It turns out for the past half century I missed out on a special dessert. I recently learned this dessert originated in Oregon in the 60’s, then variations developed all over California. I was there. How did I, or anyone in my family or friends, not know about this? If it was hot in Eureka, it was hot in San Francisco. Despite the gravitational pull of anything pink had on me then, this popular and pink dessert slipped by unnoticed. Pink Champagne Cake was a popular dessert in the 60’s but I believe a resurgence is in order. It is a beautiful tower of pale pink cake and buttercream, flavored with pink champagne.
I first discovered it in a cookbook,American Cakeby Anne Byrn. My thoughtful sister gave me this book because she knows how much I like to research the history and story behind the food I make. It is a great cookbook about the history of cakes in America with recipes from the 17th century to present time. Pictured right on the cover is a beautiful pink cake garnished with white chocolate and bright pink rose petals. It is a true sight of beauty and elegance. Apparently, as Anne Byrn explained, pink champagne was a popular drink in the 60’s among hip California women. It also became a popular color from jewelry to shag carpets. This cake was created to ride the Pink Champagne trend. I love seeing how food culture and popular culture connect and influence each other.
Pink champagne cake is the first recipe I have made from this book and it is an unexpected winner. I was not sure how it would taste, but the subtle flavors balance with the light texture. The cake is moist and made with egg whites, like a chiffon cake, but is slightly denser because of the butter. The frosting is very sweet, and even though it is a buttercream Confectioners sugar is the dominant ingredient. There are several types of buttercreams and this recipe I consider is an American buttercream. They usually are not as smooth as European buttercreams and have a lot more sugar.
I made pink champagne cake twice, first as written, and the second time with a different buttercream. American buttercream is not my favorite frosting. They tend to be too sweet and slightly gritty from all the powdered sugar. Instead, I used a recipe from Rose Levy Beranbaumcookbook, The Cake Bible. Her buttercream recipe is light, silky smooth, not as sweet, and very buttery. I thought the texture of this mousseline buttercream matched the light texture of the cake. I also added some strawberry purée because strawberry adds a little more depth to the pink champagne buttercream. This is an American cake, but the European buttercream is a lot nicer and more elegant than the American one. Anne Byrn shared her recipe on Food 52 if you want to see her original.
One downside, the mousseline buttercream is not an easy frosting for a beginner to make. It helps to have a confident eye and hand that experience develops. There is always a first time. Be patient and give yourself plenty of time to make this. You will also need a candy thermometer, or a good instant read thermometer that goes up to 255˚F (124˚C). My version is somewhat of a production between the strawberry purée, buttercream, the cake, and all the layers. The original frosting is a lot easier to make.
If you want to bake this cake, but are unsure about making a European buttercream, make the original frosting from the recipe provided in the Food 52 link. However, taste as you add the sugar. The frosting is very sweet. When I made it, I cut back on the amount of sugar by two cups and I still thought it was too sweet. I added lemon juice and lemon zest to cut the sweetness.
The original recipe is a three layer cake. It is a beauty to look at, but I thought making six layers with strawberry mousseline buttercream would be a nice way to add more strawberry flavor throughout the cake. I am a little embarrassed by how uneven my layers came out. I have not had this issue before. In the past my measure and marking technique has been successful in creating even layers. I believe the cakes were more domed shaped than I realized. I do work hard to be consistent. However, wouldn’t you know the one time I am documenting my work for reference and prosperity, it does not turn out the way I want it to. As I always say, “This is how you know it is homemade. It is perfect in its’ imperfections.”
Springtime is the beginning of a lot of special occasions, and Spring is one of them. After a long winter who doesn’t want to come out and celebrate the new season’s emerging life. No more dormancy and short days. Life is blooming all around and that alone is worth celebrating. It is also the beginning of Easter, Passover, more birthdays, graduations, bridal showers, baby showers, bachelorette parties, weddings, and anniversaries. Pink Champagne Cake is the perfect cake to make for these momentous occasions.
A special cake for any celebration. Pink champagne adds a light flavor to the cake and the buttercream for a very delicate party cake. Strawberries and white chocolate complement the delicate champagne flavor to make the cake shine. Pink champagne cake was popular in California during the 1960’s.
