Yesterday, the first Sunday of September, is for us Australians, Father’s day. It is a day my siblings and I are reminded of every time we talk to our dad for the three or so weeks preceding it, and would forget at our own peril.
I love my dad. He is in many ways a typical bloke, but he still manages to surprise us all at the ripe old age of 60. Like many men, he is incapable of talking about feelings. You tend to know he’s concerned when he’s yelling at you, and he shows his love practically – by going out of his way to buy my sister a fridge, building my Ikea furniture or changing the oil in our cars. Yesterday, for instance, he spent his father’s day polishing my car, despite many admonishments to sit the hell down and drink a cup of tea.
Like all dads, he is a massive dork. He loves Elton John, the Allman Brothers and took much pleasure in embarrassing my littlest sister by winding down the windows and singing along to ‘Livin’ on a Prayer’ while driving her to school. He thinks Game of Thrones is called ‘Crown of Thorns’, calls a USB a ‘Youtube stick’ and I’m pretty sure he actually invented the dad joke.
For many years, he got by with a handful of recipes – chicken broccoli ‘special’, tuna macaroni pasta bake, burgers (Big Marks) and tacos (Marcos). You guessed it, his name happens to be Mark. However, over the last couple of years he has taken to cooking like a duck to water.
His list of go-to dishes has expanded dramatically. Paella, beef wellington, lamb shanks, one of the best bolognaise sauces you’ve ever tasted. He is especially proud of his baking. Apple pies and strudels, lemon meringue pies, black forest cakes. He now refers to himself as the best cook in the family, and sometimes I worry that he’s right.
So this cake I made in honour of him, a father who would do anything for his daughters, the best dad anyone could hope to have. Three layers of fluffy vanilla cake (it’s hard to go wrong with one of Sweetapolita’s recipes) filled with roasted strawberries and covered in a gorgeously silky Swiss meringue cream cheese buttercream. Even my normally cake-averse sister loved it! Make it for the man in your life.
Roasted Strawberry Cake with Swiss Meringue Cream Cheese Buttercream
Adapted from Sweetapolita
3 eggs, separated and at room temperature
315g/2 cups + 2 tbsp. cake flour*
15g/3 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
170g/6 oz./1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
300g/1 1/2 cups caster sugar, separated
2 tsp. vanilla
170g/3/4 cup milk, at room temperature
1/4 tsp lemon juice.
Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F. Grease and line 3 6″ cake tins (or 2 8″ cake tins).
Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
In a stand mixer beat the butter and 200g/1 cup of the sugar until pale and fluffy.
Add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well and scraping down the sides with each addition. Add the vanilla and beat to combine.
Add the flour and milk alternately, in three additions, beginning and ending with the flour. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.
In the clean bowl of your stand mixer, beat the egg whites until foamy. Add the lemon juice and beat to soft peaks. Add the remaining 100g/1/2 cup of sugar, a tablespoon at a time, and beat to stiff peaks.
Gently fold 1/3 of the egg whites into the batter to lighten it, then fold in the remaining egg whites.
Divide the batter between the prepared tins and bake for 20-30 minutes until a skewer inserted into the center of a cake comes out clean. Let cool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning out.
Wrap with plastic wrap and freeze for 2 hours or up to a week. This isn’t compulsory, but will make frosting easier as this is quite a crumbly cake!
* How to make your own cake flour!
400g/14 oz. strawberries, tops cut off
65g/3/4 cups caster sugar
1 vanilla bean, split
Preheat oven to 180°/350°F and line a baking tray with baking paper.
Place the strawberries and vanilla bean onto the baking tray and sprinkle with the sugar.
Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the berries have slumped and the juices are running out of the fruit.
Break up the fruit with a fork and leave to cool before transferring to a jar.
Swiss Meringue Cream Cheese Buttercream*
Adapted from the Domestic Goddess Wannabe
3 large egg whites
160g/3/4 cup caster sugar
340g/12 oz. unsalted butter, softened and cut into cubes*
250g/9 oz. cream cheese, very soft
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. salt
Combine the egg whites and sugar in a heat proof bowl and set over a pan of gently simmering water. Whisk continually until the sugar has completely dissolved and the mixture is at 70°C/160°F.
Transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on low until foamy, then increase the speed to med-high and beat until stiff peaks form and the meringue is completely cool.
With the mixer on a low speed, add the butter cube by cube until all is incorporated.* Transfer the buttercream to a separate bowl.
In the clean bowl of the stand mixer whip the cream cheese until very light and fluffy*.
On med-low speed, gradually add the buttercream to the whipped cream cheese a spoonful at a time until all is incorporated. The consistency will be quite soft at this point, increase the speed and beat until it reaches the consistency of stiffly whipped cream.
Add the vanilla and salt and beat to combine.
* Sweetapolita has a wonderful instructional post on Swiss Meringue Buttercream here, I found it incredibly helpful the first few times I attempted the temperamental beast.
* The consistency of the butter is very important – not too cold or hot, it needs to be spreadable but not melted at all.
* Don’t be alarmed when the meringue falls and appears curdled, keep beating and it will come back together.
* Make sure you scrape the sides of the bowl occasionally when beating the cream cheese to ensure it all gets whipped up well. The buttercream will curdle if it isn’t.
Cut the domed tops off the cakes with a serrated knife.
Place one of the layers, cut side up, on a plate or cake board. Pipe a thick border around the edge to act as a barrier for the strawberry filling.
Spread half of the roasted strawberries evenly over the top of the cake.
Place the second cake layer on top, cut side down, and repeat frosting and filling.
Place the last cake layer on top, cut side down.
Give the cake a crumb coat and refrigerate for 10-15 minutes until the frosting has set, then give a final coat of frosting.
I mixed a little bit of the juice leftover from the strawberries in with the frosting I used for the final coat, it’s equally as good either way!