Friday, August 11, 2023


Some time ago, I managed to find the recipe for the very first cake I ever made, now nearly a quarter of a century ago, and in that moment I truly remembered how grand and magnificent cake-making looked to me at the time. The excitement, the joy, the almost overwhelming feeling of stepping way out of my comfort zone, but at the same time, determination and all those big feelings of a dream come true. And a lot of those feelings are still present, because baking has truly remained my greatest love.
To really enjoy making a cake, one needs to fall in love with every step of the process; the sound of a blender running, the mixer working, cake pans clinking against one another, the steady hum of the old-fashioned nut grinder slowly turning. Such a wonderful symphony.
This cake combines all I love about summery desserts. Ease of preparation, availability, adaptability, intense fruit flavours, and a wonderfully smooth texture. Thin and soft cake layers, rich pistachio filling, and plenty of white chocolate make for a wonderful combination.
I rarely use food colouring these days, but you can most certainly add a few drops of vegan strawberry pink food colouring, to make the layers stand out even more. Gel colour works the best, but even strawberry extract or essence can lend quite a bit of colour, so those are some good options, as well. However, do keep in mind that some essences tend to darken as they bake, so the cake layers may come out dusty pink instead of bright pink, but they will still be beautiful.
You can use fresh, ripe strawberries or frozen ones, the recipe will work wonderfully either way. One important thing is to make sure the strawberries are fully thawed and strained well before blending, so I recommend defrosting more than the required quantity, to be sure there is enough for the cake layers once blended.

For the strawberry cake layers
300 grams strawberries, hulled, fresh or frozen
90 millilitres warm water
90 millilitres sunflower oil
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
250 grams plain flour
200 grams granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
For the pistachio filling
450 millilitres soy milk
80 grams cornflour
50 grams icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
200 grams vegan block butter, diced
100 grams vegan white chocolate, chopped into pieces
100 grams pistachios, roasted and finely ground
big pinch of salt

Start by making the cream filling, as it needs a bit of time to cool down. Take about 100 millilitres of the milk and set it aside, as it will be needed for mixing with the cornflour. Pour the rest of the milk into a heavy-bottomed saucepan, place it over medium heat, and slowly let it heat up. Take the reserved milk and whisk it together with the cornflour and the sugar. Pour this mixture into the bubbling milk and let it slowly heat up.
As soon as it starts to steam, start whisking. Let it come to a gentle boil, and cook for about 2 minutes, until it starts resembling a glossy pudding. Remove from the heat and let it cool for a minute or two. Add in the vanilla, vegan butter, and the white chocolate, one piece at a time, whisking constantly, until incorporated. If desired, blend it well with an immersion blender. Cover the top with cling film or a piece of baking parchment, and let it cool down to room temperature.
While the filling is cooling down, make the cake layers. Add the hulled strawberries to a blender and let it work until a smooth purée is formed. If you are using frozen strawberries, make sure they are thawed and strained well before adding them to the blender. Sift the flour into a large bowl, add in the baking powder and baking soda, and whisk very well. Add in the sugar, and whisk once more.
Make a well in the centre and add in the blended strawberries, water, oil, vinegar, and vanilla, and mix until just combined. If overmixed, the cakes will turn out tough, so if there are a few lumps here and there throughout the batter, it is fine.
Prepare two medium round cake pans (20 cm) by lining them with baking parchment, bottom and sides. Divide the batter evenly between them, and bake immediately in a nicely preheated oven, at 180°C, for about 15-20 minutes, or until done. As every oven bakes differently, check the cakes with a toothpick to make sure they are baked through, but not dry. Leave the cakes to cool in the pans completely.
Once the filling and the cakes are cool to the touch, proceed to assemble the cake. Add the cooled filling to a large bowl and mix it with an electric mixer on high for about 2-3 minutes, until smooth and creamy. Add in the ground pistachios and a big pinch of salt, and blend until combined. Divide the filling into four equal parts by weight. Level the cakes, if needed, and carefully split each of them into two thin cake layers.
Place the first cake layer on a serving platter, and evenly spread one-fourth of the filling on top. There is no need for a cake ring, as the filling is quite firm and nice to work with. Top with another cake layer and another fourth of the filling, and continue stacking until all of the cake layers are used up. Spread the remaining filling on the top and the sides of the cake, and place it into the refrigerator for at least 8 hours.
Decorate the cake further if desired, and serve with freshly brewed coffee or a nice fruit liqueur. Yields 16 servings.

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