Best eaten the day the day it is made and assembled, but will last for a couple of days unrefrigerated.
This cake recipe is from American Cake by Anne Byrn. The buttercream and strawberry puree recipes are slightly adapted from The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum. The amount of buttercream in my recipe will cover an 8 inch 6-layer cake, which is one and a half of the original recipe. Listed in the notes section, are the ingredient amounts if you want to make a 3-layer cake.
Three recipes make up this cake and the prep and cook times are listed in the instructions for each recipe. Give yourself plenty of time. All three recipes can be made in advance.
Butter and flour for preparing three 8-inch cake pans
3 cups / 348g cake flour*
1 Tbs / 16g baking powder
½ tsp Kosher salt
6 large egg whites, room temperature
1 cup / 250ml pink champagne, room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbs vegetable oil
2 cups / 447g granulated sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) / 226g unsalted butter, at room temperature
Pink food coloring*
20 oz / 567g frozen strawberries with no added sugar
2 tsp lemon juice
2-3 tsp granulated sugar (optional)
Pink Champagne Mousseline Buttercream
3 cups (6 sticks) 1 ½ lb / 680g unsalted butter, soften but still cool
1 ½ cups / 332g granulated sugar, divided
⅓ cup / 75 ml water
7 large egg whites, room temperature
¾ tsp + ⅛ tsp cream of tartar
3 fl oz / 90 ml / 5-7 Tbs pink champagne, room temperature
Finely grated zest from one lemon
Pink food coloring*
½ cup / 125 ml strawberry purée
Decorate with shaved white chocolate, or sliced strawberries, or grated coconut, or edible rose petals, or other candy garnishes
Strawberry Purée -Takes about 20 - 30 minutes to make, not including the defrosting time.
Start defrosting the strawberries the day before or first thing in the morning. They will take several hours for the strawberries to defrost and release their juice. Suspend a colander over a large mixing bowl. Add the frozen strawberries to the colander and let the strawberries thaw out and release their own juices. Occasionally press down on the strawberries to encourage the juices to release. You should get close to 1 1/4 cup juice.
In a small saucepan, pour in the strawberry juice and turn the heat to medium high. Reduce the juice to about 1/4 cup.
Purée the strawberry pulp in a food processor until smooth. There will be some texture because of the seeds, but you want it as smooth as you can.
When the strawberry juice is reduced add the strawberry puree and stir. Add the lemon juice and taste the strawberries. Depending on how tart or sweet the strawberries taste, add about 2 -3 teaspoons of granulated sugar. You will not want it very sweet because the buttercream will be sweet. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Pour the strawberry purée into a heat proof glass measuring cup. You should have about 1 ¼ cup. The purée can be stored in an airtight container for 10 days in the refrigerator, or frozen for up to one year.
Cake - Takes about 20 minutes to mix, about 25 minutes to bake, 40 minutes - 1 hour to cool
Place the oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350˚F/ 175˚C / Gas Mark 4
Prepare 3, 8-inch cake pans. Cut a circle of parchment paper for each pan, large enough to fit inside your cake tins. Lightly butter the bottom and sides of each pan, then coat with a light dusting of cake flour around the sides and bottom. Tap the pan against the counter to release any excess flour. Discard the excess flour. Place the parchment paper circles inside each cake tin. Set aside.
Place the flour, baking powder, and Kosher salt inside a medium size bowl. Mix the flour mixture with a wire whisk to get all the ingredients thoroughly mixed together. Set aside.
Place the egg whites, champagne, vanilla and oil in a medium mixing bowl and whisk together until thoroughly mixed through. Set aside.
Put granulated sugar and butter in a bowl of a stand mixer, or large bowl if using a handheld mixer. Mix on medium speed until lighter and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes.
Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl with a rubber spatula.
Turn the speed on low and add a portion of the flour to the butter, and mix. Then add a portion of the egg whites to the bowl and mix. With the beater on, alternate adding the flour and the egg whites to the butter, ending with the flour.
Turn off the mixer and stir in one tiny drop of pink food coloring. Stir by hand until all mixed through.
Divide the batter evenly between the three prepared cake pans.
