So I know the title is kind of long, but that's what this cake is! If you've never had a Chinese bakery style cake, it's layers of fluffy sponge cake filled with a variety of fruits and covered in a whipped cream frosting. These cakes are extremely light and airy, making them a great ending after eating a large meal. Growing up, I wasn't always the biggest fan of Chinese bakery desserts. I thought that they tasted kind of bland compared to sweeter American style cakes. Now that I'm older, my tastes have expanded and while I still love a good yellow cake covered in rich chocolate buttercream, I appreciate the subtle sweetness found in Chinese style desserts.
Since I was making this cake for Chinese New Year, I decided to add a twist and do an orange sponge cake filled with lots ripe strawberries and whipped cream. Oranges are a symbol of good luck and prosperity for the new year due to their round shape and in Chinese the word for orange sounds similar to the word for wealth. I chose to use only strawberries in the filling for their red color since red is a sign of good fortune and happiness. So basically this whole cake is filled with good luck, success, and joy!
The cake starts off with your typical sponge cake base, with the eggs separated and the whites beaten to stiff peaks, then folded into the batter. I whipped the egg whites with some cream of tartar to give them more volume and stability so they could hold up to the folding. Both orange juice and zest were added to the batter, giving the cake a really bright citrus kick and a bit of vegetable oil helped keep the cake layers moist.
I wanted to add a bit of decoration to the whipped cream, so I sketched a few oranges and laid a piece of parchment over them. Then I melted and colored some white chocolate, traced over my drawings, and after the chocolate set, they were ready for the top of the cake. My family thought the oranges looked more like pumpkins and one of my cousins asked me if they were carrots, but I'm sure he was joking! They have to cut me some slack though, I haven't made too many layer cakes so I'm still working on those decorating skills!
To keep the strawberries from transferring color to the whipped cream, make sure to blot both sides well with a paper towel. The lightly sweetened whipped cream, used as the filling and frosting, also has some gelatin added to it so that it keeps longer and holds up nicely in between the cake layers. I've tried a couple other methods of stabilizing whipped cream such as adding melted marshmallows or using instant vanilla pudding mix, but I prefer using the gelatin since it doesn't add any flavor or color to the whipped cream. It can be a bit tricky to add the gelatin properly, the first time I tried it I ended up with stings of gelatin throughout the whipped cream, not appetizing at all. But after some practice, and testing how much to let the gelatin cool before adding it, I was successful! I've found that the gelatin should be slightly warm to the touch before adding to the heavy cream and if it cools too much and sets up, just zap it in the microwave for a few seconds to liquefy the gelatin again.
I love the pop of red from the strawberries when you cut into the cake and the flecks of orange zest in the layers, so pretty! Even though I made this for Chinese New Year, this cake could be used to celebrate any special occasion. In fact, I made it again for my mom's birthday and my aunt, who normally doesn't like sweets, ate two slices! The fluffy citrus sponge cake combined with sweet strawberries and an airy whipped frosting is so good, I know this is one recipe I'm going to be using again and again. I hope you guys try it out and enjoy it as much as I do!
Chinese Bakery Style Orange and Strawberry Cream Cake
Makes one 3-layer 6 inch cake
1 cup (100g) cake flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
3 eggs separated, at room temperature
1/3 cup (69g) white sugar
2 tbsp (18g) vegetable oil
1/4 cup (55g) orange juice
1 tbsp (6g) orange zest
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
Stabilized Whipped Cream
2 tsp (4g) unflavored gelatin
3 tbsp (45g) cold water
2 cups (463g) cold heavy cream
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup (29g) powdered sugar
6 oz (178g) strawberries, washed and tops trimmed
For the cake:
Preheat oven to 325ºF. Line the bottoms of three 6 inch round pans with parchment. Do not grease the pans. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt together and set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar together until thick and pale yellow in color. Whisk in the orange juice, orange zest, vegetable oil, and vanilla extract. Stir in the flour mixture until combined.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on medium speed until foamy. Add in the cream of tartar and beat on medium high speed until stiff peaks form. Fold the egg whites into the batter in three additions until no streaks are left in the batter. Divide the batter evenly among the prepared pans and bake for about 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow the layers to cool for about 20 minutes in the pan, then turn out onto a wire rack, peel off the parchment liner and cool completely.
For the stabilized whipped cream:
Place the bowl of a stand mixer and whisk attachment in the fridge for at least 20 minutes before making the whipped cream. In a small microwavable bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the water and allow to stand for about 5 minutes. Zap the gelatin in the microwave for about 20 seconds and stir, making sure the gelatin has dissolved and is a clear-ish tan color. Allow to cool, but not set.
In the bowl of the stand mixer with the whisk attachment, beat the heavy cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract until soft peaks form. With the mixer running on medium speed, slowly pour the gelatin in a steady stream. Turn the speed up to medium high and beat until stiff peaks form.
Slice the strawberries into 1/4 inch slices and pat both sides dry with a paper towel. Spread about 1/3 cup of the whipped cream evenly over the first layer then place the strawberry slices over the cream. Spread another 1/3 cup of whipped cream evenly over the strawberries. Place the second layer on top and repeat the filling process. Place the third layer on top and cover the whole cake in a thin layer of whipped cream. Chill the cake in the fridge for about 15 minutes then cover in another layer of whipped cream and decorate.
Chill the cake in the fridge for a couple of hours before serving. Enjoy!