Pastry Affair turned five years old earlier this week—an unimaginable milestone when I started this blog so long ago. Originally a place to let out a little creative energy, it has grown and flourished into so much more. This space stayed a constant when my life was going through the many and tumultuous changes of growing up and finding a place in this world. I hope it continues to be one for plenty of years to come. Thank you for accompanying me on this journey, dear friend, and following along wherever it may lead.
I celebrated this anniversary earlier this spring by upgrading my camera from an entry level DSLR to a professional model. I am still learning how to use it (the purpose of many of the buttons remains a mystery), but it is my new summer project. During Pastry Affair's 4th anniversary, I shared that I had been struggling with blogging, losing the motivation to continue in light of my new career as a high school teacher. It took a few months of healing and letting go of my ideas of perfection, but Pastry Affair found its way back into my heart. It feels right.
The past week was not only a big week for Pastry Affair, but it was also the start of summer vacation (!) and my own 27th birthday (!!). Unlike my 25th birthday, when I despaired that my childhood was over, I felt ready to embrace this new age. I have never been more of an adult than I have in this past year, both in mannerisms and responsibilities, but I still feel as if I have a hold on youth. There is a quote that I adore from Leo Rosten that expresses this well:
O, to be sure, we laugh less and play less and wear uncomfortable disguises like adults, but beneath the costume is the child we always are, whose needs are simple, whose daily life is still best described by fairy tales.
With summer upon me (and three glorious months to call my own), perhaps this disguise will disappear for a moment while I take on a few new adventures of my own.
It is well documented that my personal favorite celebration cake is a Berry Topped Angel Food Cake. With this particular cake and culinary spirit in mind, I fashioned this strawberry layer cake for Pastry Affair's special day. A simple vanilla cake is surrounded by a strawberry infused swiss meringue buttercream, but the taste is something straight from heaven. The "naked" cake is one of my favorite trends because it is so easy to recreate. The frosting is not supposed to be perfect or fully cover the sides, which means that there are very few ways to get this wrong. If you are a bit inexperienced at cake decoration, this style is definitely for you.
The recipe is designed to create a full-sized three layer cake, so save this for a memorable event when you have eager mouths to please.
Strawberry Layer Cake expands on the idea of strawberries and cream by turning it into a multi-layer masterpiece. My classic vanilla cake recipe has been rewritten for a tall three layer cake. The cake is surrounded with a vanilla swiss meringue buttercream interspersed with fresh strawberries. The recipe may appear extensive at first glance, but do not let this deter you. If you have made cake and frosting before, this cake will be no more difficult nor take you a greater length of time.
One Year Ago: Berry Topped Angel Food Cake
Two Years Ago: White Chocolate Espresso Cake, Pineapple Jam, and Vanilla Chia Pudding
Three Years Ago: Mocha Granola, Multigrain Bread, Blueberry Lemon Crumble, and Vanilla Cupcakes
Four Years Ago: Strawberry Rhubarb Lemonade, Citrus Roasted Rhubarb, and Roasted Cherry Brownies
Five Years Ago: Chocolate Coconut Granola, Sour Cream Sugar Cookies, and Lemon Tarts
Strawberry Layer Cake
Yields 3 layer 8 or 9-inch cake*
3/4 cup (170 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 1/2 cups (560 grams) granulated sugar
5 large eggs
1 cup (240 grams) sour cream (or plain, non-fat yogurt)
2/3 cup (150 grams) olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract
5 1/3 cups (600 grams) cake flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 cups (480 ml) milk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Grease 8 or 9-inch cake pans and set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the sour cream, olive oil, and vanilla extract. Gradually add in the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in three additions, alternating with the milk, stirring until batter is uniform and smooth.
Divide batter evenly between cake pans. Keep in mind that the cake layers will be relatively tall. Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow to cool to room temperature before frosting.
Vanilla Strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream
Heavily adapted from Sweetapolita
5 large egg whites (150 g)
1 1/4 cups (250 grams) granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups (340 grams) butter
Seeds from 1 vanilla bean (or 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 pound (225 grams) fresh strawberries, cored and sliced
Using a sharp knife, cube the butter and set aside. While making the frosting, the butter will warm up slightly, but should still be cool to the touch when using it.
Wipe a large bowl with a paper towel soaked in a small amount of lemon juice or vinegar to remove traces of grease. Add egg whites and sugar and, over a double boiler, whisk constantly over hot water until the sugar dissolves. When rubbed between your fingers, the egg whites should feel hot and smooth (approximately a temperature of 140 degrees F/60 degrees C). This will generally take 3-5 minutes.
Using a mixer, whip the egg whites until thick, glossy peaks form. This may take anywhere from 8-10 minutes. The bottom of the bowl should feel neutral to the touch before moving on to the next step.
Place the mixer on low speed and add the cool butter cubes one at a time, mixing until smooth. The frosting should reach a silky texture. Beat in the vanilla bean seeds. If the butter is too warm and the frosting is too runny, place in the refrigerator for approximately 15 minutes to firm up the butter before mixing again. If the mixture curdles, continue mixing until it comes back together.
To assemble, reserve approximately 1 1/2 cups of frosting to use later. Mix a majority of the sliced strawberries in the remaining frosting, reserving a handful for decoration.
Place the bottom cake layer on a serving plate. Place approximately 2 cups of strawberry filled frosting on the cake and smooth evenly. Add the second layer of cake and repeat. Place the final layer on top and, using the reserved frosting, smooth frosting onto the top and sides of the cake to fill in any gaps. If there are bare areas showing between the cake layers, push reserved strawberry slices into the frosting and smooth out with an uneven spatula.
Top with halved strawberries and serve.
* A 3 layer 8-inch cake will not use all of the batter so you will have enough leftover batter to create a few cupcakes. If baking 9-inch cakes, you will likely use all of the batter in the creation of the cake.