Celebrations

Kick Off Summer With A Firework-Worthy Cake For Memorial Day

This Memorial Day, skip the fussy flag cake and make this strawberry shortcake sandwich-style (say that four times fast!) cake instead. Inspired by warmer weather, summer fruit, and picnic gatherings, this cake can be the center of your Memorial Day celebration.

The cake recipe is based off a cornbread that Chef Grace would usually take to a backyard barbecue. Here, she’s swapped most of the cornmeal for almond flour and added lemon and vanilla and almond extracts for a satisfying texture that’s not too dense but holds up under the berry juices from the filling. And the cream! Traditionally, strawberry shortcake is layered with whipped cream, but in this cake, unsweetened whipped cream is folded into (super easy) homemade vanilla pudding for a cream that is silky and rich. Topped with syrupy fresh fruit and basil to remind everyone at your table that summer is (unofficially) on its way!

Cornmeal-Almond Cake with Vanilla Pudding Whipped Cream and Fresh Fruit

Ingredients:
For the cake:
2 cups almond meal
1 cup cornmeal
1⅓ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1½ sticks butter
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon almond extract
3 large eggs
1 cup milk
1 lemon

For the vanilla pudding cream:
2 cups milk
⅓ cup sugar
3 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon butter
⅛ teaspoon salt
2 cups heavy cream

Fruit:
2 cups strawberries
1 cup blackberries
1 tablespoon sugar
1 lemon
½ cup basil

Instructions:
Make pudding: Set out butter and eggs for cake to come to room temperature for at least two hours. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, heat milk until bubbles form at edges. In a bowl, combine sugar, cornstarch and salt. Reduce heat to low, and add cornstarch and sugar mixture into hot milk, a tablespoon at a time, whisking in between to dissolve. Continue to cook and whisk until mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon, 4-5 minutes. Be careful not to boil the milk. Remove from heat, stir in vanilla and butter. Pour pudding into a shallow baking dish and cover with plastic wrap so that the plastic is touching the top of the pudding (this will prevent the pudding from developing a skin). Chill at least 1 hour in refrigerator.

Prepare ingredients: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter and flour two 8-inch round cake pans. Zest lemon, then halve and measure 1 tablespoon lemon juice (make sure you don’t get any lemon seeds!).

Make cake batter: In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cornmeal, almond flour, baking powder, and salt. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter with the sugar, almond extract, and vanilla extract at medium speed, scraping down the sides of the bowl, until mixture is light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl between each egg. Beat the batter until smooth and well combined, about 1 minute more. Remove bowl from electric mixer and, using a rubber spatula, fold half the flour mixture into the batter, then half the milk, and repeat with the second half of the flour mixture and the milk until just combined. Add lemon juice and lemon zest and stir to combine.

Bake cakes: Divide cake batter evenly between prepared cake pans. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until cakes are firm to the touch and a cake tester comes out mostly clean with a few crumbs clinging to it.

Macerate Fruit: While cakes bake, clean tops of strawberries and thinly slice. Halve black berries. Place berries in a large bowl and toss with sugar and ½ cup lemon juice. Set aside to macerate. Berries should be syrupy when it is time to plate the cake.

Whip cake filling: In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whip cream at high speed until stiff peaks form, 3-5 minutes. While cream whips, transfer chilled pudding to a large bowl. Whisk by hand until slightly more loose and smooth. Add about a third of the whipped cream to the bowl with the pudding and gently fold into the pudding until well combined. Repeat two more times with the remaining whipped cream. Your final filling should be light and fluffy like whipped cream, but smoother and slightly richer.

Assemble cake: When ready to serve the cake, thinly slice basil leaves and toss with macerated berries. Place one cake, dome size down on serving platter. If you’d like to level your cake to make it look extra professional, use a serrated knife to gently and carefully cutting across the top of the cake to cut off the dome. Top cake with half of vanilla pudding whipped cream, then layer with strawberries and blackberries. Place the second cake on top with the dome side up. Top with remaining whipped cream and garnish with berries.

Story contributed by Plated Recipe Development Manager Grace Pescatello.

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