I've spent many an hour in strawberry patches, helping my mother before I left home to plant, weed, and pick; more recently in U-Pick patches in search of the best berries. I adore these succulent ruby gems, truly best picked and eaten right in the patch, still warm from the sun, but amazing any time! I anxiously anticipate May and the arrival of strawberries every year here in the Midwest; this cake celebrates their juicy goodness. Not intended to be "fancy" and perfect, but rustic and delicious, the layers of cake, strawberry sauce, berries, lemon curd whipped cream, and fresh berries are absolutely delightful to look at, and even better on your fork. It's the perfect dessert for any spring celebration!
Chef's Note: There are several steps to making this cake, but it is not difficult as long as all of the components are prepped in advance. Prepare the lemon curd ahead of time so that it is chilled, or use store-bought if you're pressed for time. Make the strawberry sauce ahead so that it is chilled before assembling the cake. I make the curd, sauce, and bake the cake the day before I plan to assemble it (wrap the cake in plastic after it is cooled). The next day I simply make the Whipped Cream and slice the berries before putting the whole thing together. This may be prepared several hours or up to a day ahead and kept in the refrigerator. Leftovers (ha!) will keep for a couple of days in the refrigerator.
One recipe Easy Homemade Yellow Cake (baked into one 9-inch layer + 3 cupcakes for snacking)
Whipped Cream That Won't Fall Flat (triple batch)
1 1/4 cups Lemon Curd
2 pounds ripe, fresh strawberries, washed and dried
Using a long, slender serrated knife, carefully cut the cake horizontally into thirds. Place the bottom third on a cake board cut side up, and place on a serving plate. Using a pastry brush, dab the strawberry sauce generously on the top.
Fold the whipped cream and the lemon curd together until no streaks remain. Scoop about 1/3 of the cream mixture onto the prepared cake layer and smooth out just to the edge of the cake. Stem about 7 or 8 strawberries and slice vertically with an egg slicer. Using the center slices, make a ring of slices around the perimeter of the cake, with the pointed end sticking out slightly along the edge of the cake, overlapping a bit as needed to keep the berries straight. (See photo) Use the end pieces of the berries to fill in the middle of the cake, using a few extra berries if needed to create a single layer of strawberry slices over the whole cake layer. Place the next 1/3 of the cake on top (cut-side up) and repeat.
For the third and final layer place the third cake layer cut-side up atop the other two layers and apply the strawberry sauce. Cover with the whipped cream mixture. Place the sliced strawberries around the perimeter of the cake. Garnish the cake by placing choice, small, whole berries in the center of the cake.