Love, Set, Match Cake

Here, I’m marrying my two loves, tennis and cake. When I wasn’t old enough to go to school, I used to tag along and watch my mum play tennis at the local courts with a few women from the neighborhood. It sounds posh, but it really wasn’t. It was hot as hell and dusty. The ladies wore all whites and wielded wooden racquets, while I waited patiently for morning tea. After a long hiatus, I recently returned to the tennis court. It started with a game of doubles with friends—full of sweat and swearing. It was a ridiculous amount of fun. We’ve since made it an annual match, and the winners get to take home a trophy. One day I’ll make it to Wimbledon, where strawberries and cream are de rigueur. By coincidence, our amateur tennis tournament takes place in the summer, when strawberries are ripe for the picking. This inspired me to created a seasonal cake that’s a play on the English Victoria sandwich, served with fresh Honey Whipped Cream and garden-grown strawberries. I look forward to sharing it with my competitors under the shade of the pavilion.

Makes one 9-inch round layer cake

Reprinted with permission from Simple Cake by Odette Williams, copyright © 2019. Photographs by Nicole Franzen. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Penguin Random House, Inc.

Ingredients

For the Milk and Honey Cake

  • 2 1⁄4 cups (290g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup (240ml) buttermilk, shake carton
  • 3⁄4 cup (255g) honey
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1⁄2 sticks/170g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3⁄4 cup (150g) granulated sugar

For the Honey Whipped Cream

  • 1 cup (240ml) heavy cream, chilled
  • 2 tablespoons of honey
  • 1 pound (450g) strawberries, larger berries halved or quartered
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Steps

Step 1

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Prepare pans. (Make sure to line bottom and sides with parchment.) Make the batter for the Milk and Honey Cake: Place a large sifter or a sieve in a large bowl. Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and sift. In a small bowl, whisk the eggs together. Set aside.

Step 2

In another small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, honey, and vanilla. Set aside. Using an electric mixer with beaters or a paddle attachment, beat the butter for 30 to 45 seconds on medium speed, then gradually add the sugar. When all the sugar has been added, stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula. Continue beating on medium speed for another 4 minutes or until light in color and fluffy.

Step 3

With the mixer still on medium speed, add the eggs 1 tablespoon at a time, over 3 minutes. If the batter curdles, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of the flour to bind it back together.

Step 4

With the mixer on low speed, add the dry and wet ingredients alternately two times, starting and ending with the dry. Mix until just combined and smooth. Don’t overbeat. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a spatula to make sure it’s well combined.

Step 5

Pour the batter into the prepared pans and smooth the top. Bake the cakes side by side on the same oven rack for 30 to 35 minutes or until a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, and the cake bounces back when lightly pressed. Cool the cakes completely on a wire rack.

Step 6

Make the Honey Whipped Cream: Pour the cream into a cold large metal bowl. Add the honey. using a balloon whisk, begin to whisk the cream until it has doubled in volume, has smooth soft peaks, and is light and fluffy.

Step 7

Put one of the cakes on a serving plate. Spoon the cream on top of the cake, keeping it 2 inches from the perimeter. (You’ll will have extra to serve on the side.) Gently place the top layer of the cake onto the bottom layer. This will push the cream to the edges.

Step 8

To decorate, start with the whole strawberries and then pile on the halved and quartered pieces, facing both cut side in and out at various angles. Finally, dust your masterpiece with confectioners’ sugar to bring out the shine and juices of the strawberries.

Cook Notes

For the cake: To get the cake you truly deserve, sift the flour mixture twice to get the flour as aerated and light as possible, or give it a spin with cake or spelt flour. The keys to this cake being moist are not to overpack the measuring cup with flour and not to overbake it.

photo by Nicole Franzen