Balsamic Strawberry Shortcake

A few days ago, a friend requested a recipe for a strawberry shortcake. Instead of the traditional, individually-sized flaky biscuit, she was looking for a layer cake to serve at a picnic gathering. That dessert was on my to-bake list so I was more than happy to test one out. I referred to Cook’s Illustrated for a fluffy yellow layer cake. I turned to Flour Bakery for an original twist: strawberries macerated in balsamic vinegar.

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Italians have been combining strawberries with balsamic vinegar for centuries, but it’s the first time I try it out for myself. For those skeptical about the idea of adding vinegar to baked goods, I promise you will be pleasantly surprised at how well the vinegar’s sweet, tart acidity complements the fruit. Use good-quality aged vinegar.

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With this cake recipe, Cook’s Illustrated blends two types of cake: the chiffon cake and the butter cake. They used the chiffon technique, which consists of folding whipped egg whites into the batter for high volume and light texture, while using ingredients for a butter cake which makes the cake sturdy. Extra tenderness comes from the buttermilk. This fluffy yellow layer cake is not average or dull. Even though the flavours are not bold like chocolate, the cake is so tender and tasty!

Important: bring all the ingredients to room temperature before you begin the cake recipe. Use cake pans with edges that are at least 2-inch high.

The syrup of the strawberries seeped through the cloud of whipped cream, staining the cake a beautiful shade of pink.

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Bon appétit!

Recipe Sources: Cook’s Illustrated (fluffy yellow layer cake) and Flour (balsamic strawberries and whipped cream)

Yields one 9-inch 2-layer cake, 10 to 12 slices

Ingredients:
•cake
10 ounces (2 1/2 cups) cake flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
12.25 ounces (1 3/4 cups) granulated sugar
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 eggs, separated, room temperature
3 egg yolks, room temperature
pinch cream of tartar
•strawberries
600 grams strawberries
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons lemon zest, finely grated
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
•whipped cream
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

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Instructions:
•cake
1) Preheat the oven to 350F.
2) Butter two 9-inch round cake pans. Line the bottoms with parchment paper and dust the sides with flour.
3) Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar together in a large bowl. Set aside.
4) In a separate bowl, whisk the melted butter, buttermilk, oil, vanilla, and egg yolks together. Set aside.
5) In the bowl of the stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites and cream of tartar on medium-low speed until foamy, about 1 minute.
6) Increase the speed to medium-high and whip until the egg whites form soft, billowy mounds, about 1 minute.
7) Add the remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar, whipping until glossy, stiff peaks form.
8) Transfer the egg whites into a bowl. Set aside.
9) Transfer the flour mixture into the bowl of the stand mixer (no need to clean it).
10) Pour the butter mixture into the bowl and whip on low speed until combined and the batter is smooth.
11) Use a spatula to gently fold 1/3 of the whipped egg whites into the batter.
12) Gently fold in the remaining whipped egg whites.
13) Pour the batter into the prepared pans. Smooth the tops. Gently tap the pans on the counter to release air bubbles.
14) Bake for 20 to 22 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. I left my cakes in the oven for 28 minutes.
15) Transfer the pans to a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes.
16) Remove the cakes from the pans and let cool completely.
•strawberries
1) Hull the strawberries and slice the fruit lengthwise into 4-5 slices.
2) Mix the strawberries with the vinegar, lemon zest and sugar in a medium bowl.
3) Let macerate for 30 minutes.
•whipped cream
1) In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the cream with the sugar and vanilla until it forms soft peaks.
•assembly
1) Level the cake layers.
2) Place one layer on the serving platter.
3) Spread half of the whipped cream onto the layer.
4) Layer half of the strawberries onto the whipped cream.
5) Repeat process for second layer of the cake.

Serve immediately.

If you make the cake in advance, store it as such:
– Wrap the cooled cakes tightly in plastic and keep at room temperature for up to 1 day.
– Wrap the cooled cakes tightly in plastic and then aluminum foil, and freeze for up to 1 month. To defrost the cakes, leave them at room temperature to thaw before taking off the wrapping.

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