strawberry elderflower layer cake

My to-do list for 2012 is growing daily. At the very top of the list: elderflower procurement. Plant it, buy it, forage for it, whatever it takes – I absolutely must have elderflower next year.

Why the urgency? I wanted to make an elderflower cocktail for an upcoming event that I’m planning, so I bought a bottle of elderflower syrup. But after I brought it home, I found myself wishing I could have made it myself. Elderflower is pretty hard to come by in these parts, and I believe I’ve just missed the small window of availability for the year. I’ve mentioned in the past that I’m a bit obsessive, right?

Since I had been daydreaming about elderflower, I couldn’t wait to put that elderflower syrup to use. I was already in the process of baking a cake for the July birthday festivities when it occurred to me – strawberries + elderflower cream + cake = heaven.

If you’re in search of the perfect cake for summer, look no further. This cake is a winner.  I’m a sucker tall cakes, and with four layers of tender sponge filled with elderflower-spiked whipped cream and fresh strawberries, this is most definitely a tall cake. To get the most of the elderflower flavor, I also brushed a little bit of the syrup onto each layer of cake. What you’ll end up with is a cake that is incredibly light, subtly floral and showcases the fresh, sweet strawberries perfectly.

Not only is this cake totally scrumptious, it is also quite a beauty. With its exposed layers and elderflower essence, it’s like the scantily clad, lightly perfumed cousin of the strawberry cakes my mom used to buy from the bakery for our birthdays. Now if that doesn’t convince you, I don’t know what will.

strawberry elderflower layer cake

adapted from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook by Martha Stewart

makes one 9-inch layer cake

unsalted butter, for pans

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup cornstarch

6 large whole eggs, plus 4 large egg yolks, room temperature

1 cup granulated sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3/4 cup vegetable oil

4 cups heavy whipping cream

6 tablespoons elderflower syrup, plus more for the cake layers

2 tablespoons confectioners sugar

3 pints small strawberries, hulled

mint leaves, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter two 9-inch round cake pans; set aside.

In large bowl, sift together the flour and corn starch; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the sugar, whole eggs, egg yolks salt and vanilla extract. Beat on high speed until thick and pale, about 5 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture. With the mixer on low speed, beat until just combined. Add the oil in a steady stream and mix until just combined. Fold the mixture with a whisk a several times.

Divide the batter between the prepared pans and smooth with an offset spatula. Bake, rotating pans halfway through, until the cakes spring back when touched and a cake tester inserted comes out clean, about 30 minutes.

Immediately invert cakes onto a wire rack. Then reinvert cakes and let them cool completely, top sides up.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine cream, 6 tablespoons of elderflower syrup, and confectioners sugar. Starting on low speed and gradually increasing to medium-high, whip until stiff peaks form, about 2 minutes.

Using a serrated knife, trim the tops of the cakes to make level. Slice each cake in half horizontally into two layers. Place one of the bottom layers on a serving plate. Brush the later with elderflower syrup. Spread a quarter of the whipped cream over the layer; arrange a quarter of the strawberries on top, reserving the best looking strawberries for the top layer. Repeat with the remaining cake layers, syrup, cream, and strawberries. Garnish the top with mint leaves. Chill the cake if not serving immediately. Slice with a serrated knife and a large spatula.