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Berry Cream Torte

Serves 10 to 12

This is a heavenly cake recipe that makes a spectacular presentation. It is an Italian layer cake filled with berries and whipped cream. It is based on a recipe from a magazine called La Cucina Italiana. I made some changes, mostly for ease of preparation. It is still rather time-consuming so start early or bake the cake the day before. The cake is so good on its own I would not hesitate to use it in other preparations or with a delicious frosting.


   Cake    Filling

For the cake, preheat the oven to 350° F. Butter and flour a 9-inch round cake pan. Sift the flour with the baking soda and half of the salt. (Half of 1/8 teaspoon is basically a pinch so you do not have to measure exactly). Place the butter and sugar in a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer until light and creamy. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the sifted flour mixture and fold in until well incorporated.

In another bowl, beat the egg whites with the remaining salt until they hold soft peaks; gently fold into batter. Pour the batter into the cake pan and bake for 40-45 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool on a cooling rack for about 7 minutes, then remove cake from pan and place on rack until cooled completely.

For the Filling, take 1 pint (2 cups) of the berries and purée in a processor until smooth. You should have about 1-1/2 cups of purée. Place in a large bowl. If using large berries such as strawberries, slice the remaining berries into wedges, otherwise keep them whole. In a large bowl, whip the cream and confectioners' sugar together. Remove a little more than half of the whipped cream and add to the purée, folding to incorporate.

To assemble, slice the cake horizontally into 3 equal layers. Mix together the liqueur and water. Place the first cake layer on a serving plate; brush with one-third of the liqueur. Top with half of the berry cream, then scatter one-third of the berries over the cream. Repeat with the second layer of cake. For the top layer, brush the liqueur on the side of the cake layer that will be on the bottom, then turn over and place on top. Place the whipped cream on top, being certain to keep it fluffy, not an even spread. If desired, this can be done with a pastry bag with a fluted tip. Decorate the top with the remaining berries. Refrigerate until serving.

Notes: The original recipe called for strawberries but any fresh berries can be used. Be certain to use ripe, sweet berries at the peak of their season since no sugar is added to them. Do not attempt to use frozen berries in this recipe because they would ooze too much liquid into the cream and deflate it. If the cake batter is too thick to spread by itself when poured into the pan, spread it gently with your spatula or spoon. The first time I made the cake, I tested it after 40 minutes and not only was the tester clean, probably due to the large amount of butter in the batter, but the top sprang back to the touch. However, when I cut into it, there was an area that could have been baked a little longer, so be certain to test it carefully. Since the cream is stabilized with the confectioners' sugar, the cake will last in the refrigerator for one or two days before it deflates too much. However, for the best possible presentation, I would not make the cream and assemble the cake until several hours before serving.