Your own awareness of your surroundings is often clarified while you are in the midst of teaching someone.
For me this has become more apparent when answering my daughter’s questions about how certain things interact with one another. She is becoming increasingly more conscious of what is going on around her and often ponders on how is all works together. Lately there are many questions about the seasons in relation to animals and plants which have become more detailed over last year.
The bulk of the questions have been about the transition from winter to our now early spring. A rapid fire question and answer period came after a brief comment I made about the apple tree in the back yard. It’s sprouting new buds and is getting ready to grow leaves. ‘Is this so the apples can grow? I love the apples! I can pick them? When will they come? Why does it take so long? Why does it not have apples all the time? Why does the tree need winter? Why does it need a time to sleep? Right. I need rest too. What about the birds?”
What about the birds? Hmm.. that had me thinking.
During the winter we have some resident birds that we set feed out for and with the warmer weather lately their activities have been escalating. As the sun rises earlier the feverish chirping in the front and back yard is the natural alarm to wake up. I hear the chattering and chirping as they congregate in one section of the yard, then they move and fly off to another section even on a lazy weekend morning when you desperately want to sleep in.
They are busy building. Building up their social network, establishing some roots while picking out locations to settle down and raise a family while rushing, always rushing to build their nest.
In the spring we humans often exhibit the same behaviours. We awaken from our winter slumber and feel free to get out and about as there are less layers of clothes to pile on. We are more active in our social circles as we meet and great more of our friends and neighbours who are also out and about. The nesting and preparation of spring cleaning, open windows that let the fresh air in and the brighter lighter colours of fresh ingredients make their way into our homes.
For me one of the best things about spring is opening the window in our bathroom for the first time while I shower. The cool fresh air is a welcome contrast to the hot shower water. The sounds of the birds, kids playing in the yards and general outside activities of comings and goings can all be heard. It’s motivation for the soul to get out and get going.
I hope you enjoy this cake as a sign of the vibrancy of spring, peeking through the doldrums of winter. A sign of nesting and renewal for the mind, body and soul.
Full of flavour this Spring strawberry cake is sure to awaken the senses.
- 2 3/4 cup flour
- 1 Tbsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 cup butter, room temperature
- 2 1/4 cup sugar
- 3 eggs + 1 egg white, room temperature
- 1 cup milk, room temperature
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
- 2 cups strawberries, cleaned and chopped
- 1/2 cup fresh strawberries, cleaned and chopped
- 4 egg whites (reserve the yolks for use in the curd)
- 1 1/4 cup berry or castor sugar
- 1 1/2 cups of butter, room temperature
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 cup strawberries, clean and chopped
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 Tsp lemon juice
- 4 egg yolks
- 3 whole strawberries, cleaned
- 1 pkg of edible candy grass
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare 2 - 10 inch round pans by oiling and placing parchment paper on the bottom of each.
- In a medium bowl sift together the flour, baking powder and salt and set aside.
- In a stand mixer cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and the egg white one at a time. Scrape down the sides of the bowl after each egg addition. Mix until the eggs are blended in.
- In a large measuring cup mix in the milk and the vanilla and set aside.
- Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the stand mixer and incorporate. Add in 1/2 of the milk and vanilla mixture until combined. Repeat steps and end on the flour mixture, scrape the sides of the bowl between the additions of the vanilla and milk combination.
- Fold in the strawberries and place the batter in the prepared cake pans. Bake for approximately 30-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let sit for 10 minutes until slightly cooled. Run the back end of a table knife around the outside of the pan to loosen the cakes and invert onto a cooling rack to completely cool.
- Puree the strawberries in a food processor until completely smooth add in the vanilla and stir. Set aside. *don't rinse your food processor as you can use this for the curd recipe.
- Over medium low heat bring a pot of water a few inches from the bottom to a simmer. In a stand mixer bowl (metal or heat proof glass) Add the egg whites and berry sugar and place the bowl over the pot of simmering water. Whisk until the sugar has completely dissolved and is no longer grainy. *don't discard the water in the pot as you will use this in the curd recipe.
- Attach the bowl to the stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. On medium-high speed whisk until the mixture has cooled to room temperature and stiff peeks have formed.
- Reduce the speed and add in the butter 2 table spoons at a time. Ensure that the butter is incorporated before adding the next amount of butter. Add in the vanilla and mix until combined.
- Once it is all in incorporated, remove about 1 1/2 cups of the icing and place in a bowl for accent piping. Set aside.
- Scrape down the sides and add in the strawberry puree slowly as the machine is running. It may appear to separate, but keeping mixing until if forms back into a spreadable icing. Set aside to decorate the cake.
- Puree the strawberries in a food processor until completely smooth. Strain through a fine mesh strainer or jelly bag. Place in a small bowl and set aside.
- Use the simmering water in the icing recipe and place a large metal bowl over the pot. Melt the butter. Remove from heat and whisk in the sugar, cornstarch, berry puree and lemon juice. Return the bowl back on the the simmering water pot and whisk until the mixture is thickened. Remove from heat and press the curd through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl to let cool to room temperature.
- Place the one cooled cake onto a serving plate. Fill an icing bag outfitted with a large round tip and pipe with the vanilla buttercream icing. Pipe a layer around the circumference of the cake. Pipe an additional 2 layers in the inside of the first one to make a barrier dam so when the curd is added it doesn't squish out the sides. Place a few dollops of the strawberry icing in the centre of the dam and spread to create a thin icing bed for the curd to rest upon. Add in enough of the curd to be level with the top of the icing dam.
- Gently place the 2nd cake on the top. Place a generous amount of icing on the top of the cake and using an icing knife, spread it to the top and sides to make a crumb coat over the cake. Add extra icing as needed and continue until the whole outside is lightly covered.
- Add additional icing to create a thicker layer of coverage to the whole cake using the same method above. Once the cake is fully covered in a generous layer, use a icing smoother to even out the icing and create a smooth texture. If you have one with a jagged edge, create ridges on the circumference of the cake by running it vertically along the outside.
- Use the icing bag with the vanilla icing to dot a border along the bottom of the cake where is meets the place. Pipe a filled in circle on the centre of the cake the size of the interior of your nest. Add in the 3 whole strawberries with points facing upright to represent the 'eggs'. Arrange the edible grass in a circular shape to form the nest.
If you can not locate edible green candy grass, substitute it for spun sugar or basil leaves cut lengthwise and scattered to form a nest shape.