Friday, February 7, 2014
Hello and happy Friday, people! I hope everyone has had a lovely week and is ready to start their weekend! I haven't had a chance to really put together any sort of concrete plans, due to the upcoming super duper mega snow storm that is supposedly going to hit at some point in the weekend. Given that there is a very strong chance that I'll be snowed in at some point, I've gone ahead and planned out a list of the things I want to bake during the weekend (what better way to spend a weekend where you're snowed in, right?). Most of the things I have on my list have chocolate and the colors red and pink involved in some way. While I typically tend to ignore the upcoming holiday that falls smack dab in the middle of February, aka exactly a week from today, I know that not everyone shares my Valentine's Day apathy. Before we jump to any conclusions, I'll set it straight that I am not bitter because I don't have a Valentine (I do, and I've had him for the past four years). I just feel like it's a silly excuse for a holiday. I don't really get what the magic or importance of Valentine's Day is, if there is even any at all. Regardless, with Valentine's Day there's always ridiculous amounts of mini fun size chocolate and pink M&M's (these are the best things ever), and perfect opportunities to make all things red velvet. Any holiday that comes with a promise for chocolate, pink M&M's, and red velvet cake means that it deserves at least some acknowledgement, right? I know I already have holiday edition candy in my kitchen cabinet, so it looks like I do celebrate the holiday, even if it's by myself in my kitchen.
Anyway, that was a lot of somewhat incoherent rambling (I apologize for this, but I'm running low on sleep). Since it turns out that I do celebrate Valentine's Day, at least in the food sense, and I know that lots of people out there also celebrate the occasion, I have to share a few themed treats, albeit subtle treats. This strawberry shortcake is one of those subtle treats. There's no chocolate, pink M&M's, or red velvet anywhere in this cake, but that doesn't matter. What this cake does have is a lot of love, and that's what counts, right? You see, this strawberry shortcake is THE cake and dessert that comes to mind when I think of my mama. My mom has had this recipe for strawberry shortcake since before I was born, and I've been eating it ever since I was old enough to eat cake (age two I guess?). My mom always made this cake during the summer, and since my birthday falls at the end of June, I celebrated many birthdays with a thick slice of strawberry shortcake. Despite being a major chocolate freak (this was my birthday cake last year, in case you need a refresher), I don't think I'll ever be able to say no to a slice of my mom's strawberry shortcake. It's so good that it's been requested dozens upon dozens of times, not just by me, but by my entire family as well. I think it goes without saying that this is my actual favorite cake of all time. There's just a lotta love and memories all rolled up in this cake.
I've seen my mom make this cake many times over the years, so I knew exactly how to make it before I even started. The only problem was that this was my first time actually making my mom's most famous cake by myself, and I felt a lot of pressure trying to create a cake that tasted as good as her's always does. On top of that, there's always that worry in the back of my mind when making a cake roll that the cake will crack as it gets rolled up. Fortunately, there was no cracked cake, and my attempt at my mom's strawberry shortcake was a major success. My mama approved! I guess there wasn't really any reason to fell pressured at all, considering how simple this cake is. Light, fluffy sponge cake, freshly whipped cream, and sliced strawberries...that's it. There's nothing crazy in this cake or over the top about it. It's so simple and its simplicity is what makes this cake completely and utterly perfect.
The sponge recipe is really simple to put together. All you need are 6 eggs, a little flour, a little sugar, and some vanilla extract. It's just a four-ingredient cake! Egg whites are beaten until they are light and fluffy and form stiff peaks. The yolks are then folded in, followed by sugar, flour, and the vanilla. The spongey batter is then poured and spread in a jelly roll pan and baked. Then, comes cake roll magic. The key to getting a perfect cake roll that won't crack is to roll it up immediately upon taking the cake out of the oven. It sounds a little counter-intuitive, but it always works. Simply dust a little powdered sugar over a clean tea towel and all over the surface of the cake as soon as it is removed from the oven. Then, immediately invert the cake onto the tea towel,and roll the cake up (starting on the short end) with the towel still inside the cake and let the cake cool completely. I like to think of this as an important molding process. By rolling the cake up while it's still warm, it's much more flexible and can be manipulated easily. Rolling the cake up with the tea towel allows you to then unroll the cake, fill it, and roll it back up when you're finished. Once you take care of this, you're golden! All it takes is a little whipped cream and a lot of sliced strawberries to finish off this sweet strawberry shortcake.
I don't think there's a dessert more special to me than this one (although my grandma's arroz con leche comes in at a close second). It's not just because of how delicious it is that makes it my favorite. It's a cake that I grew up eating, and one that my mom made time and time again. She'd always let me help her spread the whipped cream over the cake and carefully arrange the strawberries on top, and I remember that I never really understood why the cake had to be rolled up in a towel. It made no sense to me, but I didn't care. All that mattered was getting to enjoy a slice of my favorite dessert. With all the love in this cake, what better way to celebrate Valentine's Day, right? Enjoy!
my mama's recipe!
For the Sponge Cake
6 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
6 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
For the Whipped Cream
2 cups heavy cream
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the Strawberries
2 cups sliced strawberries
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F, and position a rack in the middle of the oven. Lightly spray a 10x15 inch sheet pan with baking spray and line with wax paper or parchment paper. You don't want an overhang, so just cut the paper to size.
In the bowl of a standard electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until stiff white peaks form, making sure not to over-beat. Gently fold in the egg yolks, one at a time, with a rubber spatula. Fold in the sugar in two additions, followed by the all purpose flour and vanilla extract. Be gentle as you fold in the ingredients, you don't want to deflate the egg whites! The batter will appear thick, yet very airy.
Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and use an offset spatula to gently spread the batter evenly across the pan and smooth the top. Firmly tap the baking sheet against your counter to eliminate any air bubbles that may have formed. Bake the cake for 12-13 minutes.
When the cake is nearly finished baking, lay a clean tea towel flat over your work surface, and sprinkle the surface with powdered sugar. When the cake has finished baking, loosen the cake from the pan by running a knife or offset spatula all around the sides of the pan. Sprinkle the whole top surface of the cake with powdered sugar, invert the cake onto the tea towel, and peel off the wax paper/parchment paper. Be sure to do this immediately upon removing the cake from the oven. Gently roll the cake onto itself along with the dish cloth, so that you have a cake roll. Let the cake cool completely.
While the cake is cooling, prepare the fillings. Make the whipped cream by whipping the heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla extract in the bowl of a standard electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until you have a stiff cream. Take care not to over-whip, otherwise you'll end up with sweet vanilla butter! Add the teaspoon of sugar to the sliced strawberries and toss to coat. Set aside.
Once the cake has cooled completely, it's time to assemble it. Simply unroll the cake and spread a layer of whipped cream over the top. Try not to spread whipped cream all the way to the end of the cake, so that it won't spill out when the cake is rolled up again.
Arrange the sliced strawberries on top of the whipped cream. Gently roll the cake up one more time. Use any remaining whipped cream (there should be some left) to cover up the outside ends of the cake. Store the cake in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Just before serving, sprinkle the top of the cake with powdered sugar. Cut into slices, serve, and enjoy!
Makes 1 cake roll