about bliss

Sunday, June 29, 2008

the best cake i've ever made...and no, it's not chocolate!

Yesterday I headed to a local farm to purchase peas and strawberries, and came home contemplating where I should take these foods...

The peas: I stir-fried them with green garlic, spring onions, yellow pepper, and tofu, and served over coconut bulgur. I bit into the fat shiny pea pod and realized these peas were meant to be out of the pod, as the pod was too fibrous to eat. I slipped the peas out of their jackets and enjoyed my dinner.

The coconut bulgur was an experiment--I was planning on making coconut brown rice but was too hungry to wait the obligatory 50 minutes for rice. The bulgur made a lovely substitution, and the leftovers made a delicious breakfast. I added walnuts, cinnamon, flax oil, maple syrup, and shredded coconut for a tasty alternative to my daily oatmeal.

But I digress. I promised cake...

The strawberries: so glossy and red, they are delicious eaten plain, but I was besotted with visions of a towering strawberry cream cake, all red and white and luscious. I pored over all my cookbooks and, as usual, settled on a recipe from the illustrious Dorie Greenspan, an aptly titled Party Cake. I read the recipe, called my friend B to see if she and her fam wanted to join me for cake on Sunday afternoon, and then strategized. I cut out parchment circles for my cake pans, read over the recipe, and went to bed with visions of berry goodness dancing in my head...

After enjoying the aforementioned bulgur for breakfast, I walked to the closest thing to a market, a Kwik Trip gas station to buy a tiny bottle of whole milk (for the cake) and a Sunday Chicago Trib. I brewed a mug of strong coffee and tied on my summer apron, and I was ready.

The cake is fairly simply to make, and in no time the layers were baking, and I was slicing berries into a sauce pan to make a quick jam. This was good practice for my upcoming BerryJam 08, in which I will can 8-12 jars of strawberry jam to carry me through a year without fresh, local berries. The cake was golden, the jam bubbling, as I made not one but two types of frosting, following Dorie's suggestions for playing around. I made a simple vanilla buttercream (the kind without eggs) and a mock creme fraiche (whipped cream + greek yogurt).

As the layers and jam cooled I pressed my new vintage hostess apron, which features a red sash and a charming strawberry print. I carefully assembled the cake, slicing the layers horizontal to make a four layer cake, and spreading jam and buttercream between each layer (they ended up blending all into one). I enrobed the cake with the mock creme fraiche and then carefully arranged strawberry halves in concentric circles on top of the cake like so many sparkling rubies. A final berry in the middle of the cake was framed with mint leaves. Ahhh. I traded my "work" apron for my berry apron and relaxed.

I took about 5 pictures of my masterpiece, but since my camera is antiquated (i.e. 1999), you will have to wait for pics. The cake had just enough time to set before my guests arrived. What joy to share a cool, overcast summer Sunday with good friends and delicious cake! Perhaps a new tradition is in order? I think back to my great grandma, Cookie Grandma, who entertained the family every Sunday after church. I don't know if I could make such a treat every week, but maybe once a month we could gather for our own version of food, fellowship, and faith.

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