Creamy, sweet frosting and strawberry puree sandwiched in between three layers of lean, light génoise cake, decorated by ripe, juicy strawberries. What summer dessert can top that?
Our approach to strawberry cream cake includes a couple adjustments to most versions, which promise fruity flavor but lose it to dense cakes and cloyingly sweet fillings. To highlight the strawberries in our recipe, we treat them as a separate layer. Dividing the quantity of berries in half—using one portion to decorate the edges of the filling layers, and turning the other half into a quick puree that we spread across the center of the cake—meant big fruity flavor in every bite.
We also found a way to guarantee even, flat layers of cake: baking the génoise in one springform pan instead of two standard round cake pans. When baked in two pans, the exterior crust was thicker than we liked and the tops domed slightly, so we had to cut them away. It seemed a shame to discard so much cake, so we turned to a springform, which is deeper than a standard cake pan. This way, we were able to bake all the batter in one pan and the crust baked up thin and even, which made it easier to slice into three even layers.
1. Cook the eggs and sugar: Cook the eggs and sugar together, whisking constantly, in a large bowl set over a large saucepan of barely simmering water, making sure the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl.
2. Whip the eggs and sugar until they ribbon: Once the egg mixture is warm, remove it from the stovetop and whip with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until the mixture is thick, voluminous, and pale colored. The mixture should fall in thick ribbons that rest on top of the batter.
3. Sift the flour: Reserve 1 cup of the whipped egg mixture in a separate medium bowl (this batter will be mixed with the butter later). Working with the remaining batter, sift half of the flour mixture gently over the top. Sifting the flour makes it easier to incorporate evenly into the batter and helps to prevent clumping in this delicate cake.
4. Mix but don’t deflate: Very gently fold the flour into the batter with a large rubber spatula until just combined, 12 to 15 folds, then repeat the sifting and folding steps with the remaining flour mixture. Be careful not to overmix as you fold the flour into the batter.
5. Temper the butter: Pour the melted butter into the reserved cup of whipped egg mixture and then fold it gently into the cake batter until just barely incorporated, 4 to 6 folds. Tempering the butter with some of the batter first helps it incorporate more easily into the batter without deflating it.
6. Keep the batter from deflating: Immediately pour and scrape the batter into the prepared springform pan, being careful not to deflate the batter. Hold the bowl as close as possible to the cake pan when scraping in the batter; second, don’t scrape any batter off the rubber spatula into the cake pan; third, don’t jostle the pan as you put it into the oven; and fourth, don’t rotate the cake during baking.
Cutting a Cake Into Layers
1. To cut a cake into two or three even layers, first measure the height of the cake and determine the thickness of the layers. Then, using a small knife, mark the thickness of the layers at several points around the cake.
2. Using the marks as a guide, score the entire edge of the cake with a long serrated knife.
3. Following the scored lines, continue to run the knife around the cake several more times, slowly cutting inward, to slice the layers apart.
4. Carefully separate the layers by gently slipping your fingers in between them and lifting the top layer away.
Building a Strawberry Cream Cake
1. Place 20 strawberry halves evenly around the edges of the cake (they will be visible once the layers are assembled).
2. Cover the center of the cake completely with ¾ cup of the pureed berry mixture.
3. Spread 1½ cups of the cream filling over the berries, leaving a ½-inch border. Repeat with the middle cake layer, 20 more strawberry halves, remaining ¾ cup berry mixture, and 1½ more cups cream filling.
4. Press the last cake layer into place, spread with the remaining cream filling, and decorate with the 8 remaining strawberry halves.