Strawberries and Cream…and Cake

This week’s Tuesdays with Dorie challenge was a close call.  Who wouldn’t want to make a French strawberry cake: strawberries, cream and a chance to make a génoise? But what about the berries?  French rhubarb cake doesn’t have the same glamor. At least not in June.

Strawberries are delicate –the best ones really can’t travel very far, or wait very long.  And I’m stubborn. I’d rather wait for a local berry – one that is red all the way through, tender and truly sweet –  than make do with an imitation – something that exhibits all the mechanical characteristics of a strawberry without actually being one.*

Food magazines and websites start extolling strawberry flavors and virtues in April.  Here in the Pacific Northwest, we wait, and we wait, (trying to be content with rhubarb) until our berries start to come in – usually in mid-June. Through some years, it can be as late as July.

Even this year, while the rest of the country experienced record temperatures in early spring, we’ve had just enough sun to keep us all on the edge of our seats – waiting for the second week in July when summer officially arrives in Seattle.

We’re still waiting on the sun, but the strawberries are here – thankfully, in time for me to make my deadline with this cake.  This one really is a show stopper. If you like strawberry shortcake, you will love this cake.  It is strawberries and sweetened cream with just enough cake for texture.

Mine isn’t decorated quite as elaborately as the ideal cake Dorie describes in Baking with Julia. Rosettes are a skill I have yet to master – really, making a layer cake without a lurch would be a big step for me – but, I did make double the batter; meaning I was brave enough to split the layers in half for a four-layer cake.

This French strawberry cake wasn’t featured on the Baking with Julia TV series. But, you can see the contributing baker; cookbook author and cooking teacher, Flo Braker making the génoise for Julia on YouTube in the episode, Marvelous Miniatures.

I’m still struggling with  the cake-flour issue (and by the way, just because I don’t want to use it, doesn’t mean I’m saying you shouldn’t.  It’s simply a personal goal for me to bake with more whole grains.) So, my génoise was made with whole-wheat pastry flour and just a touch of all-purpose flour.  I was really nervous about folding the heavier flour into the meringue. But it worked beautifully, and the cake layers rose properly. I can’t wait to try out this batter for ladyfingers or madeleines.

I sliced up the strawberries for the filling, and macerated them with sugar and grated ginger for a full day before assembling the cake. I drained the berries and saved the liquid, which I boiled down to make a dessert sauce, just in case my whole wheat génoise needed some extra help. But in the end, my cake was a perfect match for the filling, without any extras. Luckily, the strawberry-ginger sauce is lovely on ice cream, too.

Be sure to visit the websites of our gracious hosts for this week, Sophia, of Sophia’s Sweets, (she’s only 15, by the way. And her cakes don’t lurch!) and Allison of Think, Love, Sleep, Dine to see the original recipe.  And you can find links to all the particpating bakers at Tuesdays with Dorie. If you do make this cake – even if you aren’t dogmatic about local strawberries think about using organic berries.  It’s better for you and better for the soil.

*I’m paraphrasing Douglas Adams, who was not, in fact, writing about strawberries. But he was writing about imitation food.


12 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by cynthial1956 on June 19, 2012 at 7:41 am

    Your cake looks lovely and yummy! I am impressed that you went for four layers! Here in my little area of Virginia, strawberry season has passed. I picked 12 pounds of super sweet berries, but they were all in the freezer and I was concerned about the consistency. Thanks for sharing your recipes and great photos!


  2. How did your layers get so thick?? haha. This was the thinnest cake I’ve ever made in my life. I know to beat it longer next time. Lots longer.


    • It does take a lot of beating to get the volume high enough. I was worried when it started to deflate with the flour…


  3. Absolutely stunning!


  4. Posted by on June 19, 2012 at 1:55 pm

    Such a beautiful cake…I love that you used whole wheat pastry flour! Your layers look perfect…I had issues with this recipe.


  5. Local fresh berries (and most fruit) does taste so much better. Your cake looks great.


  6. […] time). If I try a third time, I might use all-purpose or even some whole wheat pastry flour like Lynn of Eat Drink Man Woman Dogs Cat did. Here’s how it rolled for me in my daughter’s […]


  7. I love how your cake turned out! And I love that you went with the whole wheat pastry flour. I am going to have to find some here on the east coast.


  8. It’s beautiful!!! I need to try this again and try to get more height in the layers. But I am encouraged by how easy it is and now I have tips for NOT mixing it in the KA bowl, I think I should be ok. I used organic local strawbs too 😉


  9. Very lovely. I like that you were able to do it with whole wheat flour.
    In the Northeast, strawberry season is usually well into June & early July – this year, the weather has the whole growing season turned upside down 😉


  10. Awesome photos! Your cake looks lovely.


  11. Posted by Piebird on June 24, 2012 at 3:56 pm

    You are a brave one using the whole wheat flour for this tricky recipe. I won’t be afraid to substitute whole wheat for white, now that I’ve seen you succeed with this one!


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