I have to admit strawberries have always been a weakness of mine. My earliest recollection of being addicted to the sweet juicy fruit first started when Mama made the fatal mistake of setting my highchair at the end of the table within reach of her big bowl of strawberries. Unfortunately they were slated for the dinner guests’ dessert. They were so busy conversing and laughing amongst themselves, Mama failed to notice me snitching strawberry after strawberry until she was ready to serve dessert and found a totally empty bowl! She was so upset with me it left an indelible message, that being, “Strawberries are so good they deserve a special elevated place on the table and are obviously coveted by the grown-ups!” So to this day when strawberry season rolls around I start salivating, always remembering that first big bowl of sweet fruit.
This week was my birthday, notice I said week? I don’t like to restrict my birthday celebration to just one day; it’s much more fun to stretch it out for a week! I actually have been known to have birthday months! 😵👍 So with strawberry season in full swing, I thought I’d try to duplicate those special light strawberry cakes sold in Chinese bakeries. They are known as Chinese Birthday Cakes, a light sponge cake with fresh strawberry slices set in a bed of vanilla custard between the layers, then iced in a vanilla whipped cream, and finally topped with more strawberries. It’s the lightest most divine of fresh summer cakes and one of my all time favorites! I can’t think of a better birthday cake! I deplore those sugary sweet, dry, flavorless typical birthday cakes. 😝
So after researching a ton of different recipes, and knowing what components I wanted in my version, I finally created my own concoction of the infamous Chinese Strawberry Birthday Cake. 🎂🍰 I can now report that it was successfully duplicated… and it is delicious, if I do say so myself.
We had six friends join us last night for my Chinese theme dinner inspired by the Chinese Birthday Cake. So that makes a total of eight opinions, counting DH and me, and it was unanimous ….the cake was a total hit! Votes are in and it is a “10” on the YUMM chart‼️ We didn’t actually vote, but second helpings were had and only one serving left on the cake stand, so in my book that screams WINNER! Well that, and a lot of accolades as well.
This cake is rather complicated with its layers and various steps, but oh so worth the effort. So to help you get organized I divided each component’s ingredients and directions in separate sections below, vs listing total ingredients then a long list of directions. It helped me organize, mis en place, (French chef term for getting everything in its place before you begin), so hopefully breaking it down like this will simplify it for you too.
In bowl 1 mix together:
6 eggs yolks
6 TBLS granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 TBLS vanilla
1/2 c water and 1/3 c oil
Mix everything together till creamy
In bowl 1, over the egg yolk mixture, sift together:
3/4 c +1 TBLS All Purpose flour
2 TBLS cornstarch
1 tsp baking powder
In separate mixing bowl 2, whisk until stiff peaks form:
6 egg whites
4 TBLS powdered sugar
2 TBLS granulated sugar,
1 tsp cream of tartar (if you happen to use a copper bowl you can omit this)
Next fold the whites (bowl 2 mixture) into the yolks (bowl 1 mixture)
It’s okay to see strands of yellow and white. (Be gentle, do not flatten the whites. Best to do a little at a time)
Pour the batter into an ungreased 9″ springform pan. It will stick, but you want it to stick in order to rise, so do not grease the pan!
Smooth out batter and bake at 350 degrees in middle of oven for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean (test from center of cake)
Turn cake upside down on raised cooling rack until cooled completely
When totally cool, remove the springform pan and cut off any brown bits of cake.
Cut in half to make two layers.
to be heated on stove so add to sauce pan:
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup AP flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
Then stir in 3/4 cup of milk, (add after other ingred were first blended together in pot)
In another small bowl mix:
1 egg beaten with 1/4 c milk. (Caution! Must be tempered. See directions.)
1 TBLS vanilla. Add to pot last
Whisk sugar, flour, salt in pan. Then add 3/4 c milk. Bring to slight boil whisking continually, (just until little bubbles form around edges. Do not scrape bits off the sides or your custard will clump) Cook two minutes, still whisking continually until smooth, and remove from heat.
Now mix 1 beaten egg with 1/4 cup milk. Temper egg by slowly adding a ladleful of hot milk mixture into beaten egg mixture. Whisk continually while pouring. (This heats the egg temperature slowly & sufficiently so that you don’t get scrambled eggs vs a cream). Once tempered you can add this egg mixture into the sauce pan, again whisking vigorously to combine. Return pan to heat and keep whisking until smooth. As soon as it begins to slightly boil again, (just until little bubbles form around edges)… remove from heat and whisk in 1 TBLS vanilla.
Put plastic wrap over custard. (Literally press wrap on the custard itself so “pudding skin” will not form)
Chill at least two hours or overnight. You can drop the pan in a bowl of ice water to speed the process.
SYRUP: (in small pot on stove)
1 c water
1/2 c sugar
juice from 1/2 lemon
Mix and heat until sugar dissolves
Cool and reserve this for drizzling onto each cake layer before any filling is applied
STABILIZED WHIPPED CREAM FROSTING:
1 pkg Knox gelatin (whisk in 1/4 c room temperature water for a few minutes to dissolve) Set aside
2 cups (1 pint) chilled heavy whipping cream
1/2 c confectionery sugar
1 TBLS vanilla
Whipped Cream Frosting Directions:
1) Add heavy whipping cream to very cold bowl with very cold whipping attachment, (pre-chill them in the freezer)
Beat on low for ~30 seconds until small bubbles form.
2) At this time, while mixer is running, add the confectionary sugar. Increase speed to medium for ~30 seconds or until beaters leave a trail in the cream.
3) Slowly add 1 TBLS vanilla.
4) Add cooled gelatin (make sure it is not coagulated like jello, or else you must liquefy it again before blending into frosting. The gelatin is the stabilizer)
5) Increase speed to high and whip until cream is soft and billowy and peaks form.
6) Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
CLEAR GLAZE: (to brush on top of fruit)
Heat 1/4 cup any type preserves with 1/4 c water. Boil to liquefy, reducing liquid to glaze consistency. Then strain. Keep glaze warm on back of stove as this is the final step before chilling entire cake where you will gently brush glaze over fruit pcs only, being careful not to get any on frosting. This makes the fruit shiny.
FILLING/TOP DECORATION: 1-2 pts fresh strawberries washed & sliced…take 6 of the prettiest ones & slice in halves for the top, being sure to keep green leaves intact on each half, remaining others are sliced thin for center filling. Reserve the biggest and best whole berry for center of cake.
Set-up: First place bottom cake layer on pretty cake stand (You can leave it on the bottom of springform pan and place on cake stand. TIP: put cake on a lazy susan and spin as you easily frost)
1) poke holes in the bottom layer then drizzle with a thin layer of syrup (keeps it moist)
2) spread a generous amount of custard on the bottom layer leaving 1/2 inch along edge
3) add strawberry slices to fully cover bottom layer covering custard completely, then add more custard on top of fruit slices
4) carefully top with second cake layer, gently press together, wiping away any excess custard from sides
5) repeat syrup drizzle step on top layer
6) cover top and sides of cake with very thin layer of whipped cream frosting (this is called a crumb coat)
7) apply a thick layer of frosting on top of crumb coat. Make pretty swirls with the back of a large serving spoon
8) place the 12 strawberry halves with stem greenery on top of cake in decorative pattern. You can place them accordingly to mark where to slice portions between them. Place the biggest prettiest uncut strawberry in the center of top of cake.
9) While clear glaze is still warm gently brush over fruit only, being careful not to get any on frosting!
10) Must CHILL cake now or serve immediately.
decorate sides with toasted almonds