A cake takes a lot out of me. It requires planning ahead: the softening of butter, the warming of eggs, the buying of ingredients. Often, I realize I am low on sugar, or an egg too short, once I have already started the mixer. Somehow, I always manage to dirty every utensil in the kitchen. There will be batter in the mixer, buttercream on the food processor blade, a be-crumbed knife I have used to level the cakes, a spatula or two or three here, a frosting covered bench knife there.
Occasionally, flour bags upend themselves on me. My apron can be freshly warm from the wash or speckled with ganache, but it wouldn’t matter; it is perpetually white, a flour covered testament to my efforts.
A cake is a tiring, full day affair. But I continue to bake; cake after cake emerges from my oven. And some are worse for the wear and some are beauty queens, but I forge on because I have realized: nothing shows love like cake does. Nothing shows commitment like cake does. And nothing is as celebratory as a slice of cake.
This one is a beauty queen, I would say. The belle of the ball. It is a classic sponge cake: it gets a bit of assistance from baking powder and soda, but mostly its height is due to eggs, with the whipped whites lending loft and fluffy texture. Cake flour keeps the cake soft and oil adds richness while allowing the cake to stay moist at room temperature, something butter, for all its magic, cannot always do.
Once the cake is taken care of (and it must be taken care of, carefully- whip the eggs wrong and all your work is for naught) the filling is easy. A lightly sweetened whipped cream is sandwiched between the cooled cake layers and topped with fresh berries. They are a dream team, berries and cream, and they are very at home on top of cake. This is good. They are always invited.
This is a cake for the season, for the beginning of Spring, for the budding of the trees, for the reappearance of life in the earth. The light layers and cream make it garden party appropriate, the flowers- Juliet roses, ranunculus, unsprayed- take it from spring and summer chic to Shavuot table worthy and the cake, both simple and delicious, appeals to young and sophisticated tastebuds alike.
Cake takes time. Sometimes it is homely, sometimes it is beautiful, but always it is love. And that is, I think, what it is all about.
PS: Watch me make this cake HERE! ♥
Yield: one 8″ four layer cake, serving 8-10
Why I love this recipe: eggs and oil give this cake richness and its signature yellow color and cake flour ensures it’s soft and sponge-y. The summery filling of cold whipped cream and sweet, tart, colorful berries is beautiful and delicious and the romantic flower topping elevates this cake from simple summer afternoon treat to bona-fide showstopper.
Notes: when mixing in the dry ingredients and then adding in the wet, take care not to deflate the eggs, which give the batter lift and structure. Mix thoroughly but gently, taking care not to leave oily or floury streaks in the batter. Let the cake cool sufficiently before assembling, or the whipped cream may melt. Choose berries that are fresh and seasonal, and when picking flowers, make sure they are organic and unsprayed, so you don’t end up ingesting harmful pesticides and chemicals. This cake is best shortly or after assemblage, or on the same day.
For the Sponge Cake:
- 1 1/4 cup cake flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 6 whole eggs
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoon lemon juice
- 3/4 cup canola oil
For the whipped cream:
- 3 cups heavy cream, chilled
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
For the berries and flowers:
- 4 cups mixed berries, washed and dried
- a selection of unsprayed romantic, pink and pale flowers and leaves (ranunculus, peonies, ivy leaves, garden roses)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 8-inch cake pans and set aside.
- Whisk together the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the whole eggs, egg yolks, sugar, and vanilla. Using the whisk attachment, beat on high for about 5 minutes or until the batter resembles pale ribbons.
- Stop the mixing and remove the mixing bowl form the stand. Sift the dry ingredients over the top of the batter. Whisk gently by hand until just barely combined.
- Pour in the lemon juice and oil and whisk by hand until combined (taking care to not deflate the batter as much as possible).
- Evenly distribute the batter between the two pans and bake for about 35 to 38 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
- Meanwhile, work on the berries and cream. Thinly slice some strawberries and some blackberries in half. Now, whip the cream.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the cream on medium-high until it begins to thicken slightly.
- Gradually add in the sugar and vanilla and bump mixer up to high.
- Continue to whip the cream until medium-soft peaks are achieved.
- Remove the cakes from the oven when they are baked. Let cool on a wire rack before removing the cakes from their pans.
- Once the cakes have cooled, carefully slice them in half (horizontally) using a long serrated knife.
- Now, assemble the cake: place a bottom layer of cake on a cake plate or serving dish. Spread on 1/4 of the whipped cream.
- Top the cream with the mixed berries. Top with the next layer of cake and repeat until all cake layers are used.
- On the very top of the cake, spread on the remaining whipped cream. Top with berries on one side and arrange flowers artfully on the other side. Decorate the sides with ivy leaves and a few rogue berries, if desired. Serve.