It's Canada Day here and since it's Wednesday, we don't get a long weekend, but instead a nice break in the middle of the week. I often go strawberry picking on July 1st, but it's gloomy outside, so I decided to skip it this year. Besides, I've been baking so much lately that I can't (or better shouldn't) have more fruit at home as I'll be tempted to bake something something else with it.
However, I still have an amazing Strawberry recipe to share. I've made this cake many times before and I am always amazed at the flavours and textures of this dessert. Original Russian recipe is called "Dream Cake" and I can totally understand why. After I made this cake for the first time I couldn't wait to make it again. Then when strawberry season came a year later, I kept dreaming about this cake over and over again.
It's not an overly difficult cake to make and the recipe is pretty forgiving, but it is not really simple. The bottom layer is a cross between shortbread and cake. It's sweet and light and a perfect vehicle for juicy strawberries. Bright fruit is then covered by a layer of light meringue which gets dry and crispy over the edges, but is still soft and marshmallow-y inside. And to make this cake different from the other kinds of meringue cakes, the same dough that is used for the bottom layer is grated over the meringue; when baked, the topping contrasts so well with the softness of the marshmallow and baked strawberries.
I have made a few tweaks over the years to the original recipe. Most notably I reduced the amount of butter used for the pastry, I added cream cheese to sub some of the butter since I like the slight sourness that it brings to the dough and I added some greek yogurt as well. These substitutions made the pastry more cakey. You can use all butter to get a crumblier shortbread texture of the bottom layer if you'd like. I also think that the amount of sugar could be reduced a little bit, but I have not experimented with it yet.
Strawberry Meringue Cake
adapted from Sonulya
Eggs - 3 large or extra-large
Butter, room temperature - 56 g (half a stick, 4 tablespoons)
Cream cheese, room temperature - 62 g (quarter of 250g brick package)
Greek yogurt, unflavoured - 60 g
Sugar - 3/4 cup + 1/2 cup
Flour - 1 1/2 cups
Baking powder - 3/4 teaspoon
Vanilla - 1/2 teaspoon (or more if you like more vanilla taste)
Salt - a pinch
Strawberries - about 15 large strawberries (~500 g)
- Preheat oven to 350F.
- Butter and flour a 10 inch cake plate.
- Separate eggs.
- In a large bowl, beat the eggs yolks with 3/4 cups of sugar until the mixture is smooth.
- Add softened butter, cream cheese, yogurt, vanilla and mix well.
- Add flour, baking powder and salt. Mix until soft dough forms.
- Separate the dough into two parts. One should be about 3/4 of the dough and the other is 1/4.
- Wrap the smaller portion of the dough in plastic wrap and put in the freezer.
- Cover the bottom of the pie plate with the remaining dough, spreading it evenly. No need to refrigerate.
- Slice the strawberries. Better to slice them at this step rather than in advance as it gives time for the dough to chill in the freezer.
- In another large clean bowl whip the egg whites with the left over 1/2 cup sugar until hard peaks form.
- Spread strawberries over the bottom layer of the dough.
- Cover strawberries with meringue.
- Hopefully by this time the smaller portion of the dough chilled enough and it can be grated over meringue.
- Bake for about an hour until meringue is crispy. Start checking after 50 minutes to make sure that it's not burned.
- As mentioned earlier, you can use all butter instead of the combination of butter, cream cheese and yogurt, just take about 180 grams of butter.
- Make sure that the smaller portion of the dough is chilled really well. This time I forgot to chill it for long, so it was really (I mean really really) difficult to great. Like ridiculously difficult since it was so soft!
- Meringue layer gets soft the next day. It's still very good. I actually even like it more, but it's different in terms of texture the next day.
- Apparently it can be made with apples too. I have never tried it with anything other than strawberries because it's so good and I feel like I'd be cheating on one of my favourite cakes if I made it with some other fruit.
- Original recipe was for 9x13 pan, I've never made it in anything other than my pie plate, so I can't guarantee that the proportions would work.