Here you can have your cake and eat it, together with a biscuit or two!
This fusion of vanilla sponge, jam, cream, strawberries and the all-important, buttery shortcake biscuits sums up British summertime at its sweetest. I use the classic, fluted-edged shop-bought shortbread biscuits for this, which measure 6 x 3.5cm. Serve with extra strawberries, if you like.
Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/gas 4.
Using a hand-held electric whisk (it’s tricky to beat this small quantity in a free-standing mixer), beat the butter and sugar together for 5–10 minutes or until very light, pale and creamy. Lightly beat the egg with the vanilla extract. Gradually add the egg to the butter and sugar mixture, beating well after each addition. Sift the flour into the mixture and fold in until just combined, then gently fold in the warm water. Scrape the cake mixture into the prepared tin and spread it out level with a spatula.
Bake for 20–25 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before removing the cake and transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
Use a long, serrated knife, such as a bread knife, to carefully slice the cake horizontally into two equal layers. If the cake is very domed, you can also level off the top to create a smooth, flat surface for the topping. However, a slightly domed top is fine.
Place the bottom cake layer on your chosen cake board or stand. Spread a few teaspoons of jam over the cut surface – don’t be too generous because you don’t want the jam to spill out too much. Place the other cake layer on top. Put the cream in a bowl with the icing sugar and vanilla extract, and whip until the cream holds soft to medium peaks. Spoon the cream on top of the cake and smooth it out with a palette knife, creating a slightly textured finish.
Spread some jam over the back of each shortcake biscuit to act as ‘glue’: spread the jam over three-quarters of the biscuit, leaving the top quarter uncovered. If your jam contains chunks of fruit, avoid them, because any lumps will create an uneven finish.
Press the biscuits around the side of the cake, with the un-jammed sections uppermost, to give a clean finish. The nine biscuits won’t be wedged tightly up against one another: there should be a few millimetres between them, creating neat spaces for cutting the cake into even slices.
Decorate the top of the cake with the three strawberries, placing the larger one in the centre and the smaller two alongside, slightly off-centre. Scatter the freeze-dried strawberry pieces over the top.
Extra strawberries and freeze-dried strawberry pieces look lovely scattered around the cake, and I like to serve extra whipped cream alongside the cake in a pretty bowl.
Recipes & images taken from Quintessential Baking by Frances Quinn published by Bloomsbury on 1st October, $45.00
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