I had been eyeing this cake for almost a year before actually getting around to baking it. I made up lots of good excuses to not make it such as: it looks a little weird, it doesn't include chocolate, I have to make pastry cream, etc etc.
Those were stupid excuses because, let me tell you, this dessert is great and pretty easy to make. Yes, it is a bit unusual (the batter doesn't fully fill the pan? you add the meringue before baking? who wrote this recipe???) but my mantra is to always have faith in King Arthur Flour recipes.
And if you have never made pastry cream from scratch, I dare you to try it this time. If you ever thought pastry cream in an eclair in a refrigerated display case is good, you have never tasted it fresh off of the stove.
Berry Blitz Torte
from King Arthur Flour
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 tsp salt
4 large egg yolks (save the whites for the topping)
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 tbsp milk
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup all purpose flour
4 large egg whites
3/4 cup Baker's Special sugar or granulated sugar (finely ground)
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp sugar
2 cups whole milk
1 tsp vanilla extract (or, better yet, vanilla paste)
1 oz corn starch
4 oz sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 whole egg + 1 yolk
1.5 oz unsalted butter
Make the cake: In a medium-sized mixing bowl, cream together the butter, sugar, salt, and egg yolks. Beat in the vanilla or Fiori, the milk, baking powder, and flour. Spread the mixture in the prepared pans (the batter will barely cover the bottom of the pans; that's OK).
Beat the egg whites till light; gradually add the 3/4 cup sugar and continue to beat till the meringue is smooth, glossy and somewhat stiff (but not stiff enough to form stand-up points). Spread the meringue on the cake batter, and sprinkle with the almonds, cinnamon, and sugar. Note: If you're using Fiori di Sicilia, omit the cinnamon.
Bake the cakes for 30 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove them from the oven, allow them to cool for 15 minutes, then loosen the edges and gently turn them out onto a rack to cool completely. If some of the almonds fall off during this process, just sprinkle them back on top.
Make the pastry cream: Place the milk in a heavy bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil. Keeping an eye on the milk, whisk the cornstarch, sugar, and salt together in a bowl. Gradually add eggs to this mixture and mix until smooth.
Slowly add about one-third of the hot milk to the egg mixture while whisking rapidly (tempering the egg mixture so the eggs do not cook). Pour the tempered egg mixture back into the remaining milk. Place over medium heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture comes to a boil and thickens. You know that it is ready when it is thick enough to stick to the back of a wooden spoon without sliding off quickly. Stir in the vanilla extract, then the butter until fully incorporated.
Pour the pastry cream into a bowl and cover with a piece of parchment paper until cool. When fully cooled, store in the refrigerator with plastic wrap. If stored properly, pastry cream will keep fresh for up to three days (but definitely best on day one).
Assembly: Place one of the cake layers, meringue side up, on a serving plate. Spread with the pastry cream. Add a layer of fresh berries. Top with the second cake layer, meringue-side up. Serve immediately, or refrigerate until serving time.