Happy Day Before Valentine’s Day! Or, as I have now learned, Galentine’s Day. Before I get to anything else, I have to first say a big thank you to Courtney of Neighborfood, queen of the killer pie crust, for inviting me to participate in a virtual “Galentine’s Day” celebration with these very talented bloggers. Definitely take a peek at the fantastic recipes these lovely ladies have put together!
Galentine’s Day Drinks
Blood Orange Bourbon Fizz with Fried Sage from Lauren of Climbing Grier Mountain
Chocolate Dipped Strawberry Martini from Shanna of Pineapple and Coconut
Ladies’ Night Rum Punch from Lindsay of The Live In Kitchen
Galentine’s Day Brunch
Sweet Potato Cornmeal Waffles with Bourbon Cream and Pecan Butter from Susan of Girl in the Little Red Kitchen
Chocolate Dipped Donuts from Angie of Big Bear’s Wife
Lemon and Ginger Scones from Lauren of Healthy. Delicious.
Beet, Blood Orange, and Chèvre Salad from Lori of Foxes Love Lemons
Galentine’s Day Desserts
Piña Colada Cupcakes from Courtney of Neighborfood
Strawberry Chocolate Dessert Bars from Marly of Namely Marly
Banana Peanut Butter Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Chocolate Frosting from Nancy of Gotta Get Baked
One Layer Fudge Cake from Liz of That Skinny Chick Can Bake
Dark Chocolate Pistachio Ice Cream with Candied Bacon Bits from Steph of Girl Versus Dough
Fruity Dessert Pizza from Morgan of Peaches Please
Secret-Ingredient Chocolate Pecan Bites (Gluten Free!) from Karen of The Food Charlatan
DIY Cheesecake Parfait Bar from Heather of Heather’s Dish
And now, these angel food cakes. As far as Valentine’s Day posts go, I feel like there are a lot of love lessons I could extrapolate from this angel food cake adventure. This very “rustic” (your daily dose of euphemism) mini angel food layer cake. Like … something about not judging books by their covers. And decrepit layer cakes by the sharp angle of their list. Or loving the imperfections. Even when a cake looks so ridiculously sad and lopsided that it makes you want to simultaneously laugh and kill things. Or love is perseverance. And not throwing cake against the wall and watching it smash with vicious satisfaction.
But mainly all I want to say is — angel food cake was probably not meant to be made into a mini layer cake, unless you want to experience an unnatural level of rage and despair disproportional to the fact that you’re making dainty airy girly cakes that actually do taste quite delicious. And there is so much to love about how these taste! The angel food cake is based on this recipe by the ever-talented Jacquelyn at Lark & Linen (whose layer cake is quite a bit more impressive than mine!). It’s airy and divine, and wonderfully easy despite all angel food cake lore. (Plus, you don’t have to worry about it falling, because these cakes are so teensy to begin with.) Next, there’s a compote made from strawberries roasted in balsamic vinegar, layered with slightly sweetened fresh strawberries for balance.
And finally, there’s my favorite part — whipped vanilla creme fraiche made by the indomitable Vermont Creamery. I’ve been thinking and thinking about how to describe it and I keep coming up short. It’s beautifully creamy and smooth, but with a fresh and lively tang, and that gorgeous vanilla flavor you can literally see in its vanilla bean specks. I want to say it reminds me of a grown-up vanilla yogurt, but that just sounds so inadequate. Seriously, though? This is probably one of my favorite products by Vermont Creamery, which is saying something, given that I’ve loved everything I tried by them so far.
Just for fun, though, a few words about my mishaps (it’s refreshing to acknowledge that things aren’t always how they appear, isn’t it?) I originally made this using the ramekin method I describe in this post. I have kind of a thing for mini layer cakes made in ramekins. Chocolate ones. Gingerbread ones. Zucchini ones. Baked in these 4-ounce ramekins, they’re easy to level, easy to stack, perfect for two. And I’m totally over the moon for them. For this, I had visions of an ethereal miniature angel food layer cake, resting on dreamy, lofty drifts of whipped cream with both fresh and roasted strawberries peeking coyly out between them. (My expectations seem less reasonable in retrospect.)
