I’ve been feeling this surge of productivity lately. Unfortunately, it tends to stall out when it comes to something I’d really like to get done — like writing that book I keep thinking about. That bit of writing seems to permanently live in my head, hiding itself from daylight and refusing to even come up to take a peek around.
In the meantime, while not writing my book, I managed to write a piece on my other blog, a blog post that I’d been thinking of writing for a while. As usual, I found inspiration in a patient. This is not uncommon when you love this job, love these patients, as much as I do.
That site has been floundering, sustaining itself on one or two posts per month. When the feeling strikes, though, the words flow. That post was one of those times.
Another day, while procrastinating on some other work-related projects, I wrote an essay over a few hours. I wrote. I edited. I wrote some more, edited some more. After the morning of writing, I submitted it here, one of the major medical journals in my field. They have a great section – Art of Oncology – that lets physician scientists shed the cloak of stuffy scientific writing while exploring the humanistic side of our profession. In other words, that section is totally made for me.
My essay was accepted 13 days after I submitted it.
To say that I am thrilled would be an understatement.
And I baked a cake with my kids. It was heaven.
My daughter and I read the recipe together, a recipe I had written and typed up. We gathered the ingredients, and she measured each one, carefully and with trembling hands. She’s as much of a perfectionist as I am. My son buttered and floured the parchment-lined cake pans. They watched the mixer as it beat the batter, eyes fixed on the spinning beater, as if they were watching magic happening. And they were, I guess. I poured the batter for them, and we slid the cakes into the oven to finish.
Later, after the cake was cooled and frosted, we shared a piece together. Nestled between the white cake layers was a strawberry filling made from this homemade strawberry jam, and I added a touch of the jam to the frosting as well. Each bite smacked of the sun-soaked fields those berries came from.
Baking this cake with my children? That was the icing on my week.
White Cake with Strawberry Filling and Strawberry Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
Yield: 10-12 servings
A beautiful dessert to serve for a birthday or Mother's Day, this cake doesn't disappoint. I like to use plenty of frosting, so this recipe has enough to completely cover the cake plus some. If you're not a big frosting fan, you can halve the frosting recipe.
3 cups (12 ounces) cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1-1/2 cups (12 ounces; 3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups (14 ounces; 392 grams) granulated sugar, divided
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Zest of one lemon
1 cup milk, room temperature
7 large egg whites, room temperature
1/4 cup strawberry jam, divided
4-1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
4-1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1/8 teaspoon coarse salt
4 tablespoons heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
To Prepare Cake:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter two 9-inch round cake pans, line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment paper, then butter the parchment. Lightly dust the cake pans with flour, shaking out excess. Set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the cake flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside. Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, and scraping down sides of bowl as needed, beat butter and 1-3/4 cup sugar about 3 to 4 minutes, until pale and fluffy. Beat in vanilla extract and lemon zest. With mixer on low speed, add the flour and milk in an alternating fashion (starting and ending with flour), and beat until just combined. Transfer mixture to a large bowl.
3. In a clean bowl and using the stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat egg whites on low until foamy. With mixer running, gradually add in the remaining 1/4 cup sugar. Beat on high speed until glossy, stiff peaks form, about 4 minutes, taking care not to overbeat. Fold 1/3 of the egg white mixture into the flour/butter mixture, incorporating the egg whites completely. Repeat this two more times until all of the egg white mixture has been folded into the cake batter completely.
4. Divide batter between the two prepared cake pans, smoothing batter, then bake for 30-35 minutes, until a tester inserted into the center of each comes out dry. Cool on a rack for about 20 minutes, then invert, peel off parchment, and re-invert cakes so they cool completely with the top facing upward. When completely cool, frost as below, and refrigerate until ready to serve.
To Prepare Frosting and Filling:
1. Strain 2 tablespoons of strawberry jam, using the back of a spoon to force the liquid from the jam, and reserve liquid. Solids can be discarded.
2. For frosting: In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter on medium-high speed until smooth, about 60 seconds. Reduce speed to medium low and slowly add confectioners' sugar. Beat until smooth, about 3 to 5 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, stir together salt, cream, and vanilla; stir until salt is dissolved. Add cream mixture and reserved strawberry jam juice to butter mixture. Increase mixer speed to medium-high, and beat until the frosting is light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
3. For filling: In a small bowl, combine the remaining 2 tablespoons of strawberry jam with 3/4 cup of the frosting. Stir until well blended.
Note: Frosting can be made ahead, up to 2 days, and refrigerated in a tightly covered container. Bring to room temperature when ready to use, and beat on medium-low in the stand mixer for 3 to 5 minutes until light and fluffy.
Assembling the Cake:
To frost cakes, place 1 layer on a cake plate. With an offset spatula, spread top with the strawberry filling. Place the second cake layer on top, making sure it is centered, and refrigerate for 30 minutes to allow the filling to set. Remove cake from refrigerator and spread frosting evenly over top and sides of cake. You will have frosting left over.