Today I decided to make two strawberry cakes. This is because a) I had two strawberry cakes bookmarked in my delicious and I wanted to see if they were both worth making, and b) I am now apparently the Cake Fairy. The other day the home health aide (Annette) waltzed into the kitchen, gave me a big shit-eating grin, and said, “More cake, darling?” Looks like making two cakes in one day while there was still more of the last cake you made left over tends to reset people’s expectations from “cake! what a surprise!” to “CAKE CAKE CAKE CAKE NAO.”
So the cakes are this strawberry cake from smitten kitchen and this one from Fork Spoon Knife. I started with the FSK one because, in my efforts to bake more by-the-rules on the advice of my many real live baker friends on facebook, I am trying to use butter at the temperatures the recipe asks for, and this cake called for regular butter, which was closer to room temperature than the unsalted butter I needed for the smitten kitchen cake, which had been in the freezer.
Anyway. Despite what I’m sure is the edge-of-the-seat drama of my butter adventures, we must move on. I made the FSK cake first. And let me tell you straight up, this cake is a little bit of a pain in the ass to make. You have to zest a lemon (which we all know is my favorite way of using a cheese grater, oh wait I mean my own personal lemon-scented hell, note to self: buy a real goddamn zester), and this recipe doesn’t want just “zest of one lemon,” oh no, this calls for a goddamn measured fucking quantity of zest, and even though I don’t normally measure shit like that I felt compelled today. So I zested about a third of the lemon into a little bowl, checked to see if it fit reasonably into my 1/2 teaspoon, and moved on. It was definitely more than 1/2 teaspoon but honestly, who cares, lemon zest is delicious. (Speaking of things that are delicious, I was watching Wyatt Cenac’s stand-up on Comedy Central last night, and he must have described like five different things as delicious in the course of a 50-minute stand-up routine. It was adorable. I find people whose enthusiasm is so overwhelming as to merit the use of words like “delicious” really charming, probably because they remind me of myself. And I love me. Just like Kanye.) It also asks you to separate eggs – which I love to do in my hands, it’s a really peaceful experience and actually way more reliable in terms of full separation than doing it with the shell – and make meringue out of one egg white, which meringue you will then fold into your batter. I am here to say: making meringue takes too long. It would have been faster if I could have used my amazing, beautiful KitchenAid mixer, but it was busy containing the cake batter, so I had to use my hand mixer.
And, okay, the level of first-world problems expressed in the preceding sentences is boggling. “Oh noes, poor me, I couldn’t use my really fancy and incredibly expensive kitchen machine to do this simple task people used to do entirely by hand at the cost of their elbows and wrists, so I had to use my less fancy but still incredibly useful kitchen machine to do it and it took FIVE WHOLE MINUTES OF STANDING THERE ACTING AS A HOLDER FOR MY MACHINE.” Meanwhile I have running water and a dishwasher and a stove and enough leisure time and spare money and extra food to make two goddamn cakes for eating. Note to self: be less douchey!
So I made the meringue, folded in, baked. Things to know: this actually makes a pretty small amount of batter. It puffs up pretty nice in the pan, but it made a small cake. I basically have three cake pans – a loaf pan, a square pan that is probably 8×8, and a bigger sheet pan – and everything gets cooked in one of those, and this went in the 8×8. The cake is maybe an inch thick on the outside, maybe 1/2 – 2 inches in the middle? So maybe the next step in being a real baker and not a poser is getting more cake pans and putting cakes in the size pans the recipes call for, because I was definitely pretty startled at the small size of this cake.
The smitten kitchen cake was way easier to make: dry ingredients in one bowl, wet in another, mix mix mix, bake. No fancy meringue steps and no zesting of lemon; the only weird thing it calls for is unsalted butter, which I bought last time I was at the store in view of baking more often. It also made a reasonable amount of batter and a much thicker cake. Nothing particularly interesting to report here.
Notes and Verdicts
Strawberry Buttermilk Cake by Fork Spoon Knife
Notes: Didn’t change a thing, except I used about half a pound of strawberries and closer to 3/4 tsp of lemon zest.
Verdict: Pretty big meh on this one. The cake itself is nice, and the crispier bits actually have a meringuey touch to them which I didn’t really expect to come through. But the strawberries don’t really meld with it as much as sit alongside it, which doesn’t work for me. I’m also not loving the flavour of cooked strawberry, which is obviously a personal pref and nothing more. I think this might work better if I doubled the batter and made something more in the style of smitten kitchen’s apple cake (which I make all the time and is off the chain, I’m gonna blog about it later). Maybe that would cause the strawberry to blend with the cake more, idk. But as it is, this cake is not gonna get a remake. B-/C+
strawberry summer cake by smitten kitchen
Notes: Didn’t have barley flour, so used all-purpose; also took Deb’s recommendation to reduce the sugar, because that’s what I do. Used only one tablespoon on top of the cake, because two looked terrifying after seeing how much one was.
Verdict: Fuckin’ tasty. This cake is sweeter (in the good way) and softer than the other, and the strawberries meld much more nicely into the batter than the other. I don’t know if that’s because I used more strawberries or because it’s a better meeting of cake + berries, but it is much more of a coherent whole than the previous. A-