Our contributor, Tessa Huff, is sharing a new cake recipe today…
It’s finally here! Berry season, that is. Not only did my local Farmer’s Market open up for summer this past weekend, but I was able to walk away with a flat of the juiciest, reddest local strawberries. Just by looking at them, you could tell they were full of flavor. Albeit small, these little gems are like nature’s candy. And just like that, a whole flurry of recipe opportunities and berry-tastic dessert potentials came flooding in.
This Strawberry Thyme Cake boasts fresh, lively flavors and completely embodies the ease of summer. With its unfrosted, “naked” sides and a wreath of fresh thyme, it is simple yet dramatic. The addition of fresh herbs adds a bit of interest and a welcoming twist to otherwise basic flavors. I aimed to create a cake that could equally be shared at a casual picnic in the late-afternoon shade as well as something stunning enough and unexpected to bring to a summer dinner party under the stars, and this beauty certainly delivers.
The cake itself is light and fresh, and totally one of those cakes that could be served with just some freshly whipped cream, berries, and icing sugar. The use of ricotta cheese makes it extremely tender yet study enough to support the strawberry cheesecake filling I’ve paired it with in this combination. The strawberry “cheesecake” filling is a lighter version of the heavy, super-sugary cream cheese frosting that we are usually accustomed to. I’ve simply whipped in some softened cream cheese into silky meringue buttercream and stirred in some strawberry preserves. For extra sweetness, freshness, and an element that takes this cake to the next level, each layer was generously brushed with a lemon-thyme simple syrup. The cake was finished with only a thin crumb coat of frosting – allowing all the flavors to really shine and not be bogged down by too much sugar. Plus, how much are we all loving gorgeous, naked cakes these days?!?!?
STRAWBERRY THYME CAKE
a recipe by Tessa Huff
For the Lemon Ricotta Cake:
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour three 6-inch cake pans and set aside.
- Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter until smooth.
- Add in the sugar and lemon zest. Beat on medium for 3 to 5 minutes until light and fluffy.
- Add in the eggs, one at a time, followed by the vanilla.
- Stop mixer and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
- Mix in the ricotta on medium-low.
- With the mixer on low, add in half of the flour mixture. Stream in the buttermilk.
- Add in the remaining flour mixture and mix until just combined.
- Evenly distribute the batter between the prepared cake pans.
- Bake for 26-32 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean.
- Let cool on a wire rack for 10 to 15 minutes before removing the cakes from their pans.
For the Thyme Syrup:
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar
5 to 8 springs fresh thyme
Place the water, lemon juice, and sugar in a saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce to low. Add the thyme and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the heat. Let cool, then strain out the thyme from the syrup.
For the Strawberry Cheesecake Filling:
3 egg whites
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons strawberry preserves
- Place the egg whites and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer. Whisk to combine.
- Place a few inches of water in a medium saucepan over medium heat.
- Place the mixing bowl on top of the saucepan to create a double-boiler.
- String intermittently, heat the egg mixture until hot to the touch, about 150 degrees on a candy thermometer.
- Once hot, carefully return the mixing bowl back to the mixer. With the whisk attachment, beat the egg white mixture until the bowl returns to room temperature and you have medium-soft peaks, about 8 minutes.
- Stop the mixer and swap out the whisk for the paddle attachment.
- With the mixer on low, add the butter – a few tablespoons at a time.
- Once added, turn the mixer up to medium-high and mix until silky smooth.
- Add in the cream cheese and mix until combined.
- Add in the strawberry preserves and mix until combined.
For the Assembly:
Generously brush each cake layer with the thyme syrup – allowing it to really soak in (an second pass with the syrup wouldn’t hurt either). Place one layer of cake on a cake board or serving dish. Spread on about 3/4 cup of the filling with an offset spatula. Top with the next layer of cake and repeat. Use the remaining filling to frost the top of the cake and give the sides a thin crumb coat. Decorate with fresh thyme and berries, if desired.