This week marks the beginning of the ends. Every day from now until next Saturday I will be exclaiming to anyone who cares to listen that I am doing something for the last time ever. The other day was my last time to have a serious case of the Mondays in college. Friday will be my last day of classes for good! Next Wednesday I will take the final final and then, Saturday May 5th, I will sit on out Quad one last time and throw my purple cap into the air, marking the beginning of the next stage of life. Cue Pomp and Circumstance…now.
As I celebrate my lasts I also can’t help but reminisce of the pasts. I often tell people that my college experience lasted only 2 years. I tend to ignore the fact that freshmen and sophomore year ever happened. I was a pretty miserable and homesick wreck and rather lonely. I didn’t find a true sense of belonging and meaning to my college experience until the beginning of my junior year when I studied in London for 4 months. I lived with 27 of the most amazing people as well as the team of outstanding faculty and staff for the program and they are the ones who I relied and depended on as I began to make a transformation into the person who I am today. London is where I found independence, where I found my passions for food, travel, and cultural experiences. As cliché as it sounds I came back a changed, more confident and self-assured person. I felt as if I was ready to graduate then, that nothing back in this small town could further my knowledge after what I had just seen abroad. But I was wrong. The past year and a half have been amazing as well and nothing like those first two awful years. With newfound sense of self and of course my London family and our memories alongside me, the remaining time at college has flown in a blur of all-around contentment.
This past weekend I had my study abroad friends over for a farewell gathering potluck, We ate, drank mimosas out of plastic cups, reminisced and subsequently laughed over the many ridiculous things that happened during our four months together, and celebrated our soon to come graduation. These people are my family. We saw each other at our best and worst of times, in our fragility and homesickness but also our sheer moments of bliss. We had drama but, more often that not, we had laughter and we watched each other mature into a higher state and more aware state of ourselves. We are so closely bound by this and therefore, I will miss this group immensely.
For our potluck I made this cake, a classic English dessert called a Victoria Sandwich, named after the Queen’s supposedly favorite teatime snack. I know I’ve mentioned several times here that I am not much of a cake person but this could be the cake to totally contradict that statement. The cake itself it mentioned various times on the Internet. The Wednesday Chef just made it but I remember seeing it originally on Orangette titled “busy day cake”. I don’t know why but I always wanted to try this one out. Perhaps I enjoyed the non-fussy qualities, the fact that it is best by itself, in all of its un-iced glory. I liked how every picture I saw of it seemed to be ethereally light and fluffy. It looked like it was not too sweet, like something that would be perfectly excusable as a breakfast item. It lived up to every visually created extraction I set. It was meltingly tender, wonderfully fragrant of vanilla and nutmeg, and I made it into a perfect springtime treat with the addition of the strawberries and cream (in my honest opinion few things are greater than strawberries and fresh whipped cream). It is simple and humble and, with its enormous sinkage in the middle, it is just ever so pleasantly frumpy. This cake is London in essence.
1 stick (1/2 cup) softened butter
1 1/3 cups sugar
3 large room temperature eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups sifted cake flour
2 Tbs. cornmeal
½ tsp. salt
2½ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. nutmeg
½ cup buttermilk
1 cup heavy whipping cream
8 oz strawberries, washed, hulled, and sliced thin
1 tsp. sugar
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter a nine-inch cake pan and line the bottom with a parchment round. Butter the parchment too.
In a standing mixer, beat together the butter and the sugar on high speed until fluffy, 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time and then add the vanilla. Scrape the bowl to loosen the bits sticking at the bottom.
In a bowl, combine the cake flour, cornmeal, salt, baking powder, and nutmeg. Turn the mixer onto low and add the flour mixture in 3 parts while adding half of the buttermilk in between each flour addition (you should start and end with the flour). Mix until combined. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.
Bake the cake for about 30 minutes until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. The top will brown quickly so you may need to cover it with foil at some point in the baking. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Invert onto a baking rack and let cool completely.
Combine the strawberries with the sugar and stir to combine. Set aside for at least 10 minutes to allow the strawberries to release some juices. Whip the heavy cream with a mixer or by hand until you have stiff peaks. Once the cake is cool. Use a serrated knife to cut the cake into two layers. Remove the top and set aside. On the bottom layer of the cake arrange the strawberries overtop making sure to pour over the good juices. Spread the whipped cream over the strawberries and place the top layer of the cake over the cream. Dust with powdered sugar. (The cake itself can stay out at room temperature but once you add the cream it needs to be refrigerated. Therefore, I recommend assembling the cake just before you intend to serve it so that the cake can be at room temperature...but its still good cold…at midnight).