Early mornings in the summer are my favorite. That cool, crisp sheen over everything, a dewy freshness that heat and humidity haven’t quashed yet. I used to dog-sit for our neighbors back in the 7th or 8th grade, and while you couldn’t find me up before 11 any other morning, on those days I’d roll out of bed and pad across the driveway in the rosy dawn to let Buddy out and feed him breakfast. Those mornings I sat and waited on the stoop for him to come back in, dew from the grass clinging to the tops of my feet, I’d feel buoyed by the thought of a whole day stretching long and open ahead of me — a wide world of dense, lazy, baking-hot summer to come. For that moment, though, it was just stillness. Sleepy anticipation on a misty summer morning.
These last few days before we leave for Hawaii feel kinda like that. After a whirlwind last couple of weeks lettering escort cards (while watching Kingsman) or stamping welcome bags (while watching OITNB) or taking pictures of lettering escort cards and stamping welcome bags while watching Kingsman and OITNB, I’m at home at our sun-dappled dining table, trees verdant outside our window and our grumpy AC groaning in the background, waiting for B2 to get home from his last day of work (I took off these two days before we fly out, teehee). All our marriage miscellany is packed up and ready to go for our flight tomorrow, the trash is out on the curb, the recycling is broken down, the floors are swept and the counters wiped down. It’s just quiet, still anticipation. The green calm before the brilliant summer day to come.
Scalloped bowl and mini cake stand: Anna Wallace Ceramics!
So, with only a week and change left to go, this is the second to last post in our wedding menu series — a miniature version of our wedding cake! We decided on a vanilla chiffon cake with strawberries and whipped cream frosting for the top two tiers, uncomplicated and classic and a nod to our Asian mamas’ frequent pleas for something “not too sweet,” and then we chose a guava chiffon with strawberry frosting on the bottom to add a little more oomph and sturdiness. I opted to make the simpler of the two to share with you all, although I did make “both” tiers just because I thought a miniature two-tiered cake was paradoxically fun and nonsensical. (It also means that this is the first cake recipe ever on this lil blog that you could make into a real-people 6-inch cake!)
I approached this project with a little trepidation. I had visions of miniature strawberries & cream cakes once (more like seven times) before, and each of those seven times the cakes drooped or wouldn’t torte or squished whipped cream everywhere. So this time around I used a stabilized whipped cream with a smidge of gelatin, which doesn’t affect the flavor at all but adds a strength and structure to the whip to help the layers stay layered, and froze the cakes to make them easier to slice and handle. I used Molly’s genius tomato can method to make the two sizes of tiers, gave the strawberries a little sugar spa treatment, and here we are — airy, light, eggy vanilla chiffon, crimson macerated strawberries, and gently sweetened whipped cream to tie all together, dusted with confectioners’ sugar and decorated using Sara Tso’s amazing tutorial.
- for the cake:
- 2 eggs, carefully separated
- 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
- 7 tbsp sugar, divided
- 1/2 cup plus 1 tbsp (68 g) cake flour
- 1/4 tsp baking powder* (see Notes)
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1/4 cup milk
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/4 tsp almond extract (optional)
- two clean, empty tin cans (one 28-oz and one 14-oz) or one 6-inch round cake tin* (see Notes)
- for the strawberries:
- 1/2 pound strawberries, hulled and sliced
- 1 tbsp sugar
- for the stabilized whipped cream (adapted from Wilton):
- 1/2 tsp powdered gelatin (I used Knox)
- 2 tsp cold water
- 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream, very cold, plus 1 tbsp cream at room temperature
- 1-2 tbsp powdered sugar
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- For the cake: Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line the bottom of the tin cans or the cake tin with parchment paper rounds, unless you have a 6-inch tin with a removable bottom (see Notes). In a medium bowl, whisk together the cake flour, 6 tbsp sugar, baking powder and salt. In a separate small bowl, whisk together the yolks, oil, milk, vanilla, and almond extract until pale yellow. Set aside.
- Combine egg whites and cream of tartar in a small bowl. Using an electric beater, beat the egg whites on medium-high speed until they reach soft peaks. With the beater still running, gradually add the one remaining tablespoon of sugar and continue to whip the whites until firm and glossy.
- Give the yolk mixture another few whisks to emulsify it, then add it to the cake flour mixture and whisk until just smooth, 20-30 seconds. Very gently fold the egg whites into the mixture in batches, adding the next batch before the first has been fully incorporated to avoid overmixing. With the last addition, fold until just incorporated.
- Pour the batter into the two tin cans, filling each about halfway. Bake at 325 degrees for 35 minutes, then increase the temperature to 350 degrees and bake for 5-10 more minutes, for a total of 40-45 minutes. When done, the cake should be dark golden brown on top and should bounce back when pressed. (Note: The smaller tin can might finish baking a few minutes earlier than the large one -- simply remove quickly from the oven and let the larger can finish baking.)
- Invert the tins and let the cakes cool upside down for about 30 minutes to an hour. Remove the cake by running a knife around the tin, angling the knife towards the tin to try and get the full crust on the cake.
- For the strawberries: Meanwhile, combine the strawberries and sugar in a bowl and let sit in the refrigerator to macerate for at least 30 minutes. Strawberries will release syrup and turn a brighter red.
- When cake is fully cool, torte them into layers and set aside while you prepare the whipped cream.
- For the whipped cream: In a small bowl, combine gelatin and cold water and let stand until thick, about 5 minutes. Microwave in 5-second increments or heat over a water bath until gelatin dissolves. This will only take about 10 seconds total in the microwave.
- Remove from heat and let it cool briefly, 2-3 minutes, until just warm but not set. Pour one tablespoon of room temperature cream into the gelatin mixture, whisking continuously, to temper the gelatin and avoid lumps.
- Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the cream to soft peaks. Reduce the speed to low, add the powdered sugar and continue to beat until incorporated. Keeping the mixer on low, add the gelatin in a slow stream to the whipping cream, beating continuously. Return the mixer to high speed and beat until stiff peaks form. Note that this whipped cream will need to be used within 20 or so minutes of beating -- because it's stabilized, it tends to become more difficult to spread after that.
- Frost cake as desired (I used Sara Tso from Matchbox Kitchen’s excellent naked cake tutorial here) and enjoy immediately, as naked cakes have a tendency to dry out a bit quicker. (I did find that these froze pretty well, frosting and all, though!)
Be sure to separate the eggs carefully; even a small amount of yolk in the whites will prevent them from beating up properly.
Using parchment to line the tin cans will cause the bottom to sink slightly when you invert the cakes to cool. I thought it was negligible for the tin cans, especially when compared to how hard it was to get the cakes out without the liners, but it may be more noticeable for a 6-inch tin, in which case it might be better to use a tin with a removable bottom.
In the several trials I did for this cake, the leavener proved to be the hardest for me to get right. I was looking for a very close crumb and ended up with one that was still slightly more open than I was aiming for. If you don’t mind this and want a tall cake, keep it at 1/4 tsp baking powder as written. If you’d like a tighter crumb, decrease to 1/8 tsp baking powder.