Desserts that showcase fresh strawberries whole are, of course, a great option in the summer when you can find fresh berries everywhere you look. But don’t forget that there are plenty of options besides slicing the berries and piling them on a biscuit, cake or scoop of ice cream. For instance, you can put those berries into the cake to give the cake itself a strawberry flavor – and then pile more berries on top when you’re ready to serve it.
This strawberry chiffon cake is a light, airy cake that is packed with strawberries. The airy texture comes from egg whites that are beaten to stiff peaks before going into the batter. The berries are pureed before going into the cake, so while all that fruit does help keep the cake moist (chiffon cakes tend to stay nicely moist on their own, too), they don’t make the cake wet or heavy in the way that adding chopped up berries might. The cake has a light strawberry flavor to it that taste very natural and not too sweet. It is great on its own and also serves as a fantastic backdrop to whipped cream and more fresh strawberries. It keeps well and is a great cake to have around the house in the summertime.
All of those berries also turn the cake a lovely light pink color. The exact color of your cake will vary with how dark your strawberries are to begin with, so if you want to guarantee that your cake will have a bright pink color to it, add 8-10 drops of red food coloring in with the puree. This cake is most easily made with fresh strawberries, but it is possible to make it in the off season with frozen berries, as well. You need to defrost the berries completely before pureeing them. Frozen berries don’t always have as strong of a strawberry flavor as really fresh berries, so the flavor of the finished cake may be milder, but it will still be very tasty.
Strawberry Chiffon Cake
2 1/4 cups sifted cake flour
1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
1 tbsp baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup pureed fresh strawberries (about 1 heaping cup berries)
7 tbsp vegetable oil
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
7 large egg yolks
7 large egg whites, at room temperature
Preheat the oven to 325F. Take out a 10-inch tube pan, but do not grease it.
In a very large bowl, whisk together the flour, 1 1/4 cups sugar (reserving 1/4 cup), baking powder and salt.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the strawberry puree, vegetable oil, vanilla and egg yolks until well combined, then pour into the dry ingredients and whisk until just smooth and no streaks of dry ingredients remain.
In another large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites to stiff peaks, gradually adding in the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar as you go.
Once the egg whites have reached stiff peaks (better to be a bit softer than to overbeat them), gently whisk 1/4 of the egg whites into the strawberry batter to lighten it. Gently, working in two or three additions, fold the remaining beaten whites into the strawberry batter, folding until no streaks of egg white foam remain visible and the batter is a uniform color. Be sure to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl well.
Pour into the ungreased tube pan and bake for 50-60 minutes, until the top of the cake springs back when gently touched and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Invert cake over a bottle (or onto a wire rack if your pan has “feet” to hold it up) and let cool completely. Once cooled, run a knife around the edges and turn cake out onto a serving platter. Store in an airtight container.
Serve plain or with whipped cream and fresh strawberries.
Makes 1 cake; Serves 12-14