butter until light, then add the sugar gradually. Scraping the bowl once, continue to cream until it’s light and fluffy. Add the eggs individually, beating well after each.
Slowly mix in the dry ingredients in thirds, with half the milk mixture in between. Beat just until smooth, taking care not to overmix. I like to stop using the mixture when the last of the flour is barely incorporated and use a spatula to scrape the bowl and fold everything together.
Pour half the batter into each prepared pan and smooth. Rap the pans on the counter two or three times so any air bubbles come to the surface (I keep forgetting this step!). Place the pans on the centre rack of the oven and bake for about 22 minutes, or until the cakes pull slightly away from the sides of the pans and the tops are springy.
Cool the cakes in the pans on wire racks for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the edge of each pan and invert the cakes onto the wire rack. Remove the layer of parchment paper and (gingerly) turn the cakes right side up to finish cooling.
Using a serrated bread knife and a steady hand, or a handy wire cake cutting tool (my choice), slice each of the cakes in half vertically.
Whipped Cream Filling
- 1 pint (473 ml) whipping cream (35%)
- 2/3 cup confectioners sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
Whip the cream until it just starts to thicken. Add the vanilla and gradually sprinkle in the confectioners sugar and continue whipping until it’s thick and spreadable with a soft consistency.
Of course, you can put as many strawberries as you like on your cakes. I used about a pint in total, and cut the washed and trimmed berries in half or in thick slices, depending on their size.
To assemble the cakes, allow half the cream filling and berries for each cake. Spread a bit more than half of the first cake’s portion of cream on the bottom layer, staying about an inch away from the edge. Top the cream with a single layer of the cut strawberries, then place the top of the cake over. Press gently until the cream filling and strawberries appear at the edge of the cake. Lavish the rest of the cream allocated to this cake on top and garnish with strawberries if you like.
Repeat with the second cake.