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The sponge cake is one of those classic bakes that can be enjoyed any time of the day. Light, fluffy and full of flavor, it is perfection served simply with whipped cream and strawberry jam…or so I thought!!

By swapping the strawberry jam for a strawberry compote, the whole cake becomes a next level bake! I love the compote as it is sweetened only with a dash of maple syrup and has an extra kick thanks to the addition of the lemon juice. Combined with a vanilla bean whipped cream and lighter than light sponge cake layers, perfection is redefined!

The other beauty of the compote is that if it is made when strawberries are in season as they are now, the recipe can easily be doubled so that you have some extra good stuff to pop on your cereal, ice cream and yoghurt whenever your heart desires. Stored in a lidded vessel (I love mason jars for this purpose), it can easily keep for a week when stored in the fridge. You could also freeze the compote for later use although you will need to freeze in small batches so you only defrost what you need while keeping the rest safely frozen.

I love an old fashioned bake and when it is so simple to tweak to become something special, it truly makes my heart sing!

Serves: 6
Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 40 minutes

Ingredients 

For the strawberry compote:
  • 500g fresh strawberries, hulled and halved (or quartered if they are large)
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 star anise pods

For the sponge cake layers:

  • 2 heaped teaspoons plain (all-purpose) flour
  • ½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 level teaspoon cream of tartar
  • Wheaten cornflour
  • 4 eggs, at room temperature
  • ¾ cup caster sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

For the vanilla bean whipped cream:

  • 600ml thickened cream
  • 2 tablespoons icing sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
  • Icing sugar, to serve

Instructions 

  1. To make the compote, combine about 400g of the fresh strawberries, the water, maple syrup, lemon juice and star anise in a small saucepan and gently bring to a boil. Allow the berries to cook for a couple of minutes before squashing them with the back of a spoon. Allow to simmer for 5 minutes before adding the final 100g of strawberries . Allow to simmer for 7-8 minutes, stirring occasionally, before removing from the heat. Set aside and allow to completely cool.

  2. To make the cakes, preheat the oven to 170C. Using canola spray grease 3 x 18cm tins, ensuring you grease the sides well so that the sponge cakes rise easily and neatly.

  3. Place the flour, soda and cream of tartar in a 1 cup measuring cup. Add as much cornflour as is needed to fill the rest of the cup. Sift the flour mixture three times. (I find it easier to do this between bowls however you could easily use greaseproof paper if you prefer)

  4. Beat the eggs and caster sugar with an electric mixer for 7 minutes. Add the vanilla bean paste and beat for a further 30 seconds to combine.

  5. Turn the mixer to the lowest speed and gently add the flour mixture. Beat it all together for 1 minute until the mixture is smooth. Divide the mixture between the three tins using a metal spoon if you need to help things along. Lightly tap the tins on the work bench to remove any large air bubbles in the sponge texture.

  6. Place the tins on the centre and lower shelves of the oven and bake for approximately 20 minutes or until the sponges spring back when lightly touched in the centre.

  7. Take the sponges out of the oven. Turn sponges out from the tins onto baking paper covered wire racks (this is absolutely necessary as the sponge will stick to the wire rack if it is not covered in baking paper – experience is speaking here!!). Allow the sponges to cool completely.

  8. Once the cakes have completely cooled, whip the cream, sugar and vanilla bean paste until peaks form in the whipped cream.

  9. To assemble the cake place one sponge cake on a serving plate and add half the whipped cream onto it, smoothing to the edges using the back of a spoon, leaving about 1cm around the edges. Spoon half of the strawberry compote around the cream, lightly pushing the fruit to the edge of the cream. Place the second sponge on top of the compote and add the remainder of the cream to the top of the cake, smoothing to the edges. Add the rest of the compote followed by the last sponge layer.

  10. Finish the cake off with a light dusting of icing sugar. The cake is best served on the day it is made.



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