Place all three pans in the oven on the center rack and bake until the cake is lightly golden brown, the cake has pulled away from the sides of the pans, and a cake tester comes out clean when poked in the center of each cake. About 23-27 minutes. Be careful not to overbake the cakes. The cakes will taste dry if they are overbaked.
Place the cakes in the pan on cooling racks and cool for 10 minutes. After the cakes have cooled for 10 minutes, run a knife around the edge of each cake pan to loosen the cakes. Turn the cake upside down resting the top of the cake in one hand, and pull the pan away. Carefully peel off the parchment paper and place the cake right side up on the cooling rack. Repeat for the remaining cakes. Cool completely before frosting. Can be made in advance. Wrap each cake tightly with plastic wrap and store on the counter for 1 day.
Pink Champagne Buttercream- Takes about 20 to 30 minutes to make.
In a large mixing bowl beat the butter with a hand-held mixer until smooth. Set aside away from any heat source.
Place a heatproof glass measuring cup to the side next to the stove where you will be working. In a small heavy saucepan heat 1 cup plus 3 Tbs sugar and 3/8 of a cup (90 ml) of water over medium high heat. Stir the sugar in the water until it is completely dissolved and the liquid is bubbly. Reduce the heat to the lowest setting. (If using an electric range turn off the heat and set the saucepan aside).
In a large mixing bowl of a stand mixer, beat the egg whites until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and beat until the egg whites form soft peaks. Add the remaining sugar, one tablespoon at a time to the egg whites, and beat on high speed until stiff peaks form. Turn off the mixer and return your attention back to the sugar syrup.
Turn the heat up to high and boil the sugar syrup until it reaches the temperature of 248˚F - 250˚F (120˚C) using a candy thermometer or an instant read thermometer. Pour the syrup into the heatproof glass measuring cup to stop the cooking.
Return to the egg whites and turn the speed up to high speed. If using a handheld mixer, slowly drizzle the syrup into the egg whites without the syrup touching the beaters. If you are using a stand mixer, turn the speed off, add a little of the syrup, then turn the speed up to high and beat for 5 seconds and stop. Repeat the process until the syrup is added into the egg whites, scraping the clinging syrup with a rubber spatula to get every drop. If you get the syrup on the whisk or beaters, the syrup will just spray over the sides of the bowl and not mix into the egg whites. Once all the syrup is added, turn the speed down to medium and beat for a couple of minutes to cool the whipped egg whites.
On low speed, beat in the whipped butter into the cool egg whites, one tablespoon at a time. The buttercream will look thin at first, but it will eventually thicken up. If at any time the buttercream starts to look curdled, stop adding butter and turn the speed up a little. Beat until smooth. Once smooth, continue to add the butter one tablespoon at a time until done.
Lower the speed and add in the pink champagne and lemon zest, and beat in. Add one tiny drop of pink food coloring and mix until thoroughly mixed through. (Can be made in advance up to this point, keep in the refrigerator for 2 days or freeze).
Measure in a dry measuring cup, 2 ¾ cup (685 ml) buttercream and place in a medium mixing bowl. Set the remaining buttercream aside. Add ½ cup (125ml) cooled strawberry purée to the buttercream and beat by hand until mixed together. Cover both bowls of buttercream and keep on the counter away from any heat until you are ready to assemble the cake.
Putting it all together- About 30 minutes to assemble.
For a 6-layer cake, measure with a ruler the height of each cake and mark the center with a toothpick. Measure and mark the center point around the circumference of each cake. The toothpicks are your guide to cut each cake in half through the middle. With a long serrated knife, rest the serrated edge up against the side of a cake and on top of the toothpicks. With a gently sawing motion cut through the cake, paying attention to your markers and turning the cake as you work your way around the circumference, and then through the middle of the cake. Repeat for each cake. Keep the pairs together. Select which cake layer is going to be your top layer and set aside.
Take apart one divided cake and place the bottom portion of the cake on your cake plate.
Spread ½ cup (125ml) of the strawberry buttercream over the top of the cake. Make a smooth and level layer of buttercream. Place the top portion of the cake on top of your frosted layer and spread ½ cup (125 ml) of strawberry buttercream evenly and smoothly across the top.
