Ruby Red Strawberry Victoria Sponge Cake with Lemon Mascarpone Filling

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I like to make things. I’m pretty sure that is one of the reasons I ended up being a food stylist by trade and a jack-of-all-trades by nature. Making “beauty” is really what all my
“making” obsessions are about. Beauty that is organic & natural, beauty to look at, beauty to use every day, beauty that you can eat, beauty that is often an ode to times past, times in the future, or times that never were.

Such is this cake. A riff on the classic “Victoria Sponge Cake”, an ode to a time of lawn parties, women strolling across green parks in white dresses, croquet games where men wore bowler hats & seersucker suits. To a time when cakes were special, beautiful and meaningful.

Here is how you make my “Ruby Red Strawberry Victoria Sponge Cake with Lemon Mascarpone Filling”

Shopping list: 2 pints of small strawberries, 1 pint of whipping cream, 1 carton of mascarpone cheese, 1 lemon, super-fine sugar or regular granulated sugar, powdered sugar, vanilla extract, self-rising flour, 5 eggs, salt, parchment paper, oil to grease pans

Make it:

1. Preferably use local Spring strawberries, (these ruby red beauties came from the Downtown Nashville Farmer’s Market), 2 pints rinsed & drained, caps removed. Leave berries whole unless they are large, then cut in half. Set aside.

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2. To make this very easy sponge-cake you will need 5 large eggs separated, 3/4 cup superfine sugar (if you don’t have then pulse regular granulated sugar in a food processor for a few seconds to make your own), 1 1/4 cups self-rising flour sifted with a pinch of salt.

3. Grease & line two 8 or 9 inch cake pans with parchment paper. Grease the paper. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

4. Whisk egg yolks & sugar together until a pale yellow.  Using a stand or hand mixer whip egg whites until stiff.  Whisk egg whites into yolks. Gently sprinkle sifted flour over eggs in batches and fold into eggs using a large metal spoon until all the flour is mixed in.

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5. Divide batter between two prepared pan. Bake for about 20 minutes or until cake layers are light golden brown  & cooked in the middle. Remove from pans to cool completely on wire racks.

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6. Mix 1 cup or container of marcarpone cheese, which is slightly sweet,  with the juice & zest of half a lemon. Blend well.

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8. Place one cooled cake layer on a cake plate or stand. Spread lemon mascarpone on top. Arrange half the berries over &  gently press them into the cheese. Dust with a bit of powdered sugar.

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9.  Top layer of berries with the second cake layer. Whip one cup of heavy cream with 2 tbsp powdered sugar & 1 tbsp vanilla extract until stiff peaks form. Spread on top of second cake layer. Top whipped cream with the remaining berries. Dust with additional powdered sugar if desired.

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11. Serve immediately or chill until ready to serve.  I made this cake from start to finish in 1 hour. It keeps well lightly covered for a day or two in the fridge.

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Notice the texture of the cake….very sponge-like!

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Making this cake will create a sense of well-being, make you think about the historical context of baking cakes, allow you to use fresh, local, just picked strawberries that taste like berries should.

Happy Mother’s Day!

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Cardamom Blueberry Butter & Seckel Pear Tart

A very fine “Cardamom Blueberry Butter & Seckel Pear Tart”

Recently a small package, neatly wrapped in brown paper arrived at my home. It was post-marked from Victoria, British Columbia. A bright red “fragile” sticker was prominently displayed on the front. I knew immediately that my “prize” had arrived. And indeed upon tearing open the box I found, nestled snuggly inside, cushioned with bright turquoise tissue paper, 3 beribboned jars of “Cardamom Blueberry Butter”. Two of favorite flavors melded into one knockout treat!

The lovely trio of jars was homemade using fresh Canadian Blueberries by another blogger-friend, Kristy Lynn, who has a great blog at: gastronomicalsovereignty@blogspot.com. I have been following and enjoying Kristy’s blog for a while now and recently she did a “giveaway” of three jars of her homemade blueberry butter & I was the lucky winner. British Columbia to Tennessee….a long trip for some little glass jars.

Lucky I was indeed! The first thing I did was grab a spoon, open a jar & eat it straight from the jar. Mmmmm. It was so delicious & unlike any fruit butter I’ve ever had.  Beautiful color & texture, a definite fresh blueberry taste with just a hint of the cardamom. I love thinking about how far these berries-turned-into-butter traveled….where they came from,  Kristy making the butter and canning them in her kitchen far, far away. Here I was in Nashville enjoying the flavor of British Columbia right in my own kitchen. Two degrees of delicious separation.

Next…a few days later, my toast test….slices of buttered toast with a smear of Kristy’s blueberry butter. Oh yes…the perfect venue. Kerrygold Butter & Blueberry Butter on hot toast…if it’s good on toast, then it’s good.

Not nice to hoard my treat not sharing with others…even though that thought went through my head. This week I used some of Kristy’s Cardamom Blueberry Butter as the main ingredient for a tart I developed. I had some sweet little ripe Seckel pears and a tub of Mascarpone cheese which seemed like a nice pairing with the butter along with a sweetened pastry crust.

For this recipe I used:

5 ripe Seckel pears, peeled & cored, cut in half lengthwise

1 (8oz) tub of Mascarpone cheese

4 generous tablespoons Cardamom Blueberry Butter (this recipe could be made with any really good homemade butter such as pumpkin butter)

1 pastry slightly sweetened

Raw or Turbinado sugar

Directions:

1.Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Roll pastry dough out  on floured board to about a 12 inch circle more or less. Fit into an 8 inch tart pan with a removable bottom.

                                                                      

2. Use a knife to cut away any pastry that overlaps the edge of the pan.

3. Spread the container of Mascarpone cheese over the bottom of the crust evenly.

4.  Top with Cardamom Blueberry Butter.

5. Peel pears with a sharp knife. Cut pears in half longways. Carefully remove core. I used the sharp edge of a small table-spoon to remove core as pears were very ripe and small. Place pear halves face down on top of the blueberry butter.

6. Sprinkle pears with a bit of the raw sugar. Bake for about 30 minutes or until mixture is hot and bubbly, crust is a deep golden brown & tops of pears are starting to brown. Remove from oven. Let cool on a rack for about 30 minutes to serve warm. This tart is also delicious served at room temp.

7. Serve cut into wedges with an additional sprinkling of sugar to add just a bit of crunch to each bite.

There were a few friends…the tart was cut, it was shared, it was eaten with Relish, it was enjoyed on a fall day at the end of October.

 A Small All Hallow’s Eve Gallery

adios October, hola November…..