The strawberry season lasts from mid-May till mid-June in Hungary, and market stalls are now sagging under the weight of the queen of the fruits. Strawberries belong to the family of roses, and they are the only fruit that wear their seeds on the outside. That’s why they aren’t true berries, like blueberries or even grapes.
The first garden strawberries were grown in France during the late 18th century, but the ancient Romans already used wild strawberry species to treat everything from depression to sore throats. Though strawberries can’t cure every disease, but the medicinal power the Romans attributed to the strawberries was not so very far from the truth.
Strawberries offer a wide range of health benefits. They are low in calories and high in vitamins C, B6, K, fiber, folic acid, potassium and amino acids. Strawberries contain high levels of nitrate, and they are believed to help reduce the risk of heart disease and certain cancers.
In Hungary strawberries are used in several desserts and cakes, they are often paired with cottage cheese. The following light summer cake consists of a sponge cake, strawberries in whole, a cottage cheese-whipped cream combination and a strawberry jelly on top. If you don’t want to make the jelly, feel free to decorate the top of the cake with strawberries cut in half.
For the cake:
- 3 eggs
- 3 tbsp sugar
- pinch of salt
- 3 tbsp flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
For the filling:
- 500 g (~1 lb) cottage cheese
- 150 g (~1 1/4 cup) powdered sugar
- zest and juice of a lemon
- 50 ml (~1/4 cup) water
- 20 g (~1 1/3 tbsp) gelatine
- 400 g (~1 1/4 cup) whipping cream
- 250 g (~1/2 lb) strawberries
For the topping:
- 500 g (~1 lb) strawberries
- 1 1/2 tbsp sugar
- 20 g (~1 1/3 tbsp) gelatine
Line a 25 cm/10 inch springform round cake pan with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Seperate the eggs. Beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until stiff peaks form. In a separate bowl beat egg yolks and sugar until the mixture is pale yellow and forms a ribbon. Mix in flour and baking powder, then gently fold in the beaten egg whites. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake for 15-20 minutes. Cool the sponge cake on a wire rack.
Thoroughly wash 250 g of strawberries, then drain them. Put the cake layer into the clean round cake pan, and arrange strawberries flat side down around the sides of the cake.
Whip the chilled cream to stiff peaks. Put cottage cheese, lemon zest and powdered sugar in another bowl, and puree with a hand blender. In a small saucepan combine lemon juice, water and gelatine, and over low heat warm the mixture until gelatine completely dissolves (but don’t bring it to a boil). Turn off the heat and stir the gelatine until it’s lukewarm.
While whisking constantly pour the gelatine in a fine stream into the cottage cheese. As a last step gradually fold the whipped cream into the cottage cheese. Spread the cottage cheese filling over the cake trying not to move the strawberries. Chill the cake overnight.
The following day make the topping. Wash and puree the strawberries. Push the strawberry purée through a fine sieve in order to remove the seeds. Add sugar and gelatine to the strawberry juice, and heat, but don’t boil it. Let it cool until tepid, and pour the mixture on top of the cake. Put the cake back in the fridge for 2-3 hours to let the strawberry jelly solidify.