Continue to stack and frost the tops of each layer with ½ cup (125ml) strawberry buttercream until you get to the top layer. The strawberry buttercream is to be used only for the middle layers of frosting. While you are stacking your cake layers, try to get them as level as possible. Trim off the top of each layer if they are uneven, before you frost the layers.
For a three layer cake frost each layer with 3/4 cup pink champagne buttercream or strawberry pink champagne buttercream.
Once the layers are assembled, spread a thin "crumb" layer of pink champagne buttercream around the top and sides of the cake. This is to get the cake frosted with a thin protective layer so the crumbs won't show through the frosting. Once done, spread more buttercream all over the top and working down the sides of the cake for a nice finishing layer of buttercream. Frost as much as wanted or needed.
Decorate the cake with shaved white chocolate over the top of the cake and extra strawberries for decoration.
Keep the cake in a cool spot loosely covered with aluminum foil up to 2 days unrefrigerated. Best if eaten the day it is assembled.
Cake flour has less gluten and produces a more delicate cake than with all-purpose flour. If you like to bake cakes, cake flour is nice to have around. Swans Down and Softasilk are two brands that sell cake flour. Do not buy self-rising cake flour. If you do not want to buy cake flour, or cannot get some, substitute 1 cup of all-purpose flour, plus 2 Tbs all-purpose flour, plus 2 Tbs cornstarch for every cup of cake flour. Recipe from The Kitchn
Ingredient amounts for buttercream if you want to make a 3-layer cake:
Unsalted butter - 1 lb / 454g (4 sticks),
Sugar - 1 cup / 200 g,
Water - ¼ cup / 2oz 60 ml,
5 large egg whites,
Cream of tartar - ½ + ⅛ teaspoon,
Pink Champagne - up to 3 fl oz or 90 ml, Tiny drop of pink food coloring.
Use 3/4 cup of buttercream between the three layers, instead of 1/2 cup.
I used Wilton Liquid food coloring - Base Pink. Wilton also makes a gel food coloring in pink.
As I researching what type of cake to make for my dad’s Nifty Cake I tested this gluten-free sponge cake made with oat flour, from Alice Medrich’s Flavor Flourscookbook. This is a remarkable cookbook featuring new ways to bake with gluten-free flours. I love this cookbook because Alice Medrich is an expert at everything she does. I have learned a lot about gluten-free baking using this book. Her cookbooks are very reliable and the desserts are delicious.
The Oat Flour Sponge cake was so good and worked beautifully with the strawberries, peaches and cream I decided to share two versions of Nifty Cake. Sponge cakes are drier than butter cakes but the added fruit and cream help keep it moist. Ms. Medrich even has a very similar version of strawberries and cream cake in Flavor Flours using this sponge cake as the foundation.
Gluten Free Nifty Cake: Oat Flour Sponge Cake with Strawberries, Peaches and Whipped Cream
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
Gluten Free Nifty Cake is a sponge cake made with oat flour and adorned with strawberries, peaches and whipped cream. It is a versatile cake that can be dressed up or down depending on the occasion. It is a delicious sponge cake that everyone, with or without a gluten restrictive diet, will enjoy.
The sponge cake portion of the recipe is from "Flavor Flours" by Alice Medrich, and is a great gluten free substitute whenever you want a sponge cake.
Oat Flour Sponge Cake
3 Tbl clarified butter or ghee
1 cup /100 grams oat flour
2/3 cup / 130 grams sugar
4 large eggs
1/8 tea Kosher salt
Fruit Filling and Decoration
8 oz strawberries
1/2 ripe peach
1/4 cup best quality strawberry or peach jam
Extra strawberries and peaches to decorate the cake as you wish
1 - 2 cups of heavy whipping cream
1 - 1/2 tea pure vanilla extract
2 to 3 tea sugar
Oat Flour Sponge Cake
Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit/ 175 degrees Celsius/ Gas Mark 4 and position the rack to the lower third of the oven.
Prepare an 8" by 3" cake pan or an 8" spring form pan by lining the bottom of the pan with parchment paper.
Make the clarified butter: heat the butter in a sauce pan until hot and bubbly. Continue to cook until the foam subsides. Turn off heat and pour the butter through a fine mesh strainer lined with cheese cloth into a small, 4-5 cup capacity, microwave safe bowl and set aside.
