Trionfo di Fragole

That’s how people in Italy say “strawberry cake with cream” (aka this is going to be a really awesome challenge if I do it right).

This recipe comes from a magazine called La Cucina Italiana that I found in my laundromat.  This elegant magazine is a rarity in laundromats, so I believe that stumbling upon it while folding my socks is the equivalent to finding a crisp five dollar bill and ninety-nine cents on the ground.  I’m “borrowing” this fine cooking magazine to experiment the exquisite Italian cuisine it has to offer.

The best companion to an Italian magazine is having an Italian roommate, who confirmed that all the English translations were correct, AND upon careful examination (“flipping through the pages”), she declared my next challenge on page 69 of the June 2012 edition.  Check it out here.

I’m taking time out of my busy weekday to make Trionfo de Fragole to commemorate a few things: 1) My Italian roommate’s return to her mother continent; 2) My other roommate’s love for strawberrys and cream; 3) the final days of summer (because really, when else am I going to find strawberries this sweet after August?)

The cake will be made from scratch using:

  • 1 stick of unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups of flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup whole milk

For the filling:

  • 5 1/2 tsp granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup limoncello*
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice (I don’t have a lemon! Have to skip using this)
  • 1 lb strawberries
  • Confectioners sugar for dusting
  • Mint leaves for garnish (No need to be fancy tonight. It’s Tuesday.)

* Not only did I not know what limoncello was, I didn’t know where I could find it here (on the cheap).  Then I was informed that my roommate had some leftover from her travels in Italy three years ago.  HOW CONVENIENT.  She has crema di limoncello instead of regular limoncello, but that works too (I hope).

I made the cake by hand, with a large wooden spoon, to be exact, even though the instructions say to use an electric cake mixer.  I guess the traditional readers of this magazine would have one of those handy things in their kitchens.  I didn’t have any problem mixing the ingredients together with my old-fashioned spoon.  I divided the batter into halves and baked for the whole 25 minutes.

While I let the cakes cool, I got started on the strawberries and cream.  I chopped half of the strawberries up so that they would go in the middle of the cake.

As hard as I tried, it was pretty much impossible to do that without eating a few myself.  Maybe I should adjust the measurement from one pound to a third of that.

Happily munching on the strawberries that really should be reserved for the cake, I read the rest of the recipe and started to prepare limoncello syrup that goes on top of both cakes.  I mixed the limoncello, 3 tbsp sugar, and 1 tbsp water, skipping the lemon juice because I don’t have a lemon sitting around the kitchen tonight.

The recipe says to stir over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, but I let it cook even longer to make a thicker syrup.  I think the added lemon flavor will go great with the pound of strawberries I’m about to put on this cake.

After making the syrup, it was time to brush it on to the cake.  Cleverly, the instructions say to poke holes into the cakes and then brush the syrup on top so that it seeps into the cake.  Genius!

After that was done, I was faced with a big dilemma.  I needed to mix the heavy cream with an electric mixer to make the whipped cream.

But my hand mixer is broken!

Or so I thought.

Turns out that yes, it’s not functioning to its full capacity and it sputters uncontrollably after a few minutes of using it, but I thought maybe, just maybe, I can force it to make it work long enough to whip up the cream for this cake.  The mixer is essential to the success of this challenge!

That little hand mixer really overdid itself.   It could handle the first 3 or 4 minutes of just mixing the liquid cream, but when the cream started to get fluffier and thicker, I had to take a step back because I thought the beaters would fly out of their sockets at any moment.  I am so proud of the little mixer and for being relentless and whipping that cream until its final spins.

So long, hand mixer 😦 (for real, this time).

Assembling the cake followed a simple formula: cake + cream + sliced strawberries + cake + more cream + whole strawberries, sprinkled with a bit of powdered sugar.

This challenge was definitely a success!  What’s more, I had two European taste testers who confirmed its deliciousness.  I thought the cake came out a little flat, but that could be linked to my theory that my baking powder (and soda, for that matter) are old and need to be replaced, if and when I ever get around to that.  The whipped cream was just delicious – very light and slightly sweet.  Also, big thanks to my roommates who contributed to the strawberries and the limoncello.  The strawberries were perfect, not too sweet and not too sour, and they were just the right size for the cake.  This was the perfect cake to kiss summer goodbye!

Presentation:  Pretty close to the picture in the magazine!
Edibility:  Even with the uncertainty of the shelf life of limoncello, it turned out fantastic.
Tastiness:  Ooooooh so tasty.
Rematch?:   See you next summer, trionfo!

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