I traveled to Japan a few years ago.
Of course, I expected all of the exotic and sometimes unusual dishes laden with fish, noodles, seaweed and meat in the forms of sushi, soups, tempura, yakitori and shabu-shabu to name a few.
What took me by surprise was the vast array of western style cakes and pastries that were available in the numerous bakeries.
The Japanese love their cakes and one of the most popular is Strawberry Shortcake. What sets it apart from the American version is that there are no biscuits involved. Instead, strawberries and cream are sandwiched between light layers of sponge cake.
I decided to make this Japanese Strawberry Shortcake for the ‘Bel Canto’ themed dinner party I hosted last weekend. (More recipes inspired by the book are here and here.) If you read the novel you might remember that there is a birthday party in honor of a visiting Japanese businessman.
So, I made a birthday cake.
I searched around for a sponge cake recipe and came across one for the Best Vanilla Sponge Cake. It is one of the best sponge cakes I have tried. It’s super easy to make, has a lovely texture and fabulous vanilla flavor. Add the strawberries and cream and the cake is near perfection.
Best Vanilla Sponge Cake (recipe follows)
Simple Whipped Cream Icing (recipe follows)
125g fresh strawberries (half-chopped, half left whole for decorating the top)
1. Place one cake layer on a serving plate.
2. Top cake with some whipped cream and scatter over the chopped strawberries. Top with remaining cake layer.
3. Cover top and sides of cake with the remaining whipped cream and decorate with a few whole strawberries.
Best Vanilla Sponge Cake
4 large eggs, room temperature
2 cups granulated or castor sugar
1 cup whole milk
4 oz unsalted butter
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, whip the eggs on high speed with the whip attachment until foamy, then gradually start adding sugar.
2. Continue to beat the egg mixture for about 5 to 7 minutes until it reaches the ribbon stage (which is when the batter is very light in color, thick in texture and forms a ribbon-like pattern in the bowl).
3. Add the dry ingredients all at once and mix on low speed.
4. Combine the milk and butter in a microwave safe bowl or on the stovetop and melt until hot.
5. Remove 2 cups of the cake batter and transfer to a separate mixing bowl. Add the hot liquids to these 2 cups of batter and whisk until smooth. Return this mixture to the remaining batter in the mixer bowl. Add the vanilla extract.
6. Divide batter between two greased and floured 8 inch cake pans.
7. Bake at 350℉ for 25 minutes, then lower the temperature to 325℉ and continue to bake for about 5 minutes longer until the cake springs back immediately when gently pressed in the center.
Recipe from Woodland Bakery Blog
Simple Whipped Cream Icing
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. In a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat cream until it begins to thicken. Add sugar and vanilla and beat until soft peaks form.
Husband and wife folk duo Lowland Hum have a new self titled album out. It’s packed with lovely tunes
“Odell” is my favorite song and really resonates for me being the mother of three boys. The lyrics give me chills.
“I gave my sons all that I had”
Check out Lowland Hum on Bandcamp where you can learn of upcoming US shows and buy their music.