I fear that strawberry season may already be drawing to a close where many of you are. Ours are bursting-juicy and red, but my CSA folks warned me last week that we've got one more week of strawbs at best. What I'm saying is, NOW is the time to make this cake.
Let me stack another good reason on top of that one: very soon, turning on your ovens will stop being fun. That time has come for us, and I'm really quite glad about the extra cake I've got tucked away in the freezer, waiting to be some awesome people's dessert.
Did I say extra cake? I did. That's the other, other best part about this recipe: it makes 2 cakes, but you only need 1 at a time. To serve, you slice one of the cakes in half, pile some damn good fillings inside and on top, and voila: a double-deckered dessert made from just one cake. Use one, store the other in the freezer for up to six months. Ina says so, and she knows everything.
That's Ina Garten, domestic goddess and cake wizard. She's outdone herself with this one, an ode to everything that's perfect early in the summer: vanilla-scented cake, soaked with the syrup from fresh, perfect strawberries, topped with whipped cream that can still hold a peak. (In August, not so much. Don't say I didn't warn you.)
Ina plops plain raw strawberries on this one, but I like to macerate mine in some sugar beforehand. That way, they release some of that beautiful juice, which I spoon onto each serving. This is a cake to behold. Eat it on the porch, with very good friends and perhaps a glass of chilled sauternes. Bask in the glory of summer.
Here, I saved you a slice.
Double-Decker Strawberry Summer Cakeadapted from Ina Garten's book, Barefoot Contessa Parties
Notes: As I explained above, this recipe makes two cakes, but each makes its own dessert. One cake easily serves eight people, so most of us will save the second cake for another time. If you do, double-wrap it and store it in the fridge for up to six months (or more likely, a hot hot summer day when the last thing you want to do is turn on the oven).
If you don't have strawberries, feel free to substitute raspberries, cherries, blueberries, or a mixture.
Lastly, remember that this is a summer cake, meant to be eaten and enjoyed without too much fuss. If you can't wait for the butter and eggs and sour cream to be perfectly at room temperature, don't sweat it.
For the cake: 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature 2 cups sugar 4 eggs, at room temperature 3/4 cup sour cream, at room temperature 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 2 cups all-purpose flour 1/4 cup cornstarch 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt 1 teaspoon baking soda
To serve:: 1 pound very good strawberries, washed, hulled, and sliced 3/4 pint (1 1/2 cups) heavy cream 6 tablespoons sugar 1 teaspoon vanilla
Macerate the strawberries: Combine the strawberries and 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) of the sugar in a medium mixing bowl. Stir to incorporate, then set aside (at room temperature) while you make the cake.
Make the cakes: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Butter the bottom of two 8-inch cake pans. Then line them with parchment paper and butter and flour the lined pans.
Cream the butter and sugar on high speed in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy. On medium speed, add the eggs, 1 at a time, then the sour cream, zest, and vanilla, scraping down the bowl as needed. Mix well. Sift together the flour, cornstarch, salt, and baking soda. On low speed, slowly add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix just until combined.
Divide the batter evenly between the pans, smooth the tops with a spatula, and bake in the center of the oven for 40 to 45 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then remove to wire racks and let cool to room temperature. Wrap one cake in two layers of plastic and/or tin foil, and freeze for up to 6 months.
To serve the cakes: To make filling for one cake, whip the cream, 2 tablespoons sugar, and vanilla in a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until the cream holds soft peaks. Slice one cake in half with a long, sharp knife. Place the bottom slice of the cake on a serving platter, spread with 1/2 the whipped cream and scatter with half of the macerated strawberries. Cover with the top slice of the cake and spread with the remaining cream. Decorate with the rest of the strawberries. Serve with some of the macerating liquid drizzled over each slice.