I couldn’t get myself into a celebratory mood ON Mother’s Day, until late in the evening. Ever since my Mother is no longer with us, I get a very “heavy” feeling this day.
It does not happen every year, so I think there maybe other issues beyond the sadness I feel for losing my Mother.
One of the things that affected me badly is the fact that I was not there when she died, despite the fact that I could have been. It is true, she was far away (she retired to Israel) but we were meeting nearly annually, either by us traveling to Israel or she visiting the states.
I think this is a heavy burden that will stay with me for life (I assume), even dough I did not know the extent of her sickness, because every time we talked on the phone she was always assuring me that she is fine. It was too late when I learned that for whatever reason(s) she did not tell me the truth.
There are additional issues, like the behavior of my siblings toward me, that contributing to my situation, but this is not the time, nor the place to discuss them.
I am trying to keep myself busy, particularly, on days like Mother’s Days, birthdays, memorial days, etc., but it does not seem to work every year. I found two things that appear to do the tricks: 1. Talk about the great times we had together with people that knew her, or create one of her favorite cakes. I guess my love for baking was inherited from her.
I cannot compare myself to her expertise; she was creating desserts, cakes, sweets and other similar stuff from memories.
You would never see her reviewing a cookbook. I always watched her with amazement how she created the best yeast dough, puff pastries, cookie dough, pastry dough – all from her memory. Not only that, but she also knew by feeling and/or touching the dough if it was correct or needed some adjustments. And you guessed it – the correction was also done by the same method. She knew when she needed to add a little more sour cream, or cake flour, or the dough just needed some rest. Amazing.
That is another thing I feel bad about; how come I never learned her techniques.
Anyway, by the evening I started to feel better and remembered how much she liked to eat and bake with berries, any berries; so I ran down the supermarket and bought a big package of strawberries and decided to create”imitation” strawberry shortcake.
Why “imitation” you may ask; I guess I did not feel to bake a ‘biscuit-type” of dough.
I must confess, however, that my first attempt was a disaster (I guess the effect of my emotions) and on any other day I would probably photograph the disaster so that you can also learn from it, but this was not the right time for education.
So, I just threw out my entire work and started the process all over. Although, this one came out much better, I would not send it to a competition. I am not even sure if I should’ve upload it here, but I decided to get over the idea that it is not perfect and just show you how it is possible to overcome adversities. Not to mention, it did help me to feel better emotionally; so if for nothing else it was a good idea for getting me out of the gloominess.
Another reason I decided to upload the photograph of the cake is because the taste of the cake is delightful (what can be wrong with an almond sponge cake, layered with raspberry jam, white chocolate butter cream and fresh strawberries, marinated in cognac for 10 minutes?); so I want to share the recipe with you. I have a feeling you’ll create a better-looking cake and perhaps even better tasting?
It is also quite easy to prepare; the only negative thing associated with this cake is that you need to finish to enjoy it within 2, maximum three days. Even in a closed container, the refrigerator draws out all the moistness and you are left with dried out cake pieces with over-moist strawberries.
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1/2 cup ground almond
- 1/2 cup unbleached all purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 4 large egg whites, room temperature
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- Lemon zest from 1 lemon
- 6 large egg yolks (room temperature)
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons unbleached all purpose flour
- 1 cup half and half
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 8 ounces top quality white chocolate, chopped
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 5 tablespoons fraise or framboise eau-de-vie (clear strawberry or raspberry brandies) or other brandy
- Use the same quantity balsamic vinegar
- 9 tablespoons strawberry jam
- 4 1-pint baskets strawberries, stemmed
Position the rack in center of oven and preheat it to 350°F. Butter 9-inch square pan (or a regular round cake pan) with 2-inch-high sides. Line the bottom with parchment paper. Butter and flour the parchment.
Using electric mixer beat the eggs and 1/3 cup sugar on high speed in large bowl until a nice ribbon forms when the beaters are lifted, about 4 minutes.
Mix the nuts, flour and baking powder in another medium bowl. Fold the nut mixture into egg mixture.
Using clean beaters beat the egg whites in medium bowl until soft peaks form. Gradually add the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Fold whites into the batter in 2 additions. Transfer batter to prepared pan. Bake until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Cool the cake in the pan on rack for 5 minutes. Turn the cake out onto rack. Peel off parchment; cool cake completely.
Whisk the yolks, sugar and flour in medium bowl until well blended. Bring half and half and heavy cream to simmer in a medium saucepan.
Slowly pour the hot cream mixture into the egg mixture, whisking constantly. Return the egg mixture to the same saucepan and cook until the mixture becomes very thick, whisking constantly.
Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl.
Add 8 ounces of chopped white chocolate and vanilla extract and stir until the chocolate melts completely and the mixture are smooth. Press a plastic wrap on the surface of the pastry cream to prevent skin from forming and cool. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before continuing.)
Using electric mixer, beat 1 cup unsalted butter and 1 tablespoon brandy in a large bowl until fluffy. Add the pastry cream slowly (1/4 cup at a time), beating after each addition until just blended.
Melt the jam in heavy small saucepan over medium heat. Stir the remaining 4 tablespoons brandy into jam.
Cut the cake horizontally, into 3 even layers.
Place 1 layer on an 8-inch cardboard square (or just place it on the plate you want to serve it). Brush 1/3 of the jam over the first layer.
Spread 1/3 of the butter cream over the jam. Cover the buttercream layer completely with freshly cut strawberries.
Take the next cut cake layer and place it on the strawberries.
Spread the next 1/3 jam over the cake.
Cover the jam with the next 1/3 (or now ½ of the remained buttercream) over the jam, and then cover the cream completely with the freshly cut strawberries.
Place the last cut cake piece on the strawberries (make sure to leave the nice side toward the outside.
You can either spread the butter cream on top of the cake layer then cover it with the cut strawberries, or place only the fresh strawberries on the top of the cake and melt the remaining jam with 2 tablespoons of brandy and brush the berries with this mixture to make them shiny.
Also this will help for the strawberries to remain on the cake layer. It will also preserve the berries they will remain good looking longer. Refrigerate the cake until the butter cream is firm. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead).