SUMMER'S BEST REFRIGERATOR CAKE
Serves 12 to 15.
Note: Mascarpone cheese, which comes in a small tub, is added for both flavor and to stabilize the whipped cream. The basic cake recipe, adapted slightly from "The King Arthur Flour Baking Companion," may be baked in a 9-by-13 pan or in two (8- or 9-inch) round pans. We like fresh strawberries as a filling, but other fruits such as mangoes or blueberries would work, too. Tossing the fruit with a liqueur such as Grand Marnier or Chambord adds another layer of flavor, but is optional.
• 1 c. (2 sticks) butter, softened
• 1 tbsp. baking powder
• 13/4 c. superfine or granulated sugar
• 3/4 tsp. salt
• 2 tsp. vanilla extract
• 1 tsp. almond extract
• 5 egg whites
• 23/4 c. cake flour
• 1 c. milk
• 2 quarts strawberries, or equivalent of other fruit
• 2 tbsp. liqueur (Grand Marnier, Chambord or other), if desired
• 8 oz. mascarpone cheese, at room temperature (see Note)
• 1/4 c. powdered sugar
• 4 c. (2 pints) heavy cream (see below)
To make the cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking pan or pans with parchment paper cut to fit, to aid in flipping the cake out of the pan.
In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter, baking powder, sugar, salt and extracts until fluffy and light, at least 5 minutes. Add the egg whites to the butter mixture one at a time, beating well after each addition. (Save the yolks to supplement scrambled eggs, or mix with milk for French toast.)
Mix one-third of the flour into the creamed mixture, then half the milk, another third of the flour, the remaining milk, and the remaining flour. Be sure to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl occasionally throughout this process.
Pour the batter into prepared pan(s). For a 9- by-13-inch cake, bake for about 35 minutes. For 8-inch round pans, bake 23 to 26 minutes. For 9-inch round pans, bake 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack.
While cake is cooling, wash and hull strawberries, then cut them into 1/4 -inch slices -- too thin and they'll lose their "strawberry-ness." If using liqueur, toss berries in it. Set aside.
When the cake is cool, run a knife around the outside edges, then cover with a cookie sheet or other flat tray that will fit inside your refrigerator. (You can also reassemble the cake in the original pan, if desired.) Carefully flip the pan upside-down, releasing the cake onto the tray. Gently peel off the parchment paper.
Using a long serrated knife, carefully split the cake horizontally into two thin layers. To help keep the knife level, you can insert toothpicks into the sides of the cake as a guide.
Work your hands under the top layer of cake and transfer to a cookie sheet. Set aside.
To make the filling: In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the mascarpone cheese and powdered sugar until light and fluffy, then add the heavy cream, beating until the cream holds a peak. Watch carefully; it may seem like it's not going to thicken, then it will suddenly come together.
Measure out about one-third of the whipped cream and drop in dollops across the cake, then spread to cover the entire surface. Cover the cream layer with sliced strawberries, several slices thick, making sure to go all the way to the edges; reserve some for top of cake. Carefully top with reserved layer of cake, pressing gently to adhere to fruit.
Use remaining whipped cream to cover the top and sides of the cake. (Note: If reassembling cake in the baking pan -- and not frosting the sides -- you will only need to whip 3 cups of heavy cream.)
Cover with plastic wrap, sticking toothpicks over the surface of the cake to hold the wrap away from the whipped cream. Refrigerate at least 4 hours. Garnish with additional fruit before serving. Serve cake cold.