Otherwise known as the cake that singlehandedly stopped this blog in its tracks for a week. Not a real catchy title but a true statement. This recipe took more time and effort than I originally thought it would. I really wanted it to be ready last Friday on Syttende Mai (Norwegian Constitution Day) as this is the traditional dessert served in celebration of the day that Norway became an independent kingdom with the signing of its constitution in 1814. Alas, the recipe was not ready for publication. We did have plenty of test cakes to eat, though, so the day did not go uncelebrated here. I worked out all of the kinks over the weekend and arrived at this final glorious version yesterday afternoon. And I have to say, it was worth the wait. This cake is everything that I had hoped it would be...rich pastry cream and a luscious strawberry filling sandwiched between two layers of tender vanilla cake and topped with whipped cream and fresh strawberries. It's the perfect show-stopping dessert for any summer celebration, gathering or weekend dinner that you have coming up in the next few months. So what are we waiting for? Let me introduce you to this delicious Scandinavian Strawberry Cream Cake.
The Nordic countries are known for their wild summer berries so it's not surprising that a strawberry cream cake would be a popular dessert all over the region. As I mentioned above, it's the go-to celebration cake for Norwegian Constitution Day and a popular choice for Midsummer celebrations in June. The summer strawberry cream cake is a Scandinavian classic and one that anyone interested in Nordic baking should have in their repertoire.
The Right Amount of Richness
Let's start with the cake itself. Some of the recipes I came across in my research contained butter and some didn't. I tried both and much preferred the cake made with butter (surprise!) but not too much butter. One version I tried was simply too rich and buttery once the entire cake was assembled. A modest amount of butter was the answer, just enough to provide a luxurious mouthfeel and the right amount of richness. My final recipe turned out to be a variation of the cake I used for my Tosca cake a few weeks ago but with less butter and a little less sugar. I also wanted to avoid cutting the cake in half to create layers. We all know that deep down I'm a lazy baker and hate fussy techniques...cutting cakes into layers being one of them. One false move and your layers are hopelessly uneven. I baked the layers in separate 9 inch cake pans which worked perfectly and allowed me to skip that stressful cutting altogether.
Roasted Strawberries for Maximum Flavor
Now that I had the cake dialed in, it was time to address the filling. Some of the recipes I found called for using strawberry jam and pastry cream. Some just whipped cream and strawberries. I really liked the idea of the jam and pastry cream (I cannot say no to pastry cream) so I started there. My first version contained my standard pastry cream recipe and some store-bought strawberry jam stirred into chopped fresh strawberries. The fresh berries were fine, but the jam wasn't adding anything other than a bit of sweetness and an artificial strawberry flavor. I really wanted the strawberry filling to taste deeply of strawberries and surprisingly, the combination of fresh strawberries and jam didn't achieve that. Then I remembered my Roasted Strawberry Rhubarb Compote recipe in which I roast strawberries and rhubarb in the oven with some sugar to create a delicious jam-like concoction. What if I tried that technique for the strawberry filling? I roasted a pound of chopped fresh strawberries in the oven with a quarter cup of sugar and a pinch of salt. Success! This was the deep strawberry flavor I was after. Store-bought jam out....roasted strawberries in.
Once I had mastered the cake and filling, it was time to assemble the cake. As I've said before, I'm a rustic baker by nature and am not much for elaborate decorating techniques. I really liked the idea of a cake that was open on the sides and piled high with whipped cream and minimally cut fresh berries. Most of the recipes I found called for whipped cream made with powdered sugar rather than granulated sugar. I tried both and much preferred the version made with granulated sugar. Powdered sugar contains cornstarch and thickens the cream really quickly. This can lead to over-whipped, curdled-looking cream in the blink of an eye. I liked the soft texture and appearance of the whipped cream made with granulated sugar much better, and it was easier and more forgiving to work with.
Rustic and yet elegant and bursting with true strawberry and cream flavor, this cake is the perfect way to celebrate summer with true Nordic style.
Scandinavian Strawberry Cream Cake
For the Roasted Strawberry Filling:
- 1 pound strawberries quartered
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- Pinch of fine salt
For the Cake Layers:
- ½ cup unsalted butter
- ¼ cup milk
- 1 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- ½ cup + 2 tablespoons almond flour
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon fine salt
- 3 large eggs
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
For the Pastry Cream Filling:
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 cup half and half
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Pinch of fine salt
For the Whipped Cream:
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
To Assemble the Cake:
- Roasted Strawberry Filling
- Cake Layers
- Pastry Cream Filling
- Whipped Cream
- 2 cups strawberries halved if small or quartered if large
- Make the Roasted Strawberry Filling: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine strawberries, sugar and salt in an 8 inch square baking dish. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and stir briefly. Return to the oven and roast for an additional 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool slightly. Mash mixture with the back of a fork until it is a jam-like texture. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Filling should be completely cool before assembling the cake. (Filling can be made up to a week in advance).
- Make the Cake Layers: Warm butter in a saucepan over low heat or in the microwave until the butter is melted. Add milk. Stir and set aside to cool.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees if you have not already done so to make the Roasted Strawberry Filling. Butter two 9 inch cake rounds. Place a 9 inch circle of parchment paper on the bottom of each pan. Butter the parchment paper. Flour the inside of the pans. Set aside.
- Whisk flour, almond flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl until fully combined. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat eggs and sugar together on medium-high speed until light in texture and pale yellow in color, about 2-3 minutes. Reduce speed to medium-low and add vanilla.
- Reduce mixer speed to low and add ⅓ of the cooled butter and milk mixture followed by ⅓ of the flour mixture and mix until just combined. Repeat this process two more times ending with final ⅓ of the flour mixture.
- Divide cake batter equally between the prepared pans. Using a small off-set spatula, spread batter out evenly to the edges of the pan. Bake until golden brown and a tester poked into the center of each cake comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Set cakes aside to cool.
- Meanwhile, make the Pastry Cream Filling. Whisk egg yolks, butter, cornstarch, half and half and sugar together in a medium saucepan. Place pan over medium low heat and whisk constantly until mixture is smooth and thick, about 3-5 minutes. Strain mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a clean bowl. Stir in vanilla. Place a piece of parchment paper directly on top of the pastry cream, followed by a layer of plastic wrap (this prevents the custard from forming a skin). Refrigerate until you are ready to use. Pastry cream should be completely cool before assembling the cake. (Pastry Cream Filling can be made 1-2 days in advance.)
- When you are ready to assemble the cake, make the Whipped Cream. Place cream in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whip on medium-high to high speed until the cream starts to thicken. Add sugar and continue to whip until the cream can hold medium peaks. Add vanilla.
- Assemble the cake. Place one cake layer on the bottom of a serving plate. Spread Pastry Cream Filling evenly over the top leaving a border around the edge of about ½ inch. Spoon Roasted Strawberry Filling over the top of the pastry cream. Place the second cake layer on top of the strawberry filling. Spread whipped cream on the cake and arrange fresh strawberries over the top, finishing with two or three whole strawberries for garnish. Serve immediately.