Well, either because whipped cream isn’t quite sturdy enough to hold up three mini layers without the cake listing, or because angel food cake is somewhat more difficult to level evenly because it’s so spongy and light, the ramekin method I describe in this post didn’t work so well for me here. For kicks, a few salvaged shots of my Leaning Towers of Cake Pisa:
(There is a dessert spoon propping these babies up. Ya just can’t see it.) In the end, I went with a cupcake tin, which yielded much smaller layers, and stacked them in layers of two instead of three to make a lot of mini angel food cakes. Or “strawberry cake burgers,” as Bowl #2 called them. No toppling. Just cake burgers with strawberry patties. But really, the best way to enjoy these?
Dumped in a bowl. Like so.
Dropping the mic.
Enjoy! Happy Valentine’s / Galentine’s / Singles Awareness / February 14th Day!
- for the strawberry compote:
- 1 cup whole strawberries (half a 1 lb box)
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 tbsp sugar
- for fresh strawberries:
- 1/2 cup whole strawberries
- 1 tbsp sugar
- for the cake:
- 1/6 cup (2 tbsp plus 2 tsp) cake flour
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 large egg whites, at room temperature
- 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
- small pinch salt
- 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
- few drops almond extract
- for the whipped creme fraiche:
- 1 8 oz tub of Vermont Creamery vanilla creme fraiche
- 1-2 tbsp confectioners sugar (optional)
- For the strawberry compote: Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Hull strawberries, then slice into halves or quarters. Toss lightly in balsamic vinegar and sugar, then spread in a single layer over parchment paper on a baking sheet. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until strawberries are soft.
- Remove and let cool; you can leave the oven on because you'll need it for the cake. Transfer the strawberries to a food processor and pulse briefly to form the compote. Alternatively, you can just mash with a fork.
- For the fresh strawberries: Hull and toss in sugar to coat, then cover and place in refrigerator to let the juices release while you prepare everything else.
- For the cake: Sift the cake flour and 2 tbsp of sugar together and set aside.
- Beat the egg whites, cream of tartar and salt until peaks begin to form.
- Sprinkle in the remaining 2 tbsp of sugar and continue beating on high until the egg mixture reaches stiff peaks. (Note that sugar makes egg whites less sturdy, so you may only reach medium peaks. It's not terribly important, so don't fret if they're not stiff.)
- Fold in the cake flour mixture, vanilla extract, and almond extract, taking care to mix very gently so as not to deflate the mixture.
- Line a cupcake tin with small parchment paper circles or cupcake liners. Divide batter evenly between 6-8 cupcake tins (depending on how high you want your "cake layers" to be). Alternatively, you can bake the batter in 3 or 4 4-ounce porcelain ramekins.
- If using a cupcake tin, bake for 8-10 minutes, or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted comes out clean. If using ramekins, bake for slightly longer, about 15 minutes (or golden brown).
- Remove from oven and cool completely. No need to invert, as they are so small they likely won't fall much anyway.
- Finally, for the whipped creme fraiche: Simply beat the creme fraiche until it forms soft peaks. It's already fairly stiff in texture, so you're really just making it a bit more fluffy, and it will not go much stiffer than soft peaks, so you don't need to go overboard with the whipping. Be careful to stop and test to make sure it doesn't become grainy. I added a tablespoon or two of confectioners' sugar, but I didn't think it was really necessary -- the creme fraiche is plenty sweet on its own.
- To assemble: Slice the fresh strawberries, now sweetened, into thin slices. Run a sharp knife around the edges of the tin to loosen the cakes (or, if you've used liners, just remove the liners). My layers were shallow enough that I simply stacked them as they were -- if yours are taller, you may try slicing them in half. Alternate cake layers with layers of strawberry compote, fresh strawberries, and creme fraiche, then top with more of each. Or just dump it in a bowl and enjoy. The cake tastes even better when the creme fraiche and all the juices have soaked into it.
Note that you may have leftover creme fraiche and strawberry compote. You can either just double the batch of angel food cake, or use them for other things -- the creme fraiche makes a wonderful dip for fruit, and the compote is great on pancakes, toast, English muffins, or anything else you can think of.