I had a birthday earlier this month. To be honest, this may be the first year when I haven’t given much thought about it, no major self-reflections on where I am in my life, about the past year or what I want to tackle in the future. No convincing myself that age is just a number and you are only as old as you feel. Perhaps because I had been crazy with work or because I knew I was going to spend the day with my family. Or more likely, because I didn’t really want to think about it.
Thinking about cake, however, was something I could gladly spend my time on. By the start of March, my yearning for spring is all-consuming, so I tend towards fruit-filled cakes (see last year and the year before). This year was no exception, and as I had the pleasure of spending the weekend with my family in Washington, which includes a four-year old niece and a year and a half year old nephew, I steered away from my inclinations towards coffee and alcohol in my dessert.
I’ve had this recipe for Poppy Seed Layer Cake with White Chocolate Cream and Strawberries saved for many years, but never a good opportunity (or crowd) to serve it. This is not your typical birthday cake (i.e. cloyingly sweet and overly dry), instead, its bright with lemon infused throughout and dotted with poppy seeds. The white chocolate cream? Out of this world and a perfect complement for the strawberries. It makes a large cake – so invite your favorite people to share it with. My cousin, notoriously picky (especially for non-chocolate desserts) even went back for a second piece.
I may have had a second piece also … it was my birthday after all, and if nothing else, I make damn good dessert.
Poppy Seed Layer Cake with White Chocolate Cream and Strawberries from Bon Appetit ********** Poppy Seed Cake 3 cups cake flour 2 teaspoons baking powder 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 1/2 teaspoon salt 6 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into pieces 2 cups sugar 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature 2 tablespoons lemon zest (I used 3 lemons) 4 large eggs 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract 1 cup buttermilk, room temperature 2 tablespoons poppy seeds For white chocolate cream: 3/4 cup sugar 2 large eggs 6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice 8 ounces white chocolate, chopped 3 cups chilled whipping cream 2 1/2 cups strawberries, sliced and halved **********
For the poppy seed cake:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 10-inch-diameter springform pan with 2 3/4-inch-high sides. Line bottom of pan with waxed paper; butter and flour paper and sides of pan. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in medium bowl. Cut in 6 tablespoons butter and set aside. Beat sugar, remaining butter and lemon zest in large bowl until smooth. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in lemon juice and vanilla. Add dry ingredients alternately with buttermilk in 3 additions each, beating just until blended. Stir in poppy seeds. Transfer batter to prepared pan. Bake until cake is golden and tester comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Transfer pan to rack. Run knife around pan sides to loosen cake. Release pan sides; cool cake.
For the white chocolate cream:
Combine 1/2 cup sugar, eggs and lemon juice in top of double broiler set over gently boiling water. Whisk until very thick and candy thermometer registers 160°F, about 3 minutes. Remove from water. Add chopped white chocolate and whisk until smooth. Cool to room temperature. Beat heavy cream and remaining 1/4 cup sugar in large bowl to firm peaks. Fold in white chocolate mixture.
Turn cake out onto work surface. Peel off paper. Cut cake horizontally into two equal layers. Transfer one cake layer to platter, cut side up. Spread 1 1/2 cups white chocolate cream over the cake layer. Arrange sliced strawberries in single layer over chocolate cream. Spread more white chocolate cream over the strawberries. Top with second cake layer, cut side down. Spread 3 cups chocolate cream over top and sides of cake. Garnish cake with strawberries cut in half.