Guy and I were invited to the beach for a crab party. From New Bern, the "beach" is about 45 minutes. Our friends (from Virginia) rented a house for themselves and their children. The house was beautiful, well appointed, and comfortable, but Pat and Kathryn were unhappy that it wasn't as nice as the homes their mother had rented in previous years. Their mother, Therese, was our dear friend and she died last year after a short but valiant bout with lung cancer. We were so pleased that they thought to invite us to spend a day with them to connect a little with the past. I insisted on bringing dessert, and had high hopes for a fantastic strawberry filled cake. Turns out I was as unhappy with the dessert as they were with the house.
First off, strawberry season is over in East Carolina, but I decided to buy a big box of strawberries at Sam's Club anyway because they looked beautiful. Big mistake. The second disappointment was that I couldn't find mascarpone cheese anywhere, so I subbed cream cheese, which isn't quite the same. Third disappointment was the topping didn't firm up enough, so the strawberries weren't solidly on the cake. When I cut the first two pieces, the cake collapsed. All in all, I was underwhelmed with this cake. Everyone seemed to like it, though, and Guy gave it two thumbs up. I can depend on his honesty. In fact, he's the first person to tell me when something isn't up to snuff. So I guess the end result was good, but I do like a cake to stay together, remembering that you begin to eat with your eyes, as Giada always says. If you want to venture forth on this one, here's the recipe:
Strawberry Filled Cake
Source: Judy's Kitchen
Rating: 8 out of 10
1 yellow cake mix (I prefer Duncan Hines, but all I had on hand was Pillsbury Moist Supreme)
3 large eggs
1 cup water
1 Tbsp. frozen orange juice concentrate + enough fresh lemon juice to equal 1/3 cup
1/3 cup Canola oil
1 Tbsp. lemon zest, packed
1 Tbsp. orange zest, packed
1/2 tsp. lemon extract
1/2 tsp. orange extract
Preheat oven to 350F. Prepare a 9" tube pan by reinforcing bottom with tinfoil so cake batter does not leak.
Grease and flour pan; set aside. Combine all ingredients in large bowl and mix according to package directions. Pour batter into pan; bake 36-40 minutes, or till toothpick inserted in center returns clean. Cool in pan 15 minutes; turn out onto wire rack to finish cooling, about 2 hours.
STRAWBERRY-MASCARPONE-WHITE CHOCOLATE FILLING
2 cups heavy whipping cream, divided use
4 (1 oz.) squares premium white chocolate (I used Baker's)
8 oz. Mascarpone (or cream cheese), softened
1/2 cup half and half
3-1/2 Tbsp. instant vanilla pudding mix
1-1/4 cups strawberry preserves
about 15 whole strawberries for top
3 cups sliced strawberries
In small saucepan, heat 1/2 cup cream to boiling; off heat; add chocolate squares. Stir till dissolved. Refrigerate till chilled, about 1 hour. In medium bowl, using electric mixer on medium speed, beat the cheese till smooth. Stir in the half and half, chilled white chocolate and pudding mix and beat at least one minute, or till smooth and creamy. Slowly add the remaining heavy cream and beat till thick, for several minutes -- first on low speed, then gradually increasing speed to high. Refrigerate 1 hour (or freeze for 15 minutes).
Heat the strawberry preserves in a small saucepan (or in the microwave if you prefer) till you can stir it easily with a spoon. Remove from heat. Place the whole strawberries on wax paper, cut sides down. Brush each strawberry with some preserves. Cut the cake in half horizontally. (To make it easier, you can place toothpicks all around the cake and follow the line with your sharp knife.) Lay the bottom slice, cut side up, on a serving plate. Brush with some of the preserves. Arrange sliced strawberries on top of preserves.
Spread some white chocolate cream over strawberries. Top with second cake layer, cut side down. Spread some preserves over top layer, then top with the white chocolate cream. Arrange whole strawberries decoratively around top of cake.
Toss remaining strawberries with preserves. Serve slices of cake with additional white chocolate cream and strawberries on the side.
We ate our fill of blue claws, and the leftovers are being picked for tomorrow night's crab cakes.