Sunday, July 22, 2012

Strawberry Cassata Cream Cake

Strawberry Cassata Cream Cake
When I was in college in Cleveland, I was often served Strawberry Cassata for special occasions. It is a strawberry shortcake with cake instead of biscuits. Later, I found out that most people (that is, people from Italy, and people who know people from Italy) think Cassata is a completely different cake, involving ricotta and nuts.

Wikipedia to the rescue! According the the article on Cassata, there is a specific Cleveland Cassata which as I described, based on a baker's kids who didn't like the original. I guess when you are a prominent baker in an immigrant community, your picky kids shape the city's cuisine. And thank goodness for that!

This cake is for my friend Alison, who has a birthday today. When I asked what she wanted, she said "strawberries sound good." I'd just seen this beautiful Strawberry Cream Cake at the ATK blog, and was very excited to try it.

Finding a Recipe

I loved the appearance of the ATK cake, but wasn't interested in their recipe. I'm not a fan of the very eggy genoise. Also, they stabilize the whipped cream with cream cheese, which sounds kinda fishy.

I wanted to try Shirley Corriher's Magnificent Moist Golden Cake from BakeWise. There's a good adaptation of the recipe at Cookie Madness, though I got the book from the library and worked from that. While you're there, Anna at Cookie Madness has an awesomely dorky post on All Yellow Cakes Compared.

This is an amazing cake. It goes beyond moist, all the way into damp. But this is not a perfect recipe. I ended up making it twice (you'll read why in a minute) and both times it overflowed the pan onto my baking stone. Also it calls for heavy cream, which I don't usually keep around. But the flavor is accurately Magnificent.

The recipe uses the unusual dissolved-sugar mixing method. The second time I made the cake went easier, so I'm going to write about that one.

Baking the Cake

I started by whisking the cake flour and baking powder, then set them aside. I put the sugar in the mixer bowl, then mixed in 1/3 cup simmering water (I just brought a small pot of water to simmer then measured out 1/3 cup). I then stirred in the butter (in pieces), artificial vanilla extract (I save the real stuff for icings and custards), salt, and vegetable oil. You can see a little unmelted butter in the picture below.

Sugar, water, butter, vanilla, salt, and oil
I mixed in the flour at low speed in three batches.

After stirring in the flour
Now working with a wooden spoon, I stirred in 3 yolks and 2 eggs one by one. Finally I folded in 1/3 cup heavy cream whipped to soft peaks. Experience told me that my 6 quart KitchenAid has a very hard time whipping 1/3 cup of cream so I used my adorable Kuhn Rikon Rotary Egg Beater (about $20) and a glass 2-cup measure. It took seconds.

With eggs and whipped cream
Shirley instructs quite clearly to bake the whole batch in one 9 x 2-inch round pan. You can see how full it is; apparently I couldn't, or at least couldn't foresee the consequences.

Ready for the oven
Both time I baked the cake it overflowed the pan. This wasn't a total disaster, as my sons and I ate the cooked overflow.

This is the very first cake my seven year old son has liked. He usually considers cake a vehicle for frosting.

Here is the finished cake, which I left to cool overnight. I promised my son that I would cut the top off for us to eat the next day.

The baked cake
This is what the cake looked like in the morning. I tried to save the cake by cutting off the scarred top, but only got one good layer. So I remade the cake VERY quickly before church.

Cake after son
Shirley says that her cake can be cut into 3 layers. This is technically true, as I was able to do so with the uneaten cake, but the top layer was very thin. For my final assembly I used my three best layers, two from the new cake and one from the old.

Assembling The Cake

I layed out the three layers on baking racks and a cake round. I trimmed and bisected 2 pounds of strawberries, then arranged the most attractive pieces on the edges of the cake, macerating the remainder with sugar.

Edging with strawberries
I didn't like the idea of the puréed strawberries in the ATK cake, so my husband chopped them for me. (I have Rheumatiod Arthritis, and I can't cut up ingredients anymore.) I put the chopped strawberries in the middle of the cake.

The rest of the strawberries
On each layer, I piped a quick border of sweetened whipped cream with large Drop Flower Tip (2D), then glopped the rest of the cream in the middle. I used a small icing spatula to smooth the whipped cream.

With whipped cream
I assembled the cake after decorating. Never, ever do this. One of my layers broke in the transfer, and I was glad I had plenty of extra cake to patch it with (sorry Alison!).

I had saved my prettiest strawberry as a garnish. I used an instructional video at to learn how to cut a strawberry fan.

Have you had layers fall apart on you, or had a kid eat your cake in the middle of the night? How did you cope? Let me know in the comments.

As an aside, I recently read the 250 words is the sweet spot for a blog post (Food Blogging for Dummies). My posts are often around 1000 words. Should I trim it down, or split my posts? Did you even make it this far? :-)

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