Monday, August 25, 2008

My Summer Cake!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Throughout the summer (which is quickly coming to an end, alas!), I have had the privilege of attending several lovely evening parties. One of my favorite things about California is the penchant seemingly shared by all to entertain outside, taking advantage of shady backyards, cool patios, Adirondack chairs and teak furniture. Usually the gathering starts in the late afternoon, so you can still enjoy the warmth of the sun as you sit with a beverage in hand, chatting with neighbors who feel as lucky and happy to enjoy the weather as you do. As the evening moves on and the air tends to become more crisp and cool, a fire pit is often called for, and usually everyone will choose to remain outside, warming their hands by the fire and enjoying coffee and dessert.

I brought a dessert to two of these evening parties, which just so happens to be so easy and delightful I had to share it. It's a simple white layer cake, and it's light, refreshing and a breeze to prepare!

White Cake (from The Settlement Cookbook)
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 cups cake flour
3 tsp. baking powder
2/3 cup milk
1/2 tsp almond extract
grated rind of 1 lemon
3 egg whites

Preheat oven to 350. Cream butter, add sugar, and continue beating. Sift flour once, measure, sift with baking powder 3 times, add to the butter mixture, alternately with the milk, beat thoroughly until smooth, add flavoring. (By the way, I did not do all the sifting-it didn't seem to make much of a difference) Carefully fold in egg whites (this is the step that my sister declared makes the cake more complicated than I think, and it is annoying and slow to beat the egg whites, but the finished product is very nice), beaten stiff but not dry. Butter and flour a 12 x 8 pan (yet another flexible part of the recipe-I used two mismatched round springform pans and attempted to pour approximately the same amount of batter in each one, again, it all turned out fine). Put the batter into the pan and bake about 1 hour (My baking time was shorter-after 30 minutes I began to check the cakes regularly. They definitely did not take an hour to bake.)

While the cakes bake, whip fresh cream (at least 1 cup, but more is always nice). Slice a pint's worth of strawberries (again, more is always nicer) and sprinkle with sugar. When the cakes are done and cooled, spread a thin layer of jam (raspberry, strawberry, or any sort of mixed berry) on each layer. Top the jam with sliced strawberries, then with a layer of whipped cream. Repeat these steps for the top layer. Try to artfully arrange the strawberries on the top layer, and add a mint leaf or two for a nice touch.

That's it! A delicious, heavenly summer dessert!

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