Between teacher appreciation, the end of school, and hostess gifts for upcoming gatherings and getaways, I can think of lots of reasons to make this cake. It's not quite a pound cake and not a traditional yellow cake either, but it's the perfect vehicle for fresh berries and cream. It's rustic and homey, with a crisp outer shell and a moist, finely textured interior. To me, it heralds the beginning of summer!
Makes 2 loaves (approximately 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inches)
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1/2 cup vegetable shortening, plus more for the pan
3 cups sugar
5 large eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for the pan
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon pure orange extract
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees (325 degrees if you're baking in a dark, nonstick baking pan). Using shortening, grease pans well and dust with flour. Set aside.
In a standing mixer, cream the butter and shortening together. Add sugar gradually (I add 1 cup at a time, pouring it in a steady stream). Cream until very light and fluffy (3 - 4 minutes). Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating after each addition.
Stir the dry ingredients together in a bowl and add to the mixer alternately with the milk, starting and ending with the flour. Mix in the orange and vanilla extracts.
Divide the batter between the two greased and floured pans (pans shouldn't be filled more than about 2/3 full) and bake for 50-60 minutes. Let the cake cool in the pan for about 15 minutes, then run a knife around the edge and turn the cake out onto a wire rack. Let it cool completely.
You can eat the cake right away, but it's even better the second day. Serve with fresh, macerated strawberries and freshly whipped cream. (I toss my strawberries with a little sugar and a few tablespoons of orange juice and let them sit, covered, for an hour or two before serving.)
Sure, you can just give a box of berries, but I enjoy the details as much as I enjoy the baking. I stamped the garden maker with "Special Delivery" in white ink, made a few strawberry blossoms out of crepe paper, and mixed in strawberry leaves from the garden. Then everything got packaged in a wooden berry basket.
Similar garden markers can be found at Factory Direct Craft
Special Delivery stamp from Besotted Brand
Crepe paper from Carte Fini
Vintage pips from Chocolate Letters on Etsy
A variety of berry boxes can be found at Garnish. Etsy tends to carry a large selection as well.
I wrapped my cake in baking parchment and tied it up with solid red Divine Twine from Whisker Graphics, embellishing it with more crepe paper blossoms and strawberry leaves. (Note: For freshness sake, you can wrap the cake in plastic wrap first, then cover with the parchment wrap.)
Making the crepe paper blossoms was similar to making the poppies I showed last week, just with smaller, rounded petals (you can refer to that tutorial for basic assistance if you want to try to make these). The center of my blossom is a crepe paper covered safety swab surrounded by vintage pips that I found on Etsy. The petals were shaped and cupped (again, see previous tutorial), then overlapped and taped in place. Behind the flower, I added a round of crepe paper cut into spiky points to resemble strawberry tops.
Alternative: Embellish with a few sprigs of mint or another complementary herb.