Strawberries and Cream Chocolate Birthday Cake
This is my kids' last week of school, and that calls for a little celebrating. Not only do I get to sleep in a bit longer on weekdays, but also no more stressing over packed lunches or forgetting to forward my daughters' laundry at 11 p.m.
Everyone likes marking special occasions with chocolate cake, and this one's especially easy. The layers can be baked ahead and assembled just before serving, and you don't have to fuss with frosting. Local strawberries should be arriving soon at your farmers market if they haven't already made their sweet first appearance -- this week I picked one big bowl out of my garden.
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon coarse salt
3/4 cup safflower or other vegetable oil
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons white vinegar
2 cups cold water
2 pints (4 cups) heavy cream
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 quart strawberries, washed, hulled and thinly sliced
Preheat oven to 350 degrees with a rack in the middle position. Whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the center of the mixture, and add oil, vanilla, vinegar and cold water. Whisk until well combined.
Divide batter between two 8-inch cake pans. Bake cakes, side by side, for 35 to 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely in the pans on a wire rack.
Whip cream to soft peaks in a large bowl. Add sugar and vanilla and whip again until just stiffened; do not overwhip.
Slice the domed top off 1 cake round to make a flat surface and put it on a serving plate. Spread with a thick layer of whipped cream. Top with a layer of half the strawberries. Top with the other cake round, domed side up, and spread it with another thick layer of whipped cream. Top with remaining strawberries.
Slice and serve with any extra whipped cream and berries on the side.
Serves 8 to 10.
-- "Mad Hungry Cravings: 173 Recipes for the Food You Want to Eat Right Now" by Lucinda Scala Quinn (Workman, March 2013, $27.95)
Gretchen McKay: email@example.com, 412-263-1419 or on Twitter @gtmckay.