Nifty Cake: Buttermilk Cake with Strawberries, Peaches and Whipped Cream
My dad has been front and center in my thoughts these past few weeks. His forward presence came around for no other reason than it is strawberry season. Dad loved strawberries, and in particular strawberries and cream. I can clearly see him sitting at the head of the table with a bowl of strawberries, pouring heavy cream all over them. Sometimes ice cream would be included in that mix, and maybe a sprinkle of sugar. If strawberries were in the house, this was his impromptu dessert.
I would watch his strawberry and cream routine with a raised eyebrow and a sideways smirk, “Really Dad? You’re drinking heavy cream.” I could not see how heavy cream, even adorned with strawberries, could be worthy of such attention, whipped cream yes, but cream straight out of the container was gross. Ignoring my smirky adolescent attitude, Dad would dive into his bowl of strawberries and cream like a seasoned athlete, ever so focused and determined to not miss a single drop. Eventually he would look up and seeing me say, “What? Its great. Do you want some?” He was always eager to share the things that brought him joy.
It amazes me how random and small instances, or thoughts, can bring out strong emotions and memories. Once the strawberry trigger hit me, memories of my life with dad filled me with his spirit, and it hasn’t left. I am not sad with these memories, it is nice to feel his presence since I can no longer see or talk with him. He gave me many gifts over 40 years of my life, and I am very grateful to have had them with him.
Dad and I shared many wonders and interests. One in particular is still very prominent in my life. He gave me my first photography lesson. I can’t remember if I initiated it or not, but when I was around 12 years old he took me out to the dry grassy hills above Old St. Hilary Church and taught me how to use his Tele-Rollei camera and his light meter. 35 mm cameras were not yet the norm and nothing was automatic in a 120 mm camera so each photograph took extra time to set up and take.
My introduction to photography was taking pictures of wildflowers along the hillside, one of dad’s favorite photographic subjects. That day is as clear to me like the bright California summer day it was. He was patient and after his initial instructions about the camera, lenses and meter, let me wander around the hillside taking pictures as he looked on. I recently found those pictures I took that day. He saved them with his slides and categorized them as, “Jennifer’s Pictures.” I was so touched to see them included in his slide collection. Ever since that day on the Tiburon hills, photography has been a significant part of my life. Thanks Dad.
When I was in middle school I started making birthday cakes for my family. I would ask my brothers what cake they wanted and set out to bake it for them. For Dad’s birthday I did not ask him what he wanted, I knew. I created a cake overflowing with his favorite foods: yellow butter cake (from a mix), layered with strawberries, peaches and whipped cream frosting. My first “original” cake. I piled the middle layer with whipped cream and fruit, then frosted the entire cake again with whipped cream and piled on more strawberries and peaches. It is a miracle the cake did not topple over. This cake was a strawberry, peach and cream lover’s dream cake and I made it for him every year until I went away to college.
Dad used the expression, “nifty” when he was describing something fun, so in honor of him and his would be 93rd birthday this week, I have recreated dad’s birthday cake and I am calling it Nifty Cake. It has been a lot of fun figuring out the type of cake to make, no box mixes here. I decided to keep it simple and as close to the original as possible.
This buttermilk cake with strawberries, peaches and sweetened whipped cream can be dressed up or kept simply adorned. If you are a cake person that does not like frosting, this is the cake for you. A delicate cake with a slight tang and prominent butter flavor, that is delicious all by itself as it is with any type of frosting. This cake is a blank canvas for endless toppings and fruit sides.
For the strawberries and cream lover in your life. Happy Birthday Dad.
Nifty Cake: Buttermilk Cake with Strawberries, Peaches and Whipped Cream
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Nifty Cake is a buttermilk cake with strawberries, peaches and sweetened whipped cream. It is a delicious and simple cake that is appropriate for any occasion. Bring it on a picnic or make for a special occasion. The buttermilk cake can easily be eaten plain with the whipped cream and fruit on the side. It is the perfect cake for those who do not like frosting, as well as be served with any variety of frosting you wish.
The buttermilk cake recipe was slightly adapted from Rose Levy Bernbaum recipe, "Buttermilk Country Cake" in "The Cake Bible Cookbook".
4 large egg yokes
2/3 cup/ 5.5 oz/ 160 g buttermilk
1/2 tea pure vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups plus 2 Tbls/ 7 oz/ 200 grams sifted all purpose flour (see note)
1 cup/ 7 oz/ 200 g sugar
1 Tbl/ 15 g baking powder
1/2 tea/ 3.5 g Kosher salt
8 Tbl/ 4 oz/ 113 g unsalted butter - softened
8 oz Fresh Strawberries
1/2 Fresh Peach
1/3 cup best quality strawberry or peach jam
Whipped Cream Frosting
2 cups/ 16 oz/ 500 ml heavy cream
1 1/2 tea pure vanilla extract
2-3 tea sugar
You will have more success if all of your ingredients are at room temperature when you begin mixing the cake batter.
Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit /175 degrees Celsius/ Gas Mark 4
Butter the bottom and sides of a 9 inch spring form cake pan. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper, then butter the paper. Lightly flour the bottom and sides of the cake pan. Shake out excess flour.
In a medium bowl lightly mix together the egg yolks, 1/4 of the buttermilk, and vanilla.
In a mixing bowl of a stand mixer add the sifted flour, sugar, baking powder and salt and mix together for a few seconds on low speed so they are all fully blended. Add the butter, cut up in tablespoons pieces, and the remaining buttermilk to the mix. Mix the ingredients together on low speed until the dry ingredients are incorporated with the butter. Increase the speed to medium and beat for 1.5 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and scrape the batter off the paddle/beaters.
Add the buttermilk/egg mixture to the flour in 3 intervals, beating the batter for 20 seconds between each addition. After mixing the batter, scrape down the sides of the bowl and paddle attachment.
Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and smooth out the surface with an offset spatula. Bake the cake for 30-40 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean and dry.
Take the cake out of the oven and let it cool for 10 minutes in its pan on a cooling rack. Run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the cake from the sides. Turn the cake out of the pan and remove the parchment paper from the bottom of the cake. Turn the cake over, right side up, and place on the cooling rack. The cake should be completely cooled before frosting and serving.
This cake is best eaten the same day it is made but will last, wrapped airtight in plastic wrap, for 3 days on the counter, 5 days in the refrigerator, and for 2 months in the freezer.
Clean and remove the stems from the strawberries. Dry with paper towels. Cut the strawberries into bite size pieces and put into a small bowl..
Peal the skin off of the half of the peach, then slice into thin segments. Cut each segment into bite size pieces and add to the bowl with the strawberries. Gently mix the fruit together until well combined. Set aside.
Chill the bowl you will use to make whipped cream and the beaters in the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes.
Take the bowl and beaters out of the freezer and add cold heavy cream and vanilla to the chilled bowl. Beat the cream mixture on high speed until the cream forms soft peaks. Add the sugar and beat on high until stiff peaks are formed when the beaters are lifted from the cream.Be careful not to over mix and turn the cream into butter. If you are planning on frosting the cake with the cream you will want the stiff peaks. If you are planning to have the whipped cream only for the middle and top cake layers the whipped cream can be softer and not whipped as stiff.
Putting the cake together
Divide the cake in half horizontally to make two layers. (See Note) Put the bottom layer on a serving plate and the top layer on another plate or rimless pan or tray. (Cardboard cake rounds are perfect if you have them)
Evenly spread the strawberry or peach jam across the top of the bottom cake layer. Spread 1 cup of the whipped cream evenly across the the jam.
Add the mixed fruit and spread the fruit, press it evenly into the cream so that there is a flat and smooth fruit/cream layer.
Slide the top cake layer on top of the bottom cake layer, lining up the notches on the side. Add the remaining whipped cream and spread over the top of the cake. Decorate the cake with additional peaches and strawberries as you wish.
The cake is best served the same day it is made. Add the fruit and whipped cream to the cake as close to serving time as comfortable. Store the cake in the refrigerator, loosely wrapped with plastic wrap until ready to serve. Take the cake out of the refrigerator 15 minutes before serving.
After 24 hours the cake will get soggy and the whipped cream will loosen.
I find I have more consistent results when I weight my dry ingredients whenever I bake. The original recipe was calculated using cake flour. I decided to use all purpose flour because the cake made with cake flour was very delicate and did not hold together well. 200 grams of cake flour is about 2 cups of cake flour. 200 grams of all purpose flour is shy of two cups of flour. You do not want to add a full 2 cups of all purpose flour, or the cake will be too dry. If you switch up any flours or dry ingredients it is always better to follow the weight vs the volume measurement for accuracy.
There are many different ways to slice cake layers in half horizontally and different tools you could buy. I cut cake layers using a ruler, toothpicks and a long serrated knife. I am not brave enough to cut it in half without a guide. First, cut a small vertical mark on the side of the cake. This mark will be your guide to evenly line up your layers. Measure with a ruler the middle point around the circumference of the cake, inserting a toothpick every 3 inches all the way around.the side of the cake. Put one hand gently on top of the cake with the other hand working the knife. Place the middle of a long serrated knife against the top of the toothpicks and make and cut, or score, around the circumference of the cake. Use the hand on the cake to turn the cake as you cut. Continue to cut in a circle around the edge of the cake, focusing your eye on the tip end of the knife. It helps keeping the knife level. Cut your way around the cake, gradually cutting toward the middle and then all the way through.