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This week I’m eating: strawberries

In my opinion, strawberry season starts when strawberries are less than $2 a punnet and that happened about a week ago at my local market (South Melbourne). So by that reasoning we can now start eating strawberries. Exciting!

Strawberries are great because you can eat them with basically anything else, but when spring really starts getting warm, I want sponge cake and balsamic strawberries. Although, I could eat a bowl of balsamic strawberries just on their own. Delicious.

However, this week, I’ve made an almond sponge with balsamic strawberries and a goat’s cheese mascarpone cream filling. The goat’s cheese is subtle and not at all overwhelming.

Before I start, remember sponge cake is ruined by four things: not enough air, over-mixing, opening the door of the oven too soon, and fear.

Especially fear.

So approach this recipe with aplomb and self confidence and everything will be okay.

Balsamic strawberries:
1 punnet strawberries, quartered
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp caster sugar
A few mint sprigs, torn

Almond sponge:
100 g plain flour
25 g almond meal
100 g caster sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
40 g melted butter

Goat’s cheese mascarpone cream:
60 g soft goat’s cheese
60 g mascarpone
300 ml cream
zest of one lemon
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
2 tbsp caster sugar

Preheat the oven to 160 C and grease a loose-bottomed, 20cm round cake tin.

Combine the chopped strawberries, balsamic vinegar, caster sugar and torn mint in a bowl. Leave aside.

Triple sift the flour and almond meal. Yes this is extremely irritating, but if you don’t do it, your sponge will fail.

Beat together the caster sugar, eggs and vanilla. You need to beat these with hand-held electric beaters for 7-8 minutes. The batter must be fluffy, really fluffy. Again, irritating, but your sponge needs the air. To be honest, I was wondering how on earth I had the patience for this in the days before being able to play on iphones and twitter.

Using a flat spatula, fold the flour and almond mix into the batter in three batches. Fold in the butter last. Please, please don’t over-fold as it will ruin your cake. You need a light touch.

Pour into the greased cake tin, giving it a shake to settle the mix and prevent ‘a domed cake thing’ happening. Place in the oven and bake for about 20-25 minutes, depending on your oven. My oven is super and this cake only takes 20 minutes. I definitely wouldn’t recommend opening the door before at least 20 minutes; the change in temperature will destroy an uncooked sponge.

Take the sponge out and leave it in the tin until it’s cool enough to handle.
Then, tip out onto a wire rack and let it cool completely before you slice it into two discs.

Dump all the ingredients for the goat’s cheese mascarpone cream into a bowl and whip with your electric beaters until the mixture is of a good consistency to sit between the two halves of cake without going runny.

Spread the cream onto one cake half, put the strawberries on top, followed by the other cake half. It’s nice at this point to sift a little icing sugar over the top.

WINE NOTE: There are approximately three rosés in the world worth drinking, all from the Mornington Peninsula – specifically Ten Minutes by Tractor; Stonier; and Port Phillip Estate. Any one of those would be nice with this cake.

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