My strawberry and cream cake cups are a perfect alternative to run of the mill cake. They’re manageable portions for little ones to handle, with the added bonus of allowing you to build every cup to everyone’s tastes.
I’m from a massive family: my 3 brothers and 3 sisters have spawned 15 offspring so far. So when it’s birthday time everyone hits my mum’s gaff like a bomb of little arms and legs. It gets crazy. But it’s wonderful and I love it.
When this many children hit home all at once, pleasing them all can be a serious challenge. My ma is in her later years, so I do what I can to take some of the burden off her. Plus not yet having kids of my own frees up my resources far more than my siblings. And I have a food blog to entertain, so I utilise where I can! J
Now there is a very very very easy win-all when it comes to children (and adults). Cake! All the cake. Which we always do in great supply. But it can (nay… it WILL) make an awful mess as crumbs create a new carpet in the kitchen. You would think the children would cherish every mouthful, considering the absolute wonder in their eyes and bellies as they have their cake and eat it. But apparently they are generous little ones and want to share their treats with the floor. And the sofa. And stairs, and the table, and the garden, and the toilet, and even on top of things they can’t even reach somehow!
An easy solution is to dish out bowls, but this can get restrictive as they now need to eat off their laps and is just as much at risk of spillage. So as we had plastic cups for them to use anyway, I decided to combine the two. Strawberry and cream cake cups were born!
A quick internet search tells me I’m by no means the first genius to come up with this idea. But I’d never heard of it before, so I just hammered home my own version of this recipe without looking at the others to keep my version my own.
The premise is very simple – it’s normal cake, but in a cup! The changes I’ve made here are introducing a strawberry coulis & whipped cream. My reasoning for the coulis is that although I like jam, I find it too sweet and sugary sometimes. But coulis doesn’t transfer to cakes normally as it’s too wet, which isn’t a problem in cake cups as we’re eating them immediately. Coulis tastes better than most jams anyway. The whipped cream is in place of buttercream or frosting – again, being in a cup means that this can be much wetter than normal. Frosting or buttercream would be too stiff for the cup as well, but some nature of creamage was needed to keep everything in place for when the cups inevitably were dropped. Looking back, this is a very similar dish to Eton Mess – it could even have been anonymously tinkering at the back of my brain as I ‘invented’ these cups.
An unexpected bonus of this process is how cool the cups look from the side. You can really use the coulis to good effect by doing a ribbon swirl before adding the other ingredients. If you have the time, this can be taken up a level by doing different coulis – mango and blueberry would give awesome contrasts.
A tip on the cake ingredients for whenever you make sponges: weigh your eggs first, then use that weight as the guide for the other ingredients. Sponge is the easiest thing in the world as all ingredients are equal. So if you fancy a massive three layer sponge cake, weigh out 6 large eggs. If that comes to 312g, then the marge, sugar and flour should each be 312g as well. Easy!
Another tip – if you want to fancy this up for older guests, mint goes very well with the coulis, or you can get fancy with the cake. Rum and raisin with a chocolate sauce will be a mature treat!
Final tip – the coulis is really quite thin. I used something called Xanthan Gum to add some bulk so it stuck to the cup sides a bit more and was easier to put into a plastic sauce dispenser. Xanthan Gum is totally vegan and harmless – it’s not a crazy chemical or anything troubling. You can pick up a ton of it off Ebay or Cream Supplies (not affiliated link) for quite cheap (considering you use fractions of a gram to thicken things). I similarly created a gel using agar agar and locust bean gum, but this was too thick and needed more work on both texture and flavour.
Strawberry and Cream Cake Cups
- 250 g Butter/margarine
- 250 g Sugar
- 4 Large eggs
- 250 g Self-raising flour sifted
- 300 g Strawberries
- 100 g Icing sugar
- Squeeze lemon juice
- Can of squirty cream or whip your own
- Heat an oven to 180/350/gas 4
- Cream the butter or marge until it is light and fluffy. Mix in the sugar until fully combined.
- Beat in the eggs one at a time. If the mixture looks to be curdling at any point, add some of the flour until it comes back together. Keep doing this until all the eggs are combined.
- Fold in the flour a little at a time, incorporating as much air into the mixture as you can.
- Grease up a baking tray or cake tin and pour in the mixture.
- Bake for approx. 25 minutes, or until it is fully risen and a knife comes out clean when inserted into the deepest part.
- Leave to cool on a wire rack. Break up the cake to speed up the process.
- Hull the strawberries and place into a food processor or blender along with the icing sugar and lemon juice. Blitz until fully combined.
- Pass the mixture through a fine sieve. Disregard the seeds. Check the seasoning of the coulis, and add more sugar or lemon as needed.
- Build the cups up using the three components to create layers of each (cake, coulis, squirty cream)
Tons to explore and question here, and I don’t have all the answers, so please do chip in in the comments if you can help!
