Lowcountry Strawberry Jam Cake fit for a Jamboree
It's strawberry season in North Carolina and this year is one for the books. They are plump, they are juicy, they are sweet, and ready for some love...wait, what are we talking about here? Strawberry recipes, folks. Strawberries. And Recipes.
Last week, we picked up four gallons of strawberries from DJ's Berry Patch in Apex, NC, which guarantees our berries are local and from the field. These berries were so amazing, fragrant, and perfect that we dropped everything for a day to put up our preserves for the year, knowing that we didn't have much time to wait before the berries became overripe.
My favorite types of jams are what I call "European-style" jams - if anything because I was first inspired to make them after tasting Christine Ferber's confiture de framboise à la violette (raspberry and violet jam) during a trip to France a few years ago. Christine Ferber is famous in France for her impeccably delicious jams with inventive ingredients and flavor pairings. Some even refer to her as "the jam fairy."
European jams tend to leverage the natural pectin in fruit and avoid the added pectin and other ingredients like we see in the widely-available Sure-jell, Certo, or Pomona's Pectin (though, there is a "jam sugar" available in Europe and the UK that does contain powdered pectin and works similarly to the American brands). The flavor of these jams are more appealing to me because they do not require as much sugar and cooks generally have more freedom in experimenting with flavors and spices, so can customize their jams more easily.
But, there are certain food safety rules and guidelines for making one's own jams, so it's important to know what you're doing if you want to make your own and store them in your pantry for longer periods of time without freezing or refrigeration.
This year, I made two varieties of strawberry preserves - a classic Strawberry Jam with lemon juice and lemon peel and a deep-ruby red Strawberry and Black Sambuca jam. This weekend, the classic Strawberry preserves are going to be the star of our show at the Carrboro Farmers' Market Strawberry Jamboree, where we will be passing out samples of our Lowcountry Strawberry Jam Cake.
Jam cakes are a traditional part of the Southern dessert canon from the Appalachians to the Deep South and leverage the wide variety of jams and jellies that were “put up” during the summer fruit season. This version from a vintage Charleston church cookbook features strawberry jam in both the cake and as a glaze for extra fruit flavor, but you can substitute any jam you like in any season you like. Ermine Frosting complements the richness of the cake without being too sweet.
Lowcountry Strawberry Jam Cake:
Makes 1 8" or 9" round cake. Double recipe for a layer cake or 9"x13" pan.
1 cup (220g) granulated sugar
½ cup (108g) canola oil
1 teaspoon (4g) vanilla extract
2 eggs (100g)
1 ½ cups (180g) all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons (4g) baking powder
½ cup (120g) buttermilk
¼ cup (80g) strawberry preserves or jam
½ teaspoon orange zest
½ cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)
Make the cake:
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees, butter and flour your cake pan.
2. In a large mixing bowl, beat the sugar, oil, vanilla, and eggs on medium-high speed for 2 min.
3. In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, nutmeg, baking powder, and salt.
4. Add the flour mixture to the sugar mixture. Mix on low speed just until there are no additional dry ingredients left. Be careful not to overmix, as this will make the cake tough.
5. In a small mixing bowl (or measuring cup), stir together the milk, strawberry jam, and orange zest.
6. Add to the milk and jam mixture and nuts, if using, and mix just until combined.
7. Pour batter into cake pan and spread evenly.
8. Bake until cake is lightly browned on top and springs back when touched lightly in the center. Alternatively, stick a toothpick into the center of the cake, there should be no uncooked batter sticking to it when removed. About 30-35 minutes for 8” round or cupcakes, about 50 min if recipe is doubled.
9. After cake has cooled, poke holes in the top of the cake using a fork and spread the strawberry glaze over the top.
10. After cake has fully cooled, frost with Ermine Frosting (recipe below).
1. Mix preserves and juice (or water) in a bowl to combine, chopping up any chunks with your spoon.
Found in many vintage cookbooks, this is also called Flour Frosting or Boiled Milk Frosting. This version is from King Arthur Flour.
¾ cup (149g) granulated sugar
¼ cup (30g) flour
¼ cup/ (227g) whole milk 12 tablespoons (170g) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1. In a medium saucepan, whisk together the sugar and flour.
2. Add the milk and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture comes to a boil and has thickened to a pudding-like consistency, about 3 to 6 minutes.
3. Remove from heat and transfer the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the beater attachment. Beat at medium-high speed for about 10 to 15 minutes (until about room temperature)
4. Reduce speed to low and, with the mixer running, add butter 2 to 3 tablespoons at a time, scraping the bowl to ensure all butter is thoroughly incorporated.
Please enjoy and see you at the Strawberry Jamboree!