I first read about brita, pardon me, Brita-Kakku, cakes — described as a typical Finnish summer cake with a based of a butter cake with a meringue baked onto it, whipped cream, and fresh berries — a few years ago and was instantly mesmerized by not just by the delicious promise of these ingredients but because, forgive me, the mess of it. In image search after image search, I drooled over charmingly lopsided cakes with raw edges, whipped cream with no regard for boundaries, meringues that wobbled and crumbled as they pleased, berries tumbling free, and I wanted it. I realize that there are more practical ways to approach it, such as a single-layer cake, but I didn’t want practical, I wanted berry cake chaos.
And so I made a two-layer brita cake from a 9×13 in, perhaps, the least rational way possible: I divided it the long way. Although, I did have my reasons. Long, rectangular desserts fit easily in the bottom of shopping bags, a primary consideration of mine when making a cake to bring places. Even though I do understand that mathematically, one does not get more slices from a long cake vs. a square one of the same volume, it always seems easier to get as many servings as needed when you can cut straight across a narrow cake.
To appreciate this cake, you need two things: taste buds — hopefully a non-hurdle when cream, meringue, butter cake, and fresh berries are involved — and to embrace the dishevelment of it. It might be more of a pile of cake components by the time you get it all sliced, but unlike any messes in my non-cooking life, it will be a charming one, more trifle than … don’t say it, Deb… don’t do it… trifling. (Sorry.)
Note: I should mentions that cakes with meringues baked onto them are hardly unique to Finland, and they go by many other names. I’ve read about German, Swedish, and Polish versions and more, but this is the one that’s always stopped me in my tracks. I hope to hear about all of your favorites in the comments.
6 months ago: New York Sour
1 year ago: Chickpea Pan Bagnat
2 years ago: Any-Kind-Of-Fruit Galette
3 years ago: Potato Vareniki
4 years ago: Ruffled Milk Pie
5 years ago: Tall Fluffy Buttermilk Pancakes and Potatoes Anna
6 years ago: Failproof Crepes + A Crepe Party, Crispy Tortellini with Peas and Proscuitto, Confetti Cookies and Roasted Carrots with Avocado and Yogurt
7 years ago: Not Derby Pie Bars, Liege Waffles and Mushrooms and Greens with Toast
8 years ago: Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp Bars and Soft Pretzel Buns and Knots
9 years ago: Japanese Cabbage and Vegetable Pancakes
10 years ago: Warm, Crisp and a Little Melty Salad Croutons and Chocolate Buckwheat Cake
11 years ago: Creme Brulee French Toasts, Leek Toasts with Blue Cheese, Vermontucky Lemonade, and Easy Jam Tart
12 years ago: Endive and Celery Salad with Fennel Vinaigrette, Rhubarb Cobbler, and Broccol Slaw
13 years ago: Brownie Roll-Out Cookies, Green Bean and Cherry Tomato Salad
14 years ago: Martha’s Macaroni-and-Cheese and Crispy Salted Oatmeal White Chocolate Cookies and Cherry Cornmeal Upside-Down Cake
15 years ago: Raspberry-Topped Lemon Muffins
Strawberry Brita Cake
- 3 large eggs, separated
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
- 1 1/2 cups (300 grams) granulated sugar, divided
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste, divided
- 6 tablespoons (85 grams) unsalted butter, softened
- Finely grated zest of half a lemon
- 3/4 cup (170 grams) milk, whole or lowfat, or buttermilk, well-shaken
- 1 1/2 cups (200 grams) all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 pound (455 grams) fresh strawberries, halved or sliced
- Juice of half a lemon
- 2 tablespoons (25 grams) granulated sugar, divided
- 1 cup (225 grams) heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons (30 grams) sour cream or creme fraiche
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
- Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting, and mint leaves, for garnish (both optional)
Make the meringue: In the large bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer, beat the egg whites with 1/4 teaspoon salt on medium/low speed until they begin to thicken — they’ll look satiny and you’ll see some trails form from the beaters. Increase the speed to medium, and add half the sugar — 3/4 cup — a little at a time, letting each sprinkle disappear and beating 10 to 20 seconds before adding more. Add 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract or paste and continue to whip the mixture until the egg whites are glossy, and stiff peaks form when the whisk is lifted. Set this bowl aside.
Make the cake: In a second bowl, but no need to clean your whisk/beaters if you’re using them again, beat the butter with the remaining 3/4 cup sugar, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, and lemon zest until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks and beat to combine. Sprinkle surface of batter with baking powder and beat thoroughly into mixture. Add the milk and beat to combine; the batter will immediately look curdly and split and like you’ve made a mistake. You haven’t. Add the flour and beat until smooth; the mixture should come back together evenly.
Bake the cake: Spoon the cake batter into the bottom of your prepared cake pan and spread it into a thin, even layer. Dollop the egg white mixture all over the batter and gently spread this across the cake. (For both, a small offset spatula makes this easier.) Bake the cake for 20 minutes, then check for doneness — a toothpick inserted into the cake should come out batter-free. This can be harder to assess under a meringue, so try a few places. The cake might need 5 to 10 minutes longer to set. [Yes, I found this long of a baking time range in testing.]
Once baked, cool cake in pan for 10 minutes, then used the parchment surrounding the cake to carefully yank the cake and parchment directly onto your cooling rack to completely cool.
Finish cake components: In a medium bowl, combine strawberries, 1 tablespoon of the sugar, and lemon juice and set aside. [It takes about 15 minutes for them to get juicy.] Combine the heavy cream, crème fraîche, remaining 1 tablespoon sugar, and vanilla extract or paste in a large, clean bowl, and beat mixture until soft peaks form.
Assemble the cake: Carefully cut the cooled cake in half the long way, creating two long rectangles. Loosen the parchment underneath, and carefully transfer the first half onto a plate. Swirl the top of it with half the whipped cream, then scratter with half the berries. [Will it be messy? Yes it will.] Place the second half of the cake on top of the berries and finish with remaining cream and berries. You can drizzle any extra juices from the bowl over the cake. Garnish with mint leaves and/or powdered sugar, if you wish.
To serve: Store the cake in the fridge until needed. Cut cake into messy, chaotic slices to serve. Leftovers keep in the fridge for 4 days.