Monday, June 6, 2011

Too Short Shortcake

Two friends of mine requested strawberry shortcake so I selected it as this week's project. While doing recipe research I discovered that what we have been accustomed to calling "Strawberry Shortcake" was not really Strawberry Shortcake. Real strawberry shortcake is made with biscuits. Yeah, biscuits, weird huh? Anyway, I set out to make the cake version and came upon this fabulous recipe for Strawberry Cream Cake from Cooks Illustrated

After last week's daring bakers challenge I thought this one would be 
easy as pie. then something happened that brought me down from my cloud of invincibility. I began by making the cake and followed the directions to the letter. But while it was baking I noticed it hadn't risen as much as I had expected. It also took 10 minutes more than the recipe said it would to bake. I let the cake cool, wrapped it in plastic wrap and put it in the fridge overnight. It bothered me all night. I thought about it and the next morning I awoke feeling renewed and decided to make another cake. I decided to use a recipe for moist yellow cake layers from Nick Malgieri's Bake!. I figured the problem with the first one was the delicate folding in of the egg whites. Maybe I had mixed them too much. This recipe didn't have that, I thought it would be harder to screw up. 

While the cake baked, I prepared the strawberries. One of the things that drew me to this recipe was that it not only had fresh strawberries but also contained another filling made with macerated strawberries and cherry brandy. I sliced 24 of the strawberries and quartered the rest of them. 

Then I removed the cake from the oven. This cake didn't rise enough either. The cake was supposed to be 5cm tall and it was only 3cm. So with two short cakes I decided to make the best of it, cut each cake in half and use three of those halves to make the strawberry shortcake. 
Cake #1
Cake #2

I liked the texture of the second cake the most so I decided to use two layers of it and one layer of the first one. While cake #2 cooled, I macerated  the quartered strawberries with 6 tablespoons of sugar. After an hour I strained the strawberries and put the liquid in a saucepan with 3 tablespoons of cherry brandy and simmered it for 5 minutes until it became quite syrupy. The quartered strawberries were then pulsed in the food processor 5 times and added to the syrup. I put the mixture to cool while I made the cream. The cream was simple and involved beating cream cheese, sugar and vanilla together and whipping that with heavy cream. 

I assembled the cake by placing the fresh strawberry halves around the circumference of a cake layer then filled the center with the macerated strawberry mixture. Then I added a generous layer of the cream mixture. I repeated this for the next layer. Then I placed the final layer on top, topped it with cream and surrounded the top layer with fresh strawberry halves. My middle layer suffered an injury while being transferred, it broke in several places. I just put it together and hoped that this wouldn't seriously affect the stability of the cake.

I put the cake in the fridge to cool for a couple hours before I cut it. This was one of those weeks when I had a lot of tasters and I was nervous about how it would come out. I had some strawberry shortcake lovers in the group and I didn't want to disappoint them by not doing their favorite dessert justice. Despite my issues with the cake not rising and the breaking of the middle layer, the cake was deeeeelicious and still quite beautiful. I even have a request to make another one next weekend! 

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