Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Chiffon Cake with Strawberries and Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting

Every holiday has its own signature dessert style. For Thanksgiving, it’s pies. At Christmas, cookies take center stage, and Valentine’s Day brings anything chocolate. For me, Easter has always meant cake.

I usually make a coconut cake, with some of the coconut colored with green food coloring to make little nests for jelly bean eggs. However, this year I wanted to feature strawberries, perhaps because the weather has been very warm and summer thoughts of strawberry shortcake keep popping to mind.

A few weeks ago The Country Cook blog featured a recipe for Strawberry Shortcake Cake. It looked wonderful! She used a cake mix, a pre-made strawberry glaze, and a container of whipped topping as ingredients, which made the recipe easy to prepare. However, I wanted to give it a try from scratch.

I went with a chiffon cake—like an angel food cake but made with whole eggs instead of just egg whites. I used freshly whipped cream in the frosting, and the strawberry glaze was melted strawberry jam.

The cake was delicious! The combination of vanilla and almond extracts in the cake gave it a wonderful flavor to complement the strawberries. And the cream cheese in the frosting not only added to the flavor, but it also stabilized the whipped cream so it would stand up longer on the cake.

Actually, I made two cakes. One was a 9-inch round cake we took to my parent’s farm in Missouri the day before Easter, and the other was a larger 9- by 13-inch one I left in the glass baking dish that was dessert at a gathering of my husband’s family on the actual holiday. Both were devoured! I even had someone request I make one for her birthday—in December!

Chiffon Cake with Strawberries and Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting

For the cake:
(Adapted from The King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion.)
7 eggs separated
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon almond extract

For the frosting:
(Adapted from allrecipes.com.)
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, room temperature
1 3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 to 2 pints strawberries, cut in half
1/4 cup strawberry jelly or jam

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar until foamy. Gradually add 1/2 cup of the sugar and continue beating until stiff and glossy. Set aside.

Whisk together the remaining 1 cup sugar with the flour, baking powder, and salt. In a separate bowl, beat the oil, milk, egg yolks, and flavorings until pale yellow. Add the dry ingredients and beat until well blended, about 2 minutes at medium speed using a stand mixer, or longer with a hand mixer.

Gently fold in the whipped egg whites using a wire whisk. Be sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl so the batter is well blended. Pour the batter into an ungreased 10-inch tube pan, 2 ungreased 9-inch round cake pans [springform pans work best], or 1 ungreased 9- by 13-inch cake pan. Bake tube pan for 1 hour, 9-inch pans for 45 to 50 minutes, and the 9-by-13 pan for 30 to 35 minutes. The cake is done when a finger gently pressed in the center doesn’t leave a print. You’ll be able to hear a crackling sound if you listen carefully.

Remove the cake from the oven and cool it upside down for at least 30 minutes before removing from the pan. (If you’ve used a tube pan, set it atop a thin-necked bottle, like a wine bottle, threading the bottle neck through the hole in the tube. The other cakes can be cooled upside down on top for 4 over-tuned glasses.) When the cake is completely cool, run a knife around the outside edge and around the tube. Turn the pan upside down and tap it to remove the cake.

To make the frosting, beat the whipping cream in a bowl until stiff peaks form. Set aside. In a large bowl, combine the cream cheese, sugar, salt and vanilla. Beat until smooth. (This may take a few minutes. Be patient.) Then fold in the whipped cream.

Frost the cake, reserving some frosting for decorations, and then cover the top of the cake with the strawberry halves. Place the jelly or jam into a bowl and microwave for 20 to 30 seconds until melted. Brush the melted jelly/jam on top of the strawberries to glaze. Place the reserved frosting into a piping bag and decorate the cake as desired.

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