This is the cake that my daughter invariably asks for on her birthday.
It started when she fell in love with the strawberry cake they used to serve at Ciao Bello before it (sadly) closed. My dear friend and professional cheesecake baker Elizabeth Williams walked me through a sort-of recipe to make the cake at home, and we have gone from there. Every year – for a lot of years – I made small tweaks to the recipe. I decreased the sugar and increased the ricotta, added almond extract, added strawberry jam. This year I crumbled crispy almond cookies between the cake layers, and that was a winner.
The bad news is this cake is a bit of a project. The good news is that it is basically assembly, no cooking required. The other good news is that without actually baking anything, you will have a showstopping dessert. Whether you serve it to company or bring it to your child’s bed in the morning on their birthday.
15 ounces ricotta
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons heavy cream
½ cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1 store-bought angel food cake
1 cup strawberry jam
6 store-bought almond cookies (or more, depending on the size of the cookies you use), crumbled
16-ounce container of strawberries, hulled and sliced into ¼-inch slices, plus 3 or 4 whole strawberries
1 ½ cups heavy cream
¼ cup powdered sugar
¼ teaspoon vanilla
¼ teaspoon almond extract
Using the paddle attachment of a stand mixer, combine all the ingredients for the filling. Mix until smooth, and set aside.
Line a medium-sized bowl with plastic wrap, leaving some hanging over the edges of the bowl. Cut the cake into (approximately) 1-inch slices.
Arrange enough slices in the bowl to make a 1-inch (or so) layer of cake and to fill the entire bottom of the bowl. You will need to tear some cake and piece the pieces together – no need to be precise. With the back of a spoon, spread ½ of the strawberry jam over the cake. Again, this will look messy, and that’s okay. Spread ½ of the filling over the jam, then sprinkle the cookie crumbles over the filling. Repeat with another layer of cake, jam, filling, and cookies. End with a layer of cake slices.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, making sure the wrap is in direct contact with the cake. On top of the plastic wrap, weigh the cake down with several plates that roughly fit the circumference of the bowl, topped with a couple of unopened cans from your pantry (or pie weights if you have them). Refrigerate the cake, topped with the weights, for at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours.
When you are ready to serve the cake, make the frosting. Using the whisk attachment of a stand mixer, beat the cream, sugar, vanilla, and almond extract until stiff peaks form, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the weights and the plastic wrap from the top of the cake, and turn the cake out onto a serving platter. Remove the plastic wrap from the sides of the cake.
Frost the cake all over with the whipped cream frosting. Starting at the bottom of the cake, arrange the sliced strawberries to cover the cake, pressing gently to adhere the strawberries to the frosting. Garnish with a couple of whole strawberries.
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