Berries and cream have never tasted better than when paired with fluffy vanilla cake layers. Developed as a small 6-inch cake, this Mini Strawberry Chiffon Cake is perfect for small celebrations and intimate gatherings - I’m looking at you, Mother’s Day!
What is a Chiffon Cake?
A cross between a sponge cake and oil cake, this hybrid is soft and pillowy from whipped egg whites but rich and tender from the addition of oil and fatty egg yolks. The fluffy texture of a chiffon cake is achieved by beating egg whites then folding them into the batter.
Since air can’t be beaten into the oil (like you can with solid fats (butter) using the creaming method), the addition of whipped whites helps aerate and lighten the batter. Unlike some sponge cakes, the addition of baking powder ensures a nice lift to each layer.
Using oil instead of butter also means that the cakes layers will remain soft even after being refrigerated. This makes chiffon cakes wonderful pairings for fillings that need to be chilled - like pastry cream or this vanilla bean whipped cream.
With flavors so simple yet classic, it’s times like these where I encourage you to reach for the good stuff. Real vanilla bean seeds freckle the whipped cream. I love the use of vanilla bean paste here. Not only is the flavor more concentrated and pure, it provides a little extra sweetness too.
Don’t have vanilla bean paste? You can go straight to the source and use a vanilla bean. Use a paring knife to slice a plump bean in half lengthwise. Use the tip of the knife to scrape out the seeds from the bean and add them straight into your cake batter and whipped cream. Save the pods and place them in a jar with granulated sugar to make vanilla sugar. Alternatively, use equal parts pure vanilla extract.
Additionally, take the time to make your ingredients shine. Macerating the sliced berries in a bit of sugar draws out their juices and natural sweetness. Toss the sliced strawberries in sugar and give them a stir every so often as you prepare the cake layers and whip the cream just before assembling.
How to Ice a Cake with Whipped Cream
Frosting a cake with whipped cream can be tricky. I used to wonder, when I started as a cake decorator at a local bakery well over a decade ago, why my first task was to ice all of the cakes that called for freshly whipped cream. It was a difficult and finicky job, especially when frosting sheet pan after sheet pan of layer cakes filling with slippery fruit filling in the California summer heat. Why would they assign this task to new decorators you ask? I eventually learned that this was by design. Because if you could ice a smooth cake with whipped cream, then you could ice a cake with anything.
For a solid year, upon tying my apron and bandana, I’d start a huge batch of whipped cream. Leftover whipped cream from the previous shift would be reserved for piping the borders. I learned that over whipping the cream lead to disaster and that fussing with it only made things worse.
You want to work as efficiently as possible. Unlike buttercream that you can scrape off and start over with as often as you please, whipped cream begins to break down the more it is used and overworked. Using whipped cream whisked to just medium peaks creates a much softer appearance but is a little trickier to work with. Give the remaining cream a few extra whisks to slightly stiffen it up at the end for piping details.
Strawberry Chiffon Cake
serves 4 to 6
adapted from Layered
Vanilla Chiffon Cake
1 cup (130 g) cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup (60 ml) canola oil
1/2 cup + 3 tablespoons (140 g) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 large egg yolks
1/4 cup (60 ml) whole milk
4 large egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease the bottom of two 6-inch cake pans and line them with parchment paper. Set aside.
Whisk together the cake flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside. Using an electric mixer (stand or hand), mix together the oil and all but 1 tablespoon of sugar until combined. Add the vanilla and egg yolks. Mix on medium speed for abut 3 minutes until pale in color. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl.
With the mixer on low, add in half of the flour mixture and mix until combined. Stream in the milk until absorbed. Add the remaining flour mixture and mix until incorporated. Set aside.
In a washed and dried mixing bowl, add the egg whites and cream of tartar. Begin whisking on low until the egg whites foam. Gradually increase the speed and add the remaining tablespoon of sugar. Mix on medium-high until the eggs hold medium-stiff peaks.
Fold about 1 cup of the whipped egg whites into the cake batter to lightened it up. Gently but deliberately fold in the remaining egg whites until combined.
Evenly divide the cake batter between the two pans. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cakes come out clean. Place the cakes in their pans on a wire cooling rack. Run a very thin knife or metal spatula around the inside of the pan to release the sides of the cake. Continue to cool on the wire racks. Remove the parchment paper from the bottoms before assembling.
Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream
2 cups heavy cream
3 to 4 tablespoons granulated sugar, to taste
1 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
Begin whisking the cream (with an electric mixing or by hand) until the cream begins to thicken. Add the sugar and continue to whisk until soft peaks form. Add the vanilla bean paste and whisk until the cream holds medium peaks. Do not over mix.
2/3 cup sliced strawberries
1 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups hulled and quartered strawberries
Toss the sliced strawberries with the granulated sugar and set aside (stirring every so often). Prepare the layers of cake by trimming off the tops of cooled cakes until they are flat and level. Whip the cream.
Place one layer of cake on a cake board or serving dish. Top with about 1 1/4 cups of whipped cream and spread out with an offset spatula. Use the back of a spoon to gently hollow out the center of the cream to create a “bowl” for the slices strawberries. Spoon in the strawberries, leaving their juices behind. Top with the second layer of cake.
Crumb coat the cake with a thin layer of whipped cream and chill in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes.
Smoothly frost the cake with the whipped cream. Give the remaining whipped cream a few more whisks to stiffen it slightly. Fill a piping bag fitted with a star tip with the stiffened whipped cream and pipe a shell border around the top of the cake. Pile the quartered strawberries on top and serve.
The cake may also be baked as one, 8-inch cake. Check doneness after about 25 minutes of baking. To frost, decrease the cream to 1 1/2 cups and sugar to 2 to 3 tablespoons.
Do not over whip the cream. If you use an electric mixer, stop mixing once the cream thickens and holds soft peaks. Finish whisking by hand.
If the cream is over-whipped and appears grainy, add in a tablespoon or two of heavy cream and whisk to just combined.
Slice the cake with a serrated bread knife.
Serve the cake within 30 minutes of assembling. The cake may be made in advanced and stored in the refrigerator. Refrigerate leftovers for up to 3 days.