I have five words for you: strawberry white chocolate buttermilk cake.
Is there really anything more to say? Well, maybe two more words: whipped cream.
I was tempted to call this “strawberry shortcake” — it looks like one, right? — but I would be lying. Technically, a shortcake is more like a biscuit or scone, which is made by cutting butter into some dry ingredients and then stirring in a liquid like buttermilk or cream. The resulting shortcake is flaky, buttery and dense.
But this cake is none of those things. It is fluffy and light, redolent of vanilla and cocoa butter. It is, perhaps, the best white cake recipe I’ve found.
As chocolate lovers and baking know-it-alls will be quick to tell you, technically white chocolate isn’t chocolate at all (maybe that’s why I like it so much). White chocolate is basically just cocoa butter, sugar and milk solids, so when melted and added to a cake, the cocoa butter helps to keep the cake tender and only subtly flavors the cake. In fact, if you didn’t know better, you probably wouldn’t be able to detect the white chocolate flavor at all.
So consider this cake the “little black dress” in your baking arsenal. You can dress it up or dress it down; you can dress it any way you want, really. Given that it’s May (almost June — how did that happen?), I think right now it goes perfectly with sweetened whipped cream or creme fraiche and fresh strawberries. But like a classic black dress, it’s a cake that never goes out of style.
Strawberry and White Chocolate-Buttermilk Cake
Adapted from Sherry Yard’s Desserts by the Yard
Note: Sherry Yard calls for baking this in a 12″x17″ half sheet pan, but I baked mine in two 9″ round cake pans. If you use a half sheet pan, cut the baking time down to about 25 minutes; when the cake is cool, cut crosswise into 3 equal pieces and fill and stack the three layers.
For the cake:
2 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon slat
3 ounces white chocolate
1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
1 3/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs, separated
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
For the filling:
2 cups heavy cream
1 (heaping) tablespoon powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 pints strawberries
Place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350F. Spray two 9″ round cake pans with pan spray and line the bottoms with parchment paper. Spray the parchment.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and set aside.
Melt the white chocolate in a microwave safe bowl at 50% power for about 2 minutes, stirring halfway through. Be careful — white chocolate burns easily. Set aside.
In a large bowl, beat the butter with 1 1/2 cups of the sugar on high speed for 2 minutes. Scrape the bowl and beaters and beat for 3 minutes more, until the mixture is light and creamy. Whisk 2 tablespoons of the whipped butter into the melted white chocolate until blended. Scrape this mixture back into the butter and beat on low speed until well blended. Add the egg yolks in 2 additions, scraping the bowl and beaters after each addition. Beat in the vanilla.
On low speed, alternating wet and dry ingredients, add the buttermilk and flour mixture in 4 additions, beginning with the buttermilk and ending with the flour. Scrape down the bowl.
In a large, clean bowl, and with clean beaters, beat the egg whites on medium speed until they form soft peaks. Slowly add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, continuing to beat at medium speed. Beat until the egg whites form stiff, glossy peaks. Fold half the egg whites into the cake batter, then gently fold in the rest.
Divide the batter evenly among the prepared pans. Bake, rotating the pans from front to back half way through, until golden brown and firm to the touch, about 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan for 10-15 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to cool completely.
Once the cakes are completely cool, begin preparing the filling. In a large bowl, beat the heavy cream until it begins to thicken significantly. Add the sugar and vanilla and beat together to medium-stiff peaks. Taste the cream and add more sugar if you like it sweeter.
Hull and quarter most of the strawberries, but leave about 8-10 whole to top the cake. Cut those 8-10 strawberries in half lengthwise, leaving the stem in tact.
Place one cake flat-side-up on a cake plate or serving platter. Scrape about half the whipped cream onto the cake, then cover the surface with quartered strawberries (you may have some left over — save them as a snack). Cover the strawberries with a little whipped cream. Place the second cake on top of the filling, flat-side-down. Cover the top with the remaining whipped cream and decorate the top with the halved strawberries. Chill until ready to serve. The cake can be assembled up to 4 hours ahead. Let it come to room temperature for about 20-30 minutes before serving.
Yield: 10-12 servings