When preparing food for a special occasion, it’s important to plan in advance. In this household, a lot of that advance-planning happens around big games. Take this weekend for example. My parents were throwing their annual Fourth of July shindig (insert long, not-worth-it story about why it wasn’t actually over the holiday weekend here), and I was in charge of food. But the party was on Saturday and the US was playing at 2. Oh no, what do I do? What I do is this…(any Office fans out there?).
I knew I was going to make strawberry country cake (you can find the recipe here, or watch Jaden’s adorable boys make it here), so I had to think about how I could make it ahead of time. Turns out? Super easy.
On Friday, I made the cakes, let them cool, and wrapped them in plastic. On Saturday, I drove up 95, whipped some cream, sliced some strawberries, watched us lose to Ghana (prepared to stop caring about soccer for another 4 years), and assembled the cake right before I served it.
If you don’t have a dessert scheduled for the Fourth of July yet, think about this one.
Excuse the lighting, it was dark by then.
It turned out beautifully. The flavor that comes from the lemon, orange zest and that splash of vanilla creates a lightness in an otherwise dense cake. But it has to be dense to hold up to all that whipped cream–this is strawberry shortcake we’re talking about here folks.
A word before we get into the thick of the recipe–this is a wonky yield. The way I adapted it, you will have enough for two full cakes like the one pictured above. If you make the version off of the Food Network site, you will have two cakes, but only enough filling for one of them. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
For the cakes you will need:
- 1 1/2 unsalted butter, softened
- 2 cups sugar
- 4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
- 3/4 cup sour cream, at room temperature
- 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
- 1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
Preheat the oven to 350. Butter and flour two 8-inch round cake pans.
Beat the flour and sugar on high in a mixer until light and fluffy. That’s going to take a little while. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until incorporated. Next add the sour cream, zests and vanilla. Again, beat until incorporated.
Sift the flour, cornstarch, salt and baking soda into a small bowl. Beat into the batter until incorporated.
Pour the batter evenly into the prepared pans, smooth the tops, and bake for 40 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let the cakes cool for 30 minutes, then run a knife along the edge of the cake to remove it from the pans. Let cool completely on a wire rack.
*You can do this a day or two before you need the cakes. Just keep them wrapped tightly in plastic.
For the filling (remember, this is enough for 2 cakes, you will need:
- 2 C heavy cream
- 3 T granulated sugar
- 1/2 t vanilla
- 2 pints strawberries, sliced
Whip the cream, sugar and vanilla in a mixer. You’ll want to start it on low speed and work it up higher as the cream gets thicker. Once you’ve gotten the right texture, you can transfer it to a container and stick it right in the fridge so it doesn’t deflate, or start assembling your cakes. Keep the strawberries in the fridge too if you’re not ready for them.
To assemble the country cake, slice the cake in half with a serrated knife (one with teeth, instead of a straight edge). Layer whipped cream on the bottom layer and top with strawberries. Stack the top layer over the strawberries, and add another layer of whipped cream and strawberries. Amaze your guests.