Vanilla extract is a pantry staple that we take for granted. Before vanilla extract in the small bottle with the red cap became widely available, dry sherry was a common go-to flavoring for bakers. If you don’t have any sherry in the cupboard, Lillet or a dry vermouth makes a fine substitute.
Any simple spongecake or angel food cake will work in this recipe- you will need approximately 4 cups of cake cubes. Gently cut the sponge cake (or if you prefer, angel food) into 1” cubes using a serrated knife. (There should be a little extra cake for nibbling.)
I use an 8” springform cake for the spongecake. After the cake is baked, I turn it out, wash the pan and use it to assemble the finished dessert.
makes one 8” round cake
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Line the cake pan with a circle of parchment paper, lightly butter the parchment (not the sides of the pan.) Set the springform pan on a baking sheet.
For the spongecake-
4 large eggs, separated
¼ cup sugar, divided (2 tablespoons for the whites, 2 tablespoons for the yolks)
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ cup sifted all-purpose flour
¼ cup sifted cornstarch
In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or in a large bowl using a handheld electric mixer, beat the egg whites with the salt until foamy. Gradually add 2 tablespoons of sugar, beating until the whites hold their shape but are not dry.
In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks and vanilla, then gradually add the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar, whisking constantly until the sugar dissolves and the yolks are thick and ribbon-y. Fold about one fourth of the beaten whites into the yolk mixture. Pour the egg yolk mixture into the beaten whites; sprinkle the sifted flour and cornstarch through a fine mesh strainer over the egg white mixture, folding together gently but thoroughly, without over mixing. Spread the batter in the springform pan, using a small offset spatula to even the batter, spreading it to the corners.
Bake the cake just until the edges are set and the cake is golden, 20-25 minutes. Cool the cake in the pan for 10 minutes. Carefully remove the sides of the pan (gently run an offset spatula around the sides then unhinge the pan) and let the cake cool completely. Carefully peel the parchment paper off the bottom of the cake. Cut the cake into 1” cubes. Wash the sides and the bottom of the pan. Reassemble the pan.
For the custard- (from Elizabeth Terry)
1 1/2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
1/4 cup warm water, plus 2 tablespoons tap water
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup good dry sherry (I’ve substituted Lillet)
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
In a small bowl or ramekin, sprinkle the gelatin over the warm water, and set aside to ‘bloom.' In a mixing bowl, beat the egg yolks until pale, then stir in the sherry, 1/4 cup of the sugar, and the 2 tablespoons of water, then transfer to a medium saucepan. Stir constantly over medium heat until the custard thickens, and begins to bubble around the surface, about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.
Whisk in the gelatin mixture, and continue to whisk until the gelatin is completely dissolved. Place the pan over an ice bath (a bowl filled with ice and cold water) and stir until the mixture is cool, being careful that the gelatin does not set. (If it does, you can briefly warm it over warm water; rub the mixture between your fingers to make sure it is smooth.)
In a chilled bowl, whip the cream with the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and the vanilla. Gently fold the cream into the cooled custard and then fold in the spongecake cubes.
2 cups fresh berries (preferably raspberries and local strawberries)
1 cup heavy cream whipped with 1 tablespoon powdered sugar
Sort through the berries to remove any stems. Rinse them VERY LIGHTLY (more of a mist than a rinse) and dry them on paper towels.
Spread one half of the custard/cake over the bottom of the springform pan. Sprinkle one cup of berries over the custard/cake. Top with the remaining custard/cake and the remaining berries, saving a few for garnish. Cover the cake with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours before serving. Carefully remove the side of the springform pan. Place the cake on a serving plate. Serve the whipped cream alongside the cake with additional berries. Cover and refrigerate any leftovers.