There is nothing about a British summer that you can guarantee except one thing: delicious British strawberries. We are not guaranteed beautiful sunny weather, if we are blessed with an hour of sunshine there will be no bronzed glowing skin- the only options are lobster red for the reckless, pasty white for the overly cautious – and if we’re given half a chance on the barbeque we will burn our sausages. These are the rules of being British and I wouldn’t bloody change it. On British strawberries though, we can depend. I can’t really say I’m someone who shops seasonally, that would be a massive fib as one – I’m nowhere near organised enough to check what’s in season before I do my shopping, and two – you know what, the heart wants what the heart wants and if that happens to be peaches in November then what are you gonna do? But strawberries are the one thing I eat seasonally. I’ve tried the Spanish ones the supermarkets sell in winter and they don’t even come close so I never buy them and instead just go strawberry mad the minute I see that little Union Jack on the punnets. Get it while it’s hot and all that. The best thing about strawberries is that they actually feel like a genuine treat – I hold them in the same esteemed company as Terry’s Chocolate Orange Mini’s, cheesecake and cookies – but they are actually good for you. You can turn a dull bowl of Weetabix into a delightful breakfast with nothing more than a handful of strawberries thrown into the mix and you can pick up a punnet of them to snack on instead of a chocolate bar and not feel that you are depriving yourself. Of course, you don’t have to use them for good, they are just as wonderful when you take them down the sinful route too. After all, this blog post wouldn’t be that interesting if I told you all about my healthy breakfast of Weetabix and strawberries now would it?
With that justification squeezed then, I present to you Strawberry Cake from The Primrose Bakery Book (a cookbook deserving of the description ‘neglected’). The Boyfriend made the very unexpected move of saying he really fancied a cake and should we bake one together at the weekend? Normally his food cravings revolve around pork scratching’s and cheesy Doritos so this suggestion caught me off guard somewhat. We agreed on strawberry cake straight away so for once deciding what to cook was pain free. The Primrose Bakery book is filled with beautiful cupcakes, layer cakes and biscuits based around items they sell in their bakery. I’ve made the rhubarb cupcakes and Oreo cupcakes from this book and they were everything you’d expect them to be, but over the last couple of years the book has been pushed aside for my favourite baking book, How to Be a Domestic Goddess.
The strawberry cake is a layer cake with chopped strawberries in the cake mixture, sandwiched together with strawberry jam, sliced strawberries and vanilla icing, then topped with a nice thick layer of vanilla icing which has been dyed pink, then decorated with a few whole strawberries. The recipe tells you to put all the cake ingredients into a food processor for an easy way to get a smooth cake mix. The only processor I have is a mini one suitable purely for making curry pastes and blending up baby food so I had to do it the old fashioned way with a wooden spoon and mixing bowl. Creaming butter and sugar together by hand is no easy task. I hated doing it in Home Economics and I hate doing it now. Halfway through doing it I started getting fed up and my arm was getting heavy, and that’s when I remembered my other half suggesting we should bake a cake together and yet he was nowhere to be seen in the kitchen. Hmmm, interesting. Now I don’t like to take advantage of being a member of the so called ‘fairer sex’ (mainly because it’s complete and utter tosh – be pregnant for nine months and then go through labour, then tell me who the fairer sex is. I don’t even want to think about how men would cope with the menstrual cycle) but sometimes you have to make sexism work for you. My poor little arms just can’t take mixing up this batter anymore, I need someone with strength and muscles to finish the job for me, yada yada yada, you know the script and it always works like a charm. So that is how I got us to bake a cake together, and I’m not even sorry.
The cake in the book looks really pretty whereas mine on completion looked very homemade. I don’t think I left the cakes long enough to cool before sandwiching them together with the icing so the icing became a little but runny and oozed out of the cake a little bit. It was not a solid foundation to lay a cake on, let’s put it that way. Looks aside though, it tasted pretty, pretty good. The sponge is soft and moist with little strawberry bursts contained within. Jam and vanilla icing can never be a bad combination although if I had one criticism it would be that there is too much icing making it all a little bit too sweet. I’d make this cake again but perhaps instead of covering the cake with icing on top, adhere to the Victoria sponge way of doing things and keep it bare on top, maybe keeping the whole strawberries for aesthetic and flavour. The cake has enough flavour in itself to not need an abundance of icing smothering it, and the cake would then look like a pimped up Victoria sponge covered in Britain’s finest berry. This recipe definitely makes the most of strawberries when they are at their best, although if it’s simplicity you’re after you can’t beat the call of strawberries and cream.