3 pints fresh strawberries, rinsed and hulled (about 5 cups)
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
For the cake:
2 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
6 large eggs, separated
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
For the filling:
1 cup mascarpone cheese
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the frosting:
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup granulated sugar
5 cups heavy cream
To prepare the strawberries, combine all of the ingredients (for the strawberries: sugar, lemon juice, vanilla, lemon zest) in a medium mixing bowl and toss to thoroughly cover the strawberries. Let them sit at room temperature for at least 20 minutes. Then drain the berries but reserve the syrup!
For the cake, preheat the oven to 350°F. Prepared two 8″ round cake pans (I spray with Baker’s Joy), but you could also grease and flour them. In a mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.
In a separate mixing bowl (you could also do this in a stand mixer with the whisk attachment), combine the oil, water, lemon zest, vanilla extract, egg yolks, and 1 1/4 cups of the sugar. Mix (or whisk) on medium speed until the batter is airy and light in color, about 5 to 7 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then add the dry ingredients and whip for about one minute more – or until smooth.
In another clean bowl, whip the separated egg whites to medium peaks. Gently add in the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and continue whipping until stiff peaks form, about 1 minute more. Now gently fold in about 1/3 of the egg white mixture into the cake batter until it’s evenly distributed, then add the remaining egg whites just until combined (don’t over mix!).
Pour the batter into the cake pans (dividing it equally), then bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let them cool on a cooling rack in the pans for 15 minutes, then run a knife around the edges before flipping them out to cool completely.
While they’re cooling… you can make the filling and frosting!
For the filling, using a mixer (preferably a stand mixer with a whisk attachment or a a whisk attachment to a hand mixer) mix together the mascarpone cheese and heavy cream and whip until stiff peaks form, about 2 minutes. Immediately cover and refrigerate.
To make the frosting, start again with a clean bowl – preferably a chilled metal or glass mixing bowl. The original recipe recommends the bowl of the stand mixer and the whip attachment, but I can confirm that it’s not absolutely necessary. In the chilled bowl, add in the vanilla extract, sugar, and heavy cream and mix at medium speed for about 2 minutes or until medium peaks form.
Now’s the not-so-fun part… waiting. You’ll need to cover and refrigerate the frosting until well chilled, at least one hour. The good news is that you can make the frosting ahead of time – up to 12 hours, if need be.
Now it’s time to put it together! Using a serrated knife, gently take off a tiny sliver of the domed top of the cake. This give you fresh, exposed cake to absorb the syrup! Now grab that reserved strawberry syrup and divide it in half, then using a pastry brush, brush half of it on the cut side of each cut cake.
Put the first cake down on a cake plate (syrup side up), then evenly spread 1/4 of the filling over the bottom cake layer. Arrange the strawberries standing up with the stem end down and trim them as necessary to create an even layer. Cover the strawberries with the remaining filling, being sure to fill in all the empty space. You want all that yummy filling packed in there!
Stack the second cake layer over the mascarpone filling and thestrawberries, cut side down, pressing it down gently to secure it.
Using an offset spatula (or a butter knife if necessary), spread a thin layer of frosting over the top and sides of the cake. Stick it back in the frig and let it set for about 15 minutes. Then generously spread the remaining frosting all over the top and sides of the cake.
Place it back in the frig for at least 15 minutes before serving so the frosting can set.