Sure, there may be more than a handful of proper and blissful ways to make use of fresh strawberries, but for me there are only two options I consider the real deal: It’s either strawberries sprinkled with a little bit of sugar to get the juices flowing (the strawberries’ !) and simply topped with freshly whipped cream or on the other hand a proper strawberry cake just like my grandma used to make it. Every well prepared dish starts with a solid foundation. As far as these two pure delights are concerned, my strawberries of choice have to be deeply red, perfectly ripe and exuding a promising aroma. A promise only met or even topped by the eating experience. I don’t want to talk about the countless times I have been fooled by some overwhelming strawberry scent paired with nice looks – just to sadly find out, that the fruits themselves were practically tasteless.
This year’s weather does its best to spoil my favorite part of the whole strawberry season – driving to close by fields in and around Munich and hand picking tons of them. Well, almost. The equation I learned as a kid was: Strawberries = fields. Although my grandparents had some growing in their huge orchard, these would by no means suffice my grandma’s consumption level. Mostly due to her many strawberry cakes and her semi-professional jam production. Every other day she would go on quick trips to the tiny village Woppenhof nearby to visit her friends’ farm and strawberry fields and as much as I loved to help her out, in reality I was only there for my own pleasure. While my grandma quickly filled one basket after another, I kept strolling through the fields like a sniffer dog, always in search for the most beautiful berries to enjoy them right then and there. To top things off, I didn’t go there unprepared, I always brought a little Tupperware box filled with sugar. ‘Been a sweet tooth all my life. Even the sweetest of my finds I’d swiftly dip into the box. Any rational thinking goes quickly out the window when it comes to my personal sugar consumption :)
Back home, my grandma whipped out yummy strawberry cakes and pyramids of strawberry jam, effortless as always. Her strawberry cake supply never seemed to cease – just like those trick candles you try to blow out and they magically relight again: having secretly taken the last piece from her cool pantry in the afternoon, there was always another piece waiting for me right before going to bed…
Before getting started, I had to find proper strawberries – quite a mission with the ugly spring we’ve had. The ones our grocery store around the corner had on display were anything but worthy. Even expanding my catchment area by a trip to the Viktualienmarkt quickly showed that it wasn’t all that easy finding good strawberries, but in the end succeeded with two nearly perfect baskets!
The basic nature of this version of the cake requires even more so tasty strawberries and a delish sponge cake.
Preheat the oven to 200°C (390 °F). Thoroughly grease the cake molds (with butter) and dredge with flour to keep the cake from sticking to the molds (the ones I used measured 10 cm/4 inch in diameter).
For the dough, divide 4 eggs and beat the egg whites. When they start to become stiff, add two tablespoons of sugar and continue to beat until really stiff – ever tried holding the bowl over your head – upside down?
In a separate bowl beat the remaining sugar with the egg yolks until creamy, add a little lemon zest (for a mere hint of lemon) and slowly pour in the melted, but cooled down butter.
Sieve in the flour, then carefully fold in the flour as well as the stiff egg whites just until well combined. Fill the molds to within one-fourth of the top and bake on the middle level for about 10 minutes or until the edges turn golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool down on a rack for about 10 minutes, then flip and release. Allow to cool down completely.
Rinse the strawberries and carefully pad them dry on a paper towel. Cut away the green and either halve or quarter each, depending on their size. Now arrange them on each cake until they are evenly covered (you can go as creative as you want, but really any pattern should be o.k.)
If you make these in advance and would like to keep them fresh for one or two days, use some clear cake glaze. Just follow the instructions that come with the glaze & let cool in the fridge.
Serve with plenty of freshly whipped cream and some pistachios and be sure to have a few extra servings…
Ok, not always things work out perfectly well. This is what happens when using a cake mold that has a removable bottom and thus a great escape route for dough on the run. We’re still debating whether the center piece looks like a cartoonish dog or more like a rabbit…
Mini Strawberry Cake
Recipe source: my grandma
Prep time: 30min., baking: 10min., finishing: 15min.
Ingredients (yields 6-7 small cake shells):
4 (large) eggs, divided
100g white sugar
30g butter, melted and slightly browned
100 g flour
fresh lemon zest to taste
300g-400g fresh strawberries
clear cake glaze, sugar and water (per package instructions)
for decoration: whipped cream and pistachios