I would love to tell you a story about how my mom used to bake this cake for my birthday… how she would whip up the moistest, sweetest buttermilk cake and meticulously slice the ripest, reddest strawberries. I would like to tell you that she whipped the cream by hand, adding just a touch of sugar and a drop of vanilla… how she would layer the cake and carefully place the strawberries into the prettiest pattern, then present it proudly to me and my little party guests, each of us wearing her best party dress and shiny shoes, waiting patiently around the big dining room table.
But, no, my mom doesn’t bake. My birthday cakes came from Safeway. So this must be someone else’s mom’s buttermilk cake. Alas, Mom’s Buttermilk Cake is just a name.
But I’d like to meet the mom for whom this cake is named because it’s darned good. Buttermilk imparts a slightly tangy flavor to the dense, moist cake, which cuts the sweetness of the whipped cream and adds a nice depth of flavor. It’s pretty easy to make and is the perfect summertime dessert. Thanks, mom (of somebody else.)
Make the Cake:
2/3 cup buttermilk (divided)
1.5 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups sifted cake flower
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Combine the yolks, 1/3 cup of the buttermilk, and vanilla in a small bowl and whisk lightly with a fork to combine. Set aside. In a larger bowl, whisk the dry ingredients together. Add the butter and remaining buttermilk to the dry ingredients, and beat on low speed to combine thoroughly. Increase speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes to aerate the batter and build the cake’s structure. Add the buttermilk mixture to the batter in 3 batches, beating for 30 seconds after each addition to incorporate. Beat the batter for another minute on high speed.
Transfer the batter to the prepared cake pan and bake for 25-35 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and springs back to the touch. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.
Make the Whipped Cream:
1 pint heavy whipping cream (cold)
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
Beat the cream on medium speed until it starts to thicken. Gradually add the sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, then add the vanilla. Continue beating on medium-high until the cream is thickened and holds its shape. Be careful not to overbeat or the cream will become grainy. (Once it reaches this point, it can’t be salvaged.)
Prepare the Strawberries:
Wash and dry 2 pints ripe strawberries. Trim them and remove greens. Slice evenly and set aside.
Assemble the Cake:
Remove the cooled cake from the pan and slice it into 3 layers using a serrated knife, using a decorator’s turntable (if you have one) to rotate the cake as you slice to ensure even layers. If the top layer has a rounded top, trim it flat and discard the scrap.
To prepare for the bottom cake layer, first tape a doily to an 8-inch cardboard round using double-sided tape. Place the round with doily on a cake plate. If you don’t have a cardboard round, you can cut your own out of scrap cardboard, or you can place the cake directly onto a cake plate. Place a dollop of whipped cream onto the doily (or cake plate) and then place the bottom layer on top of the cream. The cream will act as glue to hold the bottom layer in place.
Spread 1/3 of the whipped cream over the top of bottom layer, then arrange the strawberries in concentric circles over the whipped cream. You’ll want the whipped cream and berries to come all the way to the edge of the cake so they are visible between the layers of the finished cake. Repeat with the middle and top layers of the cake. Serve immediately.
Remember, it’s okay if your layers are a bit uneven or the cream spills out over the side of the cake in some places. This is mom’s buttermilk cake. It isn’t supposed to look like it came from the grocery store.
Tips: The cake layers can be made up to a month ahead and frozen, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap. However, the finished cake should be assembled as close to serving time as possible because the whipped cream will start to break down and the stawberries will begin to water within an hour of assembly.