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Strawberry-cardamom cream cake

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June 13, 2007

Makes one 9-inch layer cake

In Sweden, a strawberry cream cake is a traditional dessert on Midsummer Day, which is June 23 this year. The cake calls for whole cardamom pods, which you have to crush, so the seeds release; they're used to infuse heavy cream. The cake batter begins in an electric mixer bowl set over hot water, then the bowl is returned to the mixer stand to finish the beating. You can bake the cake ahead of time and make the infused cream the night before. Once the cake is assembled, eat it within the hour.

Butter (for the pans)
Flour (for the pans)
2 cups heavy cream, chilled
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 heaping tablespoon whole cardamom pods, crushed to release the seeds
6 eggs
2 teaspoons melted butter
1 cup cake flour, sifted three times
1 quart fresh strawberries, rinsed, hulled, and halved

1. Set the oven at 350 degrees. Butter two 9-inch layer cake pans. Line them with parchment paper cut to fit them, then dust them with flour, tapping out the excess.

2. In a small saucepan, combine 1 cup of the cream, 1/4 cup sugar, and the cardamom pods and seeds. Bring to a simmer over medium low heat, and cook gently for 15 minutes or until the cream reduces to about 1/2 cup. Remove from the heat, cover, and set aside. When the cream reaches room temperature, strain it; discard the cardamom pods and seeds. Chill the cream.

3. In a medium saucepan, bring 1/2 inch water to a simmer.

4. In the large bowl from an electric mixer, use a whisk to beat the eggs and remaining 1 cup sugar until combined. Set the bowl over the simmering water and continue whisking for 5 minutes or until the eggs reach 110 degrees.

5. Remove the bowl from the heat, wipe the bottom, and place it in the mixer stand. Continue beating the batter on high speed for 5 minutes or until it is light and fluffy. Turn the speed down to medium and continue beating for another 2 minutes.

6. Turn the mixer to low. Pour in the melted butter and beat only until it is incorporated.

7. Remove the bowl from the mixer stand. Gently sift the flour again directly over the batter. With a balloon whisk, gently fold the flour into the eggs. Divide the batter between the pans. Give each pan a little shake to prevent a dome from forming in the middle.

8. Bake the cakes for 25 minutes or until they spring back when pressed with a fingertip. Transfer them to a wire rack to cool in the pans for 15 minutes. Turn out onto the rack, peel off the parchment paper, and set the cakes right side up to cool completely.

9. Before serving, in a cold electric mixer bowl with cold beaters, beat the chilled cardamom cream and remaining 1 cup of cream in the mixer at medium-high speed until the cream is soft and holds its shape. Place one cake right side up on a cake stand, and spread half the whipped cream on top.

10. Place half the sliced berries on the cream. Set the other cake upside down on top of the cream and berries. Mound cream on top of the cake and decorate with the remaining berries. Serve the remaining cream separately. Diana Burrell

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