Sift then measure the oat flour. Place the oat flour into a medium bowl and add 2 tablespoons of the sugar. Thoroughly whisk them together and to remove any clumps.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the remaining sugar, eggs, and salt. Using the whisk attachment of your mixer, whip the egg and sugar on high speed until the batter is light and fluffy. Depending on your mixer it could take about 4-5 minutes, longer if you are using a hand held mixer. Visual clues that the batter is ready: the batter will be very fluffy and a light yellow, the volume will have tripled in size, and distinctive well defined streak marks from the whisk attachment will be visible.
Right before the egg/sugar mixture is finished being whipped, heat the butter in the microwave until hot, careful to prevent the butter from bubbling.
Remove the bowl with the eggs and sugar from the mixer and sift the oat flour into the bowl in three increments. Gently fold the batter between each addition, careful not to deflate the batter. Once the flour is barely folded into the mixture add a quarter of the batter into the bowl with the butter. Fold the mixture until the butter is thoroughly blended into the batter.
Add the buttered batter into the remaining batter and gently fold until just blended.
Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake for 30 to 35 minutes and golden brown on top. A toothpick inserted in the center will come out dry and clean.
Put the cake pan on a cooling rack and run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the cake from the sides.
Allow the cake to cool slightly in the pan. Invert the cake out of the pan and peel off the parchment paper. Turn the cake right side up, and put the cake back on the cooling rack. Leave alone to completely cool.
You can bake the cake in advance of preparing the whole cake with frosting and fruit. Once the cake is cool, keep the cake air tight, wrapped in plastic wrap.
Wash and dry a half pound of strawberries. Remove the stems and cut into bite size pieces. Place the prepared strawberries in a small bowl. Cut one peach in half and remove the pit. Peel one of the peach halves then cut into bite size pieces. Place the prepared peaches into the bowl with the strawberries. Gently mix the fruit until evenly combined.Set aside.
Whipped Cream Frosting
Before mixing place the bowl and beaters in the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes to chill.
If you plan on frosting the whole cake you will need 2 cups of heavy cream. If you only want to have frosting in the middle use a cup of heavy cream.
For two cups of cream: Add the heavy cream and vanilla to the chilled bowl and beat until soft peaks have formed. Add 3 teaspoons of sugar to the cream and beat until stiff peaks have formed, being careful not to over-beat the cream. You do not want it to start looking like butter.
Putting it all together
Cut the Oat Flour Sponge in half horizontally to create two layers of cake. Set the bottom cake layer on a serving plate and the top layer on a flat bottomed plate, or rimless cookie sheet. (See Notes)
Depending on how you are going to frost the cake will determine the amounts of cream to use. Add one cup of the whipped cream if you are only using the whipped cream frosting in the middle cake layer. Use a third of the whipped cream if you are planning to frost the entire cake with the whipped cream. Use one cup for each layer if you are not frosting the side of the cake.
On the bottom cake layer, spread the jam to a smooth and even layer across the cake. Add the whipped cream on top of the jam and cake.
Spread the whipped cream evenly across the cake then add all of the cut up fruit. Press the fruit evenly into the whipped cream to make it smooth.
Carefully slide the top cake layer on top of the the fruit layer and evenly line up the sides. If you are planning on frosting the whole cake spread a thin layer of the whipped cream around the top and sides of the cake, crumb layer, to create an even and smooth surface for the remaining whipped cream. Frost top and sides of the cake with the remaining whipped cream then decorate the cake with the fruit as you please.
If you are not frosting the whole cake, add the remaining whipped cream to the top and spread the whipped cream across the top. Decorate the top of the cake with fruit.
This cake should not be made too far in advance as the whipped cream will not hold for a long time and the cake will get soggy. Keep the cake refrigerated until ready to serve. Take the cake out of the refrigerator 15 minutes before serving to get rid of some of the chill.
The cake without the fruit and whipped cream will last for a couple of days on the counter tightly wrapped in plastic wrap.
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 eyeball it because it is so difficult to cut anything level. 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 side of the cake, inserting a toothpick every 3 inches all the way around.the circumference of the cake. Put one hand gently on top of the cake with the other hand working the knife.Holding the knife parallel to the counter, rest the middle of a long serrated knife against the top of the toothpicks and make a 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.
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.