Beautiful, Creamy Strawberry Cream Cake, from America's Test Kitchen/Cook's Illustrated

Strawberries... beautiful, red, juicy and sweet little gems... I love them so.  I live in the Salinas Valley (California) where Driscoll berries grow in fields that are part of my daily commute. My local farm stand, "The Farm",  grows their own organic strawberries. Their berries are freshly picked, red all the way through and naturally sweet.  I buy them several times a week, they are that good.  and the season for these are in full swing!  I've posted a few strawberry desserts-- Ina Garten's Strawberry tart with pastry cream, The Pioneer Woman's Strawberry Shortcake Cake and Strawberry Scones.  I debated making the strawberry tart again, until...

The Complete America's Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook
I found this recipe in one of my newest cookbooks.  America's Test Kitchen is the sister company to Cook's Illustrated and Cook's Country.  I was intrigued by the cake recipe, and I had never thought of using cream cheese and heavy cream to make a frosting.  After reading the directions, I got busy making this dessert. I'll start with making the cake.  I admit, that I'm a gadget and special ingredient freak. My husband things I need therapy.  Still, here are two ingredients that I bough from King Arthur flour, on one of my shopping sprees. This is the Bakewell Cream Baking Powder maiden voyage.  The  Sweet Dough Bakery Emulsion has become one of my favorite products for my baked goods. It smells like yellow cake mix dough. I think it gives a subtle "bakery store" flavor to my cookies and cakes. Before you email me that I didn't list all of the ingredients... just scroll to the very bottom of this post. You will find a printable recipe. So, here we go:

Whisk flour, baking powder, salt, and all but 3 tablespoons sugar in mixing bowl. Whisk in 2 whole eggs and 3 yolks (reserving whites)...

 ...butter, water, and vanilla; whisk until smooth.In clean bowl of standing mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat remaining 3 egg whites at medium-low speed until frothy, 1 to 2 minutes. With machine running, gradually add remaining 3 tablespoons sugar, increase speed to medium-high, and beat until soft peaks form, 60 to 90 seconds.

 Stir one-third of whites into batter to lighten; add remaining whites and gently fold into batter until no white streaks remain.

 Pour batter into prepared pan and bake until toothpick or wooden skewer inserted into center of cake comes out clean, 30 to 40 minutes.

I used a springform pan.  I have an extra large spatula, which makes the transferring of cakes a breeze. Cool in pan 10 minutes, then invert cake onto greased wire rack; peel off and discard parchment. Invert cake again; cool completely, about 2 hours.The aroma of the cake was intoxicating-- notes of vanilla and butter... oh, yum! Now, for the berries...

 Halve 24 of best-looking berries and reserve. Quarter remaining berries; toss with 4 to 6 tablespoons sugar (depending on sweetness of berries) in medium bowl and let sit 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Strain juices from berries and reserve (you should have about ½ cup). In workbowl of food processor fitted with metal blade, give macerated berries five 1-second pulses (you should have about 1 ½ cups).

 In small saucepan over medium-high heat, simmer reserved juices and Kirsch until syrupy and reduced to about 3 tablespoons, 3 to 5 minutes.

 Pour reduced syrup over macerated berries, add pinch of salt, and toss to combine. Set aside until cake is cooled.

When cake has cooled, place cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, and salt in bowl of standing mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Whisk at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes, scraping down bowl with rubber spatula as needed. Reduce speed to low and add heavy cream in slow, steady stream; when almost fully combined, increase speed to medium-high and beat until mixture holds stiff peaks, 2 to 2 ½ minutes more, scraping bowl as needed (you should have about 4 ½ cups).  NOTE: This tastes incredibly delicious!

Using large serrated knife, slice cake into three even layers.  TIP: A rotating cake stand makes this a whole lot easier!  The cake was very moist, by the way. I'm feeling very optimistic, right about now...

See that big cake spatula? No more worries of breaking the cake layer in half. Easy peasy!  Now, it's time to put the cake together:

Place bottom layer on cardboard round or cake plate and arrange ring of 20 strawberry halves, cut sides down and stem ends facing out, around perimeter of cake layer.

Pour one half of pureed berry mixture (about ¾ cup) in center, then spread to cover any exposed cake.

Gently spread about one-third of whipped cream (about 1 ½ cups) over berry layer, leaving ½-inch border from edge. Place middle cake layer on top and press down gently (whipped cream layer should become flush with cake edge). Repeat with 20 additional strawberry halves, remaining berry mixture, and half of remaining whipped cream; gently press last cake layer on top. Spread remaining whipped cream over top; decorate with remaining cut strawberries.

 I have to say, that this cake is really easy to make.  I'm not the fanciest of cake decorators, but this frosting is definitely the right texture to work with.  It's also very addicting.

Serve, or chill for up to 4 hours.  I chilled this for about an hour... prepare to drool...

It took a lot of self-control to take this shot...

Shall we get on with it?

See all that juice?  It didn't soak through the cake! No wet, soggy mess. So, how did it taste?

VERDICT: The berries are the star, no doubt.  The cake is moist-- it's sweet, but not over-the-top sweet. It's a cross between a sponge cake and a white cake-- kind of dense, but not like a shortcake biscuit. The frosting...oh, the frosting!  The creaminess of the whipped cream, with a perfect balance of cream's the perfect topping.  In fact, the next day, the cake held up really well...what was left of it.  My husband, son and "Yours Truly" polished it off.  

So far, this is my favorite strawberry cake of all time. Sorry Ina Garten and The Pioneer Woman... Cook's Illustrated has created a strawberry dessert that is just a bit above the rest! At least, until I find another new recipe.  This cake is the perfect recipe to bring to a potluck.  It would make a beautiful summer birthday cake.  Heck, I'd eat this for any reason I could find!  While this might look like a bit of work, it's so worth it!

Here's the recipe:
Strawberry Cream Cake from Cook's IllustratedI found this recipe in America's Test Kitchen cookbook ...
See Strawberry Cream Cake from Cook's Illustrated on Key Ingredient.

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