Why this order for making the sponge? I can see the logic in this order, as alternative mixes won’t achieve the same results. For instance, mixing the eggs straight into the flour first will make a glue like paste, and the butter simply won’t mix in. Similarly, the butter won’t mix straight into the eggs first. Eggs and sugar on their own would be a weird mix. There is a shout for cutting the flour into the butter first, add the eggs to form a very wet dough-like mixture… But the sugar wouldn’t dissolve into this dough and would stay grainy I imagine.
Throwing everything in at the same time might work – I’ve never actually tried it (there’s an experiment right there though), but I know people that have to varying degrees of success. My main fear is that I know that the above method gives the results I want every time so don’t want to toy with a winning formula.
There could be some real science to this order of play as well, but I couldn’t tell you as such. The order does give the opportunity to get air into the ingredients and make them light and fluffy, which logically seems to benefit the cake. But I’d love to know the real science behind it so I can tinker and change aspects if possible.
Why do all the cake ingredients need to be equal? Need is a strong word. I’m sure you could add some extra butter here, take out some sugar there, and you’ll still get an edible product at the end, albeit less well balanced. It could be just a pleasant fluke of nature that they’re so beautifully balanced, or there could be a solid scientific reason for it – I can’t tell you for sure. But each element adds a specific dimension to the cake (sweetness, water & rise, dry and binding, fat and richness), and it could just be that they all bring equal qualities to the plate so therefore deserve equal presence. In fact it could be that they shouldn’t all be equal, but we keep it this way for ease of purpose. That’s another experiment I’m sure I’m going to come back to!
Why does the egg cause the mixture to curdle? And why does adding flour stop this? We’re adding water (in the form of egg) to fat (the butter). They don’t mix just like oil and water don’t mix. So when we add the eggs and force them into the butter and sugar, the mixture doesn’t like it. The flour acts as a binder between the two – it mixes with the water to form a glue, and it mixes with the fat to make a dough. So essentially the flour bridges both worlds and pulls them together. I’d like to know precisely how it does this because it would allow us to start considering alternatives or different mixes of flour and another binder to give better or different results.
Is there anything wrong with a curdled mixture? I’m not sure. I’ve been told that it leaves the cake much denser and stodgier, which is certainly not what you want from a light and airy victoria sponge. But again, I’ve been a slave to habit to date and haven’t risked it or tested it. Does the water and fat separating allow the air to escape? Does it affect the water from escaping the egg when the cake is cooked, which in turn makes the cake rise? Sieving the flour from a height into the mixture logically traps air in – if the flour then immediately has to work to bind the water and fat together, is this air lost, compared to if the bind has already taken place?
Why does the cake rise? This is the job of the egg (and baking powder). As it heats up, the water in the egg turns into steam and rises through the mixture. As it does so, it heats the rest of the mixture as it passes by. When the mixture reaches it’s optimum temperature, it hardens and forms stronger bonds with the surrounding mixture, giving it rigidity. But the water still exists around the mixture, and is still turning to steam and still lifting everything up. There is also air trapped within the mixture (from when we sieve and then fold in the flour) that also gets heated and rises. As the strong bonds are formed, this air/steam gets caught inside. This causes the archetypal rise to occur, exactly as it does in other egg foods like quiche and soufflé. The baking powder in the self raising flour simply makes the air bubbles bigger and more pronounced, making everything bigger and lighter and airier.
Why does incorporating air into the ingredients make it a lighter cake? Logically this seems straightforward. Add air = airier. If the mixture is full of air, this air will heat and rise as mentioned above, and assist the whole process of creating lift. To what extent each aspect influences the process is certainly one for much wider experimentation, but the number of variables makes it quite an extensive experiment to undertake. Adding more/less air when fluffing the butter, adding more/less air to the flour when sieving, whipping the eggs vigorously before use, even whipping just the whites until stiff, adding more or less baking powder rather than using self-raising flour (which contains baking powder), or even adjusting the whole method of mixing to incorporate more air…
Why do we add lemon to the strawberries? Seasoning! We often only think of salt and pepper as seasoning, but lemon (and lime) juice is an excellent seasoning – it enhances flavour without imparting any of its own to the overall experience (if you can taste the lemon, you’ve added too much). It adds an extra acid and zing to the strawberries that lifts their natural strawberry flavour. So, rather unusually, adding lemon juice to strawberries actually makes them taste more strawberry-like!
Why are you using canned whipped cream instead of fresh? My original cake cups did use my own whipped cream (some of the photos are from the first batch), but this turned out to be far too heavy even for me, let alone kids. If you have a whipping siphon then this would work perfectly as it’s exactly what the can is doing. But for ease and availability, a can of whipped cream is pretty satisfactory.
Why do kids love cake so much? The exact same reason I do! Copious amounts of sugar! 😀
Why has your family reproduced so much? Do they not have televisions? You wouldn’t believe how often I get asked this when I talk about my family…!