Strawberry season is our second favourite season, topped only by Christmas. We grow them in all shapes and forms, but thanks to our in-house foraging squad we never seem to have enough to bake or make anything with them.
Fortunately there are supermarkets, and although it is hard to resist a nicely-presented punnet in mid-November for the price of a small car, comes May they become almost affordable and even begin to taste and smell like real strawberries.
The other day we made the strawberry roll, which is our favourite. Next on the list is this sponge version, which looks – and tastes – impressive. The sponge I use is a German ‘Biskuit‘ that doesn’t require baking powder. It’s lighter and fluffier than the British sponge and well worth a try. The process is more or less identical, apart from the fact that you grease only the bottom of your cake tin, not the sides.
For the sponge (Biskuitboden)
- 180g caster sugar
- 6 medium eggs, separated
- 120g plain flour
- 80g cornflour
- 3 tsp vanilla sugar
Grease the bottom of a 20cm/8in cake tin (this recipe is sufficient for a two-layer 9in tin; I used the smaller tin to get the three layers on the picture). Preheat the oven to 180C.
Using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until they begin to thicken, then add half of the sugar and keep beating until they are beginning to form soft peaks.
In a separate bowl, beat the yolks and the remaining sugar and vanilla sugar until pale. You can keep using the same mixer attachment to beat the yolks, just not the other way round!
Add the egg whites and sift over the flour and cornflour, using a spatula or a wooden spoon to fold in.
Spread the mixture evenly in your cake tin and bake for 25 minutes. Use a toothpick to check if it is ready: it should come out clean or with little crumbs.
Leave to cook before turning on to a wire rack.
Decorating the cake
- 1 kg strawberries, washed and hulled
- 1 pot of whipping cream
- 2 tsp vanilla sugar
Keep the prettiest strawberries for the top of the cake. Quarter and cut the rest into smaller pieces. Using an electric mixer, beat the cream with the vanilla sugar until it forms soft peaks – do not overdo it as you will end up with butter!
Cut the cooled cake horizontally into three layers. I began with the middle layer, which I put first on the serving plate. Cover with 1/3 or the whipped cream and 1/2 of the strawberry chunks.
Set the (rounded and therefore slightly uneven) top layer up-side-down on the strawberry and cream mix and press down to create an even top. Cover with half of the remaining cream and the rest of the strawberry pieces.
Finally set the bottom layer up-side-down on top of your cake: this should give you an even finish. Decorate with the remaining cream and strawberries and leave to cool in the fridge for at least one hour.
Enjoy al fresco, soaking up the warm rays of sun, with a cup of coffee for a very German afternoon ‘Kaffee und Kuchen’, or coffee-and-cake session.