The peak of the California strawberry harvest is well under way as sweet, succulent strawberries are plucked in their prime and shipped fresh to market within 24 hours. The refreshing red berries are the perfect ingredient for summertime gatherings, and are even sweeter when shared with loved ones, suggests California Strawberry Commission.
Eighty-eight percent of the strawberries in the United States are grown in California by more than 500 family farmers. The California Strawberry Commission shares hundreds of recipes, on its social media sites including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and its recipe blog, In the Kitchen, which can all be accessed at http://www.californiastrawberries.com.
Black Pepper Sponge Cake with Strawberry Balsamic Whipped Cream
- 1 pound fresh California strawberries
- 1 cup butter
- 1 cup caster (very fine) sugar
- 4 eggs
- 2 cups self-rising flour
- 1 large vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped from pod
- 2 teaspoons finely ground black pepper
- 1 pint heavy whipping cream
- 1 tablespoon powdered sugar
- 2 1/2 tablespoons good quality balsamic vinegar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease two 8″ springform cake pans and line bottoms with circle of parchment paper.
Beat butter and sugar together with electric mixer until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time until just incorporated. Fold in flour gradually until smooth.
Stir in vanilla bean and black pepper and pour batter into prepared cake pans.
Bake 30-35 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean from center of cake. Cool in baking pan for 8-10 minutes; remove and place on rack to cool before assembly.
Rinse whole strawberries and gently pat dry. Divide into thirds. Cut tops off of two-thirds of the strawberries and cut into 1/4″-1/2″ slices. Reserve remaining third of whole strawberries to decorate top of cake.
In large mixing bowl, combine heavy whipping cream, powdered sugar and balsamic vinegar. With electric mixer, whip until stiff peaks are formed.
Place one cooled cake layer on cake stand or serving plate. Spread sliced strawberries evenly across the cake.
Layer the strawberries with half the balsamic whipped cream. Top with the second cake layer. Repeat with whipped cream mixture and top with whole strawberries. For an interesting styling trick, leave some strawberries whole and cut some halves to add dimension to the garnish.
The California Strawberry Commission is a state government agency that represents 600 growers, shippers and processors of California strawberries.