FRONT BURNER: Season has arrived for Mixed Berry Brita Cake

Mixed Berry Brita Cake (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Kelly Brant)
Mixed Berry Brita Cake (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Kelly Brant)

I first saw brita cake on SmittenKitchen's Instagram feed last summer. I was intrigued, but busy working on a blackberry cake recipe, so I tucked the brita cake idea away for later.

Later is today.

The dessert is reminiscent of pavlova or Eton mess, but so very different.

It starts with a butter cake batter that's topped with a layer of meringue -- most of the recipes I consulted call for baking the two at the same time, but a few gave the cake layer a 10-minute head start -- after baking and cooling, the whole thing is cut in half and then topped with whipped cream, sometimes lemon curd, and loads of fresh berries, and then stacked together.

According to Scandicuisine.com, an English-language website about Scandinavian cooking, variations on this style of cake are popular in Finland, Norway and Sweden. In Sweden there's Pinocchio cake. In Norway, kvæfjordkake is filled with custard. "It became loved by the Finnish people thru a baking contest organized by Kodin Kuvalehti" in 1983, notes the entry at Scandicuisine. The best I can tell, Kodin Kuvalehti is a lifestyle magazine.

The cake looks complicated, but it really isn't. I filmed the accompanying video the first time I made it and only had a couple of minor problems: The first pan I selected was too big or my patience for spreading the batter was too small, but thanks to lining the pan with parchment paper, the batter was easy to transfer to a smaller baking pan. After baking, when I was removing one of the cake halves from the parchment paper, it broke.

I used strawberries and blueberries this time because they're in season, but as the summer goes on other fruits would be just as good -- blackberries, raspberries, currants, peaches, cherries and plums all come to mind as excellent choices.

[Video not showing up above? Click here to watch » arkansasonline.com/531brita/]

Mixed Berry Brita Cake

  • 4 eggs, separated (see note), at room temperature
  • ½ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 ¼ cups granulated sugar, plus more for berries, divided use
  • 1 lemon
  • 11 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ cup milk
  • Fresh berries such as strawberries and blueberries
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream or creme fraiche
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Fresh mint leaves, optional garnish

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9-by-13 inch pan with parchment paper. (Two round cake pans will also work, if a round cake is desired.)

In a large mixing bowl, whip the egg whites until quite foamy; add the cream of tartar and continue beating until very foamy. Gradually add ¾ cup of the sugar while continuing to beat until stiff peaks form; set aside.

Zest the lemon. Set zest and naked lemon aside.

In a separate bowl (no need to clean the beaters), beat the butter and ½ cup sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks and lemon zest and beat until combined. Mix the flour and baking powder together; add it in thirds, alternating with the milk. Beat gently until combined.

Spread the cake batter in an even layer in the prepared pan(s). Spread the meringue evenly over the batter using an offset spatula or the back of a large spoon.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes in the center or lower third of the oven.

Let cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes and then carefully (and quickly) lift the cake from the pan using the parchment paper. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Slice the strawberries and combine them with the blueberries in a medium bowl. Toss berries with a tablespoon or so of sugar and the juice from one half of the naked lemon (save the remaining half for another use). Set aside.

Cut the cake in half (this is not necessary if making a round cake). Place one layer on a serving platter.

Whip the heavy cream until thickened and then add the sour cream and vanilla extract and continue whipping until fluffy with medium stiff peaks.

Spread half of the whipped cream mixture over the cake layer on the serving platter. Top with half of the berries. Lay the second layer on top. Decorate with remaining cream and berries. Add fresh mint leaves for garnish, if desired.

Serve immediately. Leftovers will keep refrigerated for up to two days, but the texture won't be as good.

Note: Eggs are easiest to separate when chilled, but they should be room temperature when making the meringue and batter.

Recipe loosely adapted from scandicuisine.com/brita-cake

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