My husband and I agree that homemade birthday cakes are preferable to those from a bakery. (Actually, that probably holds true for any occasion.) Anybody can buy a cake, but somebody really loves you if they’re spending hours in the kitchen to bake you something special!
This year, Naoki requested a “strawberry shortcake.” I knew this didn’t mean the traditional split biscuit with cream and berries. That would be too simple! He’s second-generation Japanese, so strawberry shortcake meant a vanilla sponge cake with strawberry filling and whipped cream frosting.
Fun Fact Interruption: My mother-in-law randomly mentioned once that the Japanese celebrate Christmas by serving this cake along with Southern fried chicken. Strange, huh? I didn’t believe her either. Turns out this myth is confirmed. Never second-guess the MIL.
Leave it to my dear hubby to issue my biggest baking challenge to date. I’d never baked a layer cake before, nor a sponge cake–much less a Japanese Strawberry Shortcake! I scoured the internet, poured over my trusted copy of Baking Illustrated, and finally decided on the following adapted recipes:
JAPANESE STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE
- Make whipped cream frosting (recipe below).
- Bake genoise (recipe below).
- While genoise cools, make strawberry filling (recipe below).
- Level and split genoise.
- Brush 1/4C syrup from strawberry filling onto bottom layer. Spread 1/2C frosting on top. Cover with glazed strawberries. Spread 1/2C frosting on top.
- Brush 1/4C syrup onto middle layer. Invert over cake. Brush another 1/4C syrup on top. Repeat frosting and filling as above.
- Brush 1/4C syrup onto final layer. Invert over cake.
- Frost the cake with remaining cream. Decorate with piping and combing if desired. Garnish with reserved strawberries.
WHIPPED CREAM FROSTING RECIPE
3C chilled heavy cream
1 1/2t vanilla extract
- Blend sugar and cornstarch in a saucepan. Stir in 1/2C of cream.
- Stirring constantly, bring to a boil over medium heat. Simmer briefly until the mixture thickens. Set aside to cool to room temp.
- In mixing bowl, beat remaining cream and vanilla on low speed until bubbles form. Add cornstarch mixture and beat on medium speed until soft peaks form. Cover and chill in fridge until needed.
1C all-purpose flour
1t vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 350. Line bottom of a 9″ springform pan with parchment paper.
- Melt butter in a saucepan over low heat. Set aside.
- Blend flour and salt together in a bowl. Set aside.
- Whisk eggs and sugar in a mixing bowl. Place the bowl over a saucepan of barely simmering water, whisking constantly until the mixture reaches 110 degrees. Remove from heat.
- Beat at medium-high speed until the eggs are pale and fluffy (~6 mins). Beat in vanilla.
- Stir 1C of the batter into the melted butter. Set aside.
- On low speed, blend the flour mixture into the batter. Fold the butter mixture back into the batter.
- Gently pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until the cake springs back when pressed lightly (~35 mins). Cool completely on a wire rack. Run a blade around the inside of the pan to loosen the cake, and remove.
STRAWBERRY FILLING RECIPE
3lbs strawberries, halved or sliced
1C strawberry jam
2T lemon juice
- Toss berries, sugar, and salt in a bowl. Let stand until berries have released juice and dissolved sugar.
- Puree jam in blender until smooth. Stirring frequently, bring jam to a simmer over medium-high heat until color darkens. Stir in lemon juice. Pour over strawberry mixture and combine until berries are well coated.
- Drain berries, but reserve 2C of syrup to soak cake.
- Remove and reserve some slices for garnish.
Verdict: Everyboy at the party raved over the cake, but I’m my own harshest critic so here are some notes to self and to others who attempt this:
- The frosting is very easy to overwhip (as I did!) so go slowly.
- There were some flaws in structural integrity while serving the cake, so next time I’ll probably use strawberry slices instead of strawberry halves.
- Finally, the flavor would probably have improved had there been time for the syrup to soak into the cake so plan ahead. Bake and assemble 1 day prior to serving, and let chill in the fridge.