Monday, June 20, 2016

Strawberry Sheet Cake

I had house guests this past weekend. When I was thinking about a dessert, I had berries on the brain. And when I found beautiful strawberries at the store, I knew what I would do—sort of. I envisioned a cake piled with strawberries. In my mind, it seemed fabulous.

But when I came home and started looking through recipes, I couldn't find exactly what I had imagined. So I used a recipe I knew I liked for the cake part. But as I started the strawberry part, I ran into some dilemmas.

I didn't want the heaping strawberries on top to fall off when the cake was cut. Easy enough. I could use corn starch or gelatin to hold them in place. But I didn't want it to be like strawberry jello on top of the cake, either. At this point I wondered why I do this to myself. I could have just settled for a standard recipe. But I forged ahead.

I cut half of the strawberries into small pieces so they would fill in between the larger pieces. Then, because I didn't want it to be like jello, I used corn starch to thicken the structure. But it dawned on me that cornstarch would not give them that beautiful glistening top that was in the image in my mind. There were a few alternatives on that one, but I decided to do something daring—I added one packet of gelatin to the strawberries. Like magic, it immediately made them glisten! Yay!

Now there is one drawback to my gelatin solution. The pretty glaze disappears around day three. It's a big cake, but you won't have much left by day three anyway, and the not-so-shiny leftovers taste every bit as good!

Strawberry Sheet Cake
2 1/4 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon mace
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter at room temperature or softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs at room temperature
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour a 9x13 baking pan.
Combine flour, baking powder, salt, and mace in a bowl and set aside. 
Cream the butter with the sugar. Beat in each egg. Alternate adding the flour mixture and the milk and vanilla. Bake 25 - 30 minutes. It should be lightly golden on top and a cake tester should come out clean. While it bakes, prepare the strawberries.
2 pounds strawberries (divided)
2 cups sugar (divided)
1/3 cup corn starch
1 1-ounce packet unflavored gelatin
Hull and slice 1 pound of the strawberries. Slice in quarters and then slice into pieces from the end to the top. Combine with 1 cup of the sugar in a pot and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly for about five minutes. Remove 1/2 cup of the liquid by draining or spooning. While the cake is still warm, poke holes into it with a wooden skewer. Pour 1/4 cup of the liquid over it slowly (if you do it too fast it will run off to the sides).
Hull and slice the remaining pound of strawberries.  Quarter large strawberries and half the small ones. Add them to the berries in the pot, along with the remaining 1 cup of sugar and cornstarch. Stir to combine. Cook one minute while stirring. Whisk gelatin into the remaining 1/4 cup of berry liquid and add to the pot. Stir to cover everything. Pour all the strawberries and juice onto the cake. If you like, turn the strawberries so the curved side is up. Refrigerate several hours before serving.

1 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Beat the cream until it begins to take shape. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla. Beat until it holds a soft peak.

Bake cake.

Chop 1 pound strawberries. Halve, quarter, slice.

Cook with sugar.

Poke some holes and add 1/4 cup of the juice.

Not glossy!
Whisk gelatin into 1/4 cup juice.

Now they're glossy!

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