“She tastes like nectar and salt. Nectar and salt and apples. Pollen and stars and hinges. She tastes like fairy tales. Swan maiden at midnight. Cream on the tip of a fox’s tongue. She tastes like hope.” – Laini Taylor, Daughter of Smoke and Bone
The dilemma. What to do with a plethora of over-ripe strawberries? The solution. A roasted strawberry jam filled white chocolate rainbow chip cake – a little jewel of decadence that tastes of sweet sunshine and solves a fruity conundrum.
This past weekend, I visited the farmer’s market in search of inspiration and fresh seasonal produce. And what I found instead was a range of perfectly ripe yet un-seasonal produce. And the masses were going crazy for it, too. It seemed every customer was filling their hessian-lined baskets with stalks of brazenly pigmented rhubarb, deep hued cherries and vibrantly coloured peaches. Idyllic but over-priced produce, completely irrelevant for the current Australian autumnal climate.
Now, I won’t claim that I always eat seasonally and I, too, was rather attracted by the pucker-worthy rhubarb – but what interested me most above all were the punnets of over-ripe and specially priced, strawberries sitting quietly and rather neglected in the background.
I have a soft spot for neglected fruit. Fruit that’s bruised, blemished and a little over-ripe. I’m not talking the type of fruit that will make the cover of a magazine or feature in the feed of a food-bloggers instagram. I’m talking about fruit that’s slightly imperfect and deliciously flawed. Fruit that is a little bit like me and maybe even slightly like you, too.
And so, as if to prove a point – I bought the strawberries and turned them into a roasted strawberry jam. And their flavours sung. I could hardly contain myself when they roasted up in the oven. The strawberries bubbled and oozed, filling the air with a sweet over-ripe scent. The jam was worth making for this momentary aroma alone.
For the roasted strawberry jam, I used a recipe from my new favourite cookbook, Date Night In by Ashley Rodriguez of Not Without Salt fame. This cookbook has seriously changed the way I cook, prepare and choose to eat food. I’ve been cooking from it every night from since it arrived in the mail two weeks ago, and I’m yet to discover a recipe that does not yield perfection.
The cake base, too, is from Date Night In. It’s a vanilla-flavoured cake that has the most aerated, light and delicate crumb. The cake’s interior is also punctured by home-made white chocolate rainbow chips, which gives it a delicious textural crunch and flavour foil against the three buttery cake layers. The cake is then finally frosted in a rich strawberry white chocolate frosting – that unites both the roasted strawberry jam filling and the cake in a perfect flavour harmony.
Roasted Strawberry and White Chocolate Rainbow Chip Cake is ideal to be shared and perfect for celebration…though you could keep it all to yourself (and trust me, you’ll want to). Don’t be intimidated or fooled either by all the steps, the recipe is so straightforward. It’s a cake that can easily be thrown together and will disappear long before you are ready to see it go.
- 1 lb / 450 g whole strawberries, tops cut off
- 2.7 oz. / 75 g caster sugar
- 1 vanilla bean pod, split
- ½ tbsp. lemon juice
- Pinch of sea salt
- 11 oz. / 310 g white chocolate chips
- 1 tbsp. vegetable oil
- Pink, yellow, blue and green food colouring
- 1 cup / 8.1 fl. oz. / 240 ml whole milk, at room temperature, divided
- 5 egg whites, at room temperature
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
- ¼ cup / 1 oz. / 30 g corn starch
- 2 ¾ cups / 13 oz. / 370 g plain flour
- 1 tbsp. + 1 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. sea salt
- 1 ¾ cups / 12.3 oz. / 350 g caster sugar
- ¾ cup / 6 oz. / 170 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 cup / 5 oz. / 140 g homemade rainbow chips
- 10.5 oz. / 300 g white chocolate
- 5.3 oz. / 150 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 10.5 oz. / 300 g cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1 ½ - 2 cups confectioners’ (icing) sugar, sifted
- 2 tsp. strawberry essence
- A few drops of pink food colouring
- Pre-heat the oven to 325 F/ 160 C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper so that it covers the sides or use a shallow roasting pan to catch all the juices. In a large bowl combine the strawberries, sugar, vanilla bean pod, lemon juice and salt. Stir to combine. Turn out onto the baking sheet and roast for 1 to 1 ½ hours, or until the berries are slumped and the juices nearly flood the pan. While still warm, squish the berries with a fork into the juice so that they break up slightly and thicken the jam. The jam will look very wet, but as it cools and the berries are mashed it will thicken. Let cool before storing in a seal-able jar. The jam can keep in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
- Melt the white chocolate and oil in 20 second intervals in a microwave, three or four at the most, and stir well. The white chocolate will be thick and stiff, but smooth. Divide the melted chocolate into four separate small bowls. Add a few drops of food colouring into each bowl, one colour per bowl. Stir to combine. The white chocolate may seize slightly but it should remain pliable. If not, melt it in the microwave again for 10 seconds.
- Empty each bowl of pliable coloured chocolate onto separate sheets of parchment paper set on a baking tray. Using your hands or a spatula, form each into ¼ inch / .6 cm rectangles. Place in the freezer for about 10 minutes, or until set. Once set, chop up each colour into little pieces of desired size. Rainbow chips can be kept stored 1 week in the refrigerator.
- Pre-heat the oven to 350 F / 170 C. Grease and line 2 x 8 inch / 20 cm cake pans (Alternatively, you can use 3 x 6 inch / 15 cm cake pans like I, for a smaller layer cake. Bake them for 10 minutes less).
- In a medium bowl, whisk to combine ¼ cup / 2 fl. oz. / 60 ml of the milk with the egg whites and vanilla extract. Set this mixture aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or with hand-held electric beaters, combine the corn starch, flour, baking powder, salt and sugar on low speed for 30 seconds. Add the butter and the remaining ¾ cup / 6 oz. / 180 ml of milk. Mix on low until combined and then increase the speed to medium and continue to beat for a further minute.
- With a rubber spatula, scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix again just to combine. With the mixer on low, add one third of the egg white mixture and mix to just incorporate. Then add half of the egg white mixture, beat well, and then add the remaining egg white mixture, beating until everything is combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl again, and finish mixing on low. Fold in the rainbow chips.
- Divide the batter equally between the prepared pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the edges are golden and a cake tester inserted into the middle comes out clean. Let the cakes cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes before removing them from the pans. Cool completely before leveling any domed tops and assembling.
- Melt the white chocolate in a double boiler. Set it aside, and let it cool to room temperature. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or with hand-held electric beaters, beat the butter and cream cheese together until light and creamy. Add the confectioners’ sugar and continue to beat until thick and no lumps remain. Gradually, mix in the chocolate followed by the strawberry essence and pink food colouring. Continue to beat for 3 to 5 minutes or until the frosting is smooth, thick and shiny.
- Place one of the levelled cake layers, exposed side facing up, on a cake stand or platter. Spoon a few tablespoons of the jam and spread in an even layer, leaving a ½ inch / 1 cm border. On top the jam, evenly spread a few tablespoons of frosting. If you have a two layered cake, place the exposed side of the next cake layer face down or if you have a three layered cake, spread the second layer again with jam then frosting and top with the third cake layer. Thinly frost the top and sides of the layered cake to crumb coat, then set it in the fridge to chill for 20 minutes. Once set, thickly frost the whole cake with the remaining frosting. Chill the cake to slightly set the icing before serving.