Changing Winds

It is a gorgeous day here in the Bay Area. Sunny, blue skies, balmy temperatures, a gentle breeze – it’s as if the world approved of my departure from my current company. It was my first real job out of college – full time, generous benefits, an opportunity to learn and grow professionally – all good things and I am incredibly fortunate and appreciative. But when push comes to shove, it was time for a change and a move to bigger and better things. I don’t regret it. I told my students earlier this week during our last lecture that the world spins too quickly for us to be caught standing still. Standing still means you’re already behind. So I urged them, as I urge myself, to constantly keep progressing, keep moving forward, and never get too comfortable or too complacent. Hopefully, the message resonated with some of them.

My new position starts next Monday, so I have some down time to rest and rejuvenate and do some catching up. I’ve picked up an “internship” aka fun freelance gig with one of my favorite florists – Vo Floral Design. So far, I’ve learned quite a bit about the flower industry, and a bit about the business and how to design and arrange. It’s been a great experience, and has only increased my appreciation for that form of artistry. In my remaining down time, I’ve finally had a chance to play in the kitchen. With the markets brimming with fresh berries, I just had to make this cake – a lovely Chiffon cake topped with a mildly sweet whipped mascarpone cream and a generous and messy handful of strawberries – this to me, is quintessentially summertime.

Lawn

Chiffon Cake with Mascarpone Cream
Source: Adapted from AllRecipes

Ingredients
Chiffon Cake:
2 c cake flour, sifted
1 1/2 c granulated sugar
1 tbs baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 c vegetable oil
7 eggs, yolks and whites separated
3/4 c cold water
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1 pint of strawberries, cleaned and hulled

Mascarpone Cream:
6 oz mascarpone, at room temperature
1/2 c heavy whipping cream, very cold
3 tbs granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Directions
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Butter (or PAM) and flour 2 9″ cake rounds. You could alternatively use 8″ cake rounds, just bake longer.

Beat egg whites and cream of tartar with an electric mixer until very stiff. Meanwhile, combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the oil, egg yolks, water, vanilla and almond extracts. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet and beat to combine. Fold the stiff egg whites into the cake batter with a rubber spatula, trying to minimize the number of strokes required as to not deflate the cake too much. Pour batter into 2 9″ cake rounds and bake until golden brown or when a toothpick comes out clean from the center. For me, this took about 25 minutes. Once done, loosen the edges of the cake with a knife, and invert pan onto a cooling rack. Allow to cool completely before assembling.

While the cakes are cooling, whip together the mascarpone filling ingredients and set aside. To assemble, simply layer the 2 cake layers and fill with the mascarpone cream. Top with sliced strawberries and a flurry of powdered sugar or shredded basil or mint leaves or whatever your heart desires. Serve and enjoy.

Sliced

This is probably my favorite chiffon cake recipe of all time. It’s easy and pretty much fail proof. The flavor is subtly sweet and reminiscent of Asian chiffon cakes. True of a chiffon cake, it’s not too dense and not too delicate – it holds up to layers well but is still soft and springy. I chose to flavor the cake with vanilla and almond extracts, but lemon extract would work well here too. Paired with a mild mascarpone cream, the strawberries take center stage, so be generous with the berries. In other variations, I’ve seen berries macerated in balsamic vinegar or a bit of sugar – the strawberries I bought today were perfect and would not benefit from any adulterations, so I left them as is. Also, as you all know, I am a terrible cake decorator. Luckily for me, this naked cake trend is all the rage now – I’ve seen it on all these blogs and food magazines – and it’s perfect, even for someone like me.

 

So yes, quite a few changes in my life – and I’m looking forward to every single one of them.

Thanks for reading,
AnhD

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