Friday, April 19, 2013

Chocolate & Balsamic Strawberry Cream Cake

Bright red spring strawberries have found their way to our markets just about everywhere.  Time to break out the seasonal shortcakes, pies, angel food and the ice cream machine!   Rhubarb cannot be far behind.

For a little diversion, I'm going in a different direction here.  I've placed fresh strawberries doused with brown sugar and balsamic atop a soft chocolate cake that's been dolloped with clouds of whipped cream.  The cake is made with oil for extra moisture and is a simple mix in a bowl.  A good measure of cocoa lends richness and depth that stands up to the bracing acidity of the strawberries.  It hits all the right dessert notes for flavor, gooey lusciousness and, of course, chocolate.

If you're seeing lots of good strawberries in your neighborhood, it's time to dig in!

Bench notes:
- A note about cake flour:  The important difference between cake flour and all-purpose flour is the protein content.  When flour protein is hydrated, strands of gluten develop.  The protein content of cake flour is about 8%; the protein content of all-purpose flour is about 10% - 12%.  So for cakes, lower protein flour means a more tender texture.  If you don't have access to cake flour, you can make your own with a ratio of cornstarch to all-purpose flour.  When added to all-purpose flour, cornstarch acts to inhibit the formation of gluten.  The formula for substituting all-purpose flour for cake flour: 1 cup cake flour = 1 cup bleached all-purpose flour minus 2 tablespoons + 2 tablespoons cornstarch.  After measuring, sift the flour to fully distribute the cornstarch before using it in your recipe.
- I used natural (undutched) cocoa powder for the cake.  To "bloom" the flavor, I mix it with hot water before adding it to the batter.
- The amount of sugar and balsamic you use for the strawberries will depend on their ripeness.
- Add a dab of sour cream to the whipped cream and substitute brown sugar for a variation that goes well with strawberries.

Chocolate & Balsamic Strawberry Cream Cake
9 servings

1 1/2 C cake flour
3/4 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1/2 t cinnamon
1/2 C + 1 T cocoa powder
1/2 C + 1 T hot water
3/4 C dark brown sugar
3/4 C granulated sugar
1/4 C + 2 T canola oil
2 eggs @ room temperature
1 1/2 t vanilla
1/4 C + 2 T buttermilk @ room temperature

1 pint fresh ripe strawberries
3 T sugar, to taste
2 T balsamic vinegar, to taste

1 C heavy cream
1 T sugar
1/2 t vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease a 9" square pan and line with parchment, leaving an overhang on two sides.

Sift the cake flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.

Whisk the cocoa and hot water together until thoroughly blended and smooth.

Whisk together both sugars, oil, eggs and vanilla and blend well.  Add the cocoa mixture.  Stir in the dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with the buttermilk and beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.  Pour into the prepared pan and gently tap the bottom of the pan on the work surface to remove any air bubbles.

Bake until a toothpick tests with a few moist crumbs adhering, about 28 minutes.  Place on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes.  Run a thin bladed knife around the edges and gently lift out the cake.  Cool completely.

Hull and slice the strawberries and place in a bowl with the brown sugar and balsamic.  Toss to thoroughly coat and set aside to macerate.

Whip the cream with the sugar and vanilla to soft peak.  To serve, spread the cream on top of the cake and top with strawberries.  Alternatively, plate the slices of cake and garnish with a dollop of cream and a serving of strawberries and juices.


Bunny said...

Oh my, I know what I'm gonna do with the strawberries I get from my garden! It looks and sounds incredible.

pastry studio said...

Hellooooo, Bunny! Nice to see you. Hope you enjoy this easy cake, especially with home grown strawbs!

PGirl said...

This looks delicious! Wish I had the recipe last week as I had guests over and was looking for something to make with strawberries. I went with the strawberry shortcake which turned out fine but this looks much better!

pastry studio said...

Mmmmmm, strawberry shortcake.....

Victoria said...

Well, we're a long way from strawberries here, but I know what the first thing I'm going to do with the first quart will be!

Elly McCausland said...

We're totally the reverse in terms of our produce - LOADS of rhubarb in the markets (has been since January), but will have to wait a couple of months for British strawberries! I love the simplicity of this cake - you can't really beat strawberries and chocolate. Though I reckon this would also be amazing with raspberries!

pastry studio said...

Howdy Victoria and Elly! Hope you're enjoying the fruit in your midst, whatever it may be.

Elly, raspberries would definitely be great. But I've never tried them with balsamic. I'll have to check that out!

Rosie @ Blueberry Kitchen said...

Your cake looks so delicious! I love the idea of balsamic strawberries and cream on a chocolate cake - yum!

pastry studio said...

Thanks very much, Rosie. I love your blog!

Lidia said...

May I ask what method you use to measure flour? I would like to make one of your recipes and want to make sure I use the same method you used to get the best result since your recipes use volume measurements for dry ingredients. Thanks!

pastry studio said...

Hello, Lidia, and thanks very much for your question. I've been grappling lately with switching over to metric weights in the near future because it seems many bakers are now using a scale. I'm also going to work soon on putting together a chart of weights for my archives.

When I’m not using a scale, I use the “dip and sweep” method of measuring flour with the following important condition: Flour gets very compacted as it sits in our cupboards. So when measuring flour by volume, it’s important to first take a fork or a whisk and fluff the flour thoroughly to aerate it before each dip of your measuring cup. Overfill it just a bit and then use a spatula to level the cup.

So, as far as weight is concerned:

my 1 cup of all-purpose flour = 5 ounces
my 1 cup of cake flour = 4 ounces

Hope this helps.

Lidia said...

This is extremely helpful! Thank you