Finnish Strawberry Layer Cake

I have a sweet niece who, as a very young girl, was confused between Mother’s Day and Labor Day. She innocently asked her mom, “Is Labor Day when mothers have all their babies?” Well, today, Jessica, married a year ago, has her own baby and knows the answer to her own question.

Mother’s Day is now celebrated in many countries around the world: Australia, Mexico, Denmark, Finland, Italy, Turkey, Belgium, Russia, China, and Thailand. All these countries have special celebrations to honor Mothers, but not in the same way or on the same day as the United States.

In the United States, carnations represent Mother’s Day. This custom was started by Anna Jarvis, the founder of the day, because it was the favorite flower of her mother. Florists have promoted wearing a red carnation if your mother is living, or a white one if she is not.

When Mother’s Day became commercialized, with gifts and flowers, Anna Jarvis, was furious as she felt that the day was being sacrificed at the expense of greed and profit. Despite Anna’s protest, the day has flourished in the United States. Today, the second Sunday in May has become one of the most popular days of the year to dine out.

I grew up in Floodwood on a farm with chickens and cows, so we always had plenty of eggs and dairy products. We didn’t “eat out” but we always baked a cake for Mother’s Day. One favorite of ours was an eggy sponge cake that was frosted and filled with whipped cream and fruit or jam.

Strawberries begin the fresh berry season every year. Early berries we enjoy come from California where the strawberry season begins in April so that by Mother’s Day we usually can find a pretty good supply in our produce markets.

So, here’s the cake we baked for spring and summer birthdays as well as all celebrations, including Mother’s Day. It happens to be a favorite celebration cake in all of Scandinavia as well. It is a simple cake, though it helps to have a strong electric mixer for the best results.

Fresh Strawberry Layer Cake

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

For the layers:

  • 6 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

For the filling:

  • 1 pint strawberries, stemmed and sliced
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 cups whipped cream, sweetened with 3 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Extra whole berries for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350*F. Line two 8 or 9-inch round cake pans with parchment paper.

For the cake, beat the eggs in the large bowl of an electric mixer until fluffy. With mixer at high speed, beat in the sugar a tablespoon at a time and continue beating until very light and lemon colored, about 10 minutes at high speed.

Beat in the salt and vanilla. Turn speed down to low and add the flour, mixing just until the flour is incorporated.

Divide the batter between the two cake pans and smooth the tops. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until the cakes spring back when touched in the center. (The cake doesn’t rise much.)

Remove from the oven and cool on racks. Loosen edges with a knife and invert onto the cooling racks. With a long, sharp knife, cut each layer horizontally to make 4 layers in all.*

Place one cake layer on a serving plate with the cut side up. Top with 1/3 of the sliced strawberries, sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of sugar, and spread with 1/2 cup whipped cream.

Top with the second layer, cut side down. Top with 1/3 of the berries, a tablespoon of sugar, and spread with 1/2 cup whipped cream.

Top with the third layer, cut side up and spread with the remaining sliced berries, remaining tablespoon of sugar and 1/2 cup whipped cream. Top with the remaining cake layer, cut side down.

Press gently to compress the cake to hold layers together. Spread remaining whipped cream over the top.

The cake looks attractive if the sides are not covered with the cream. Garnish the top with whole berries before serving. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

*For a fancy cake for adults, spoon a tablespoon of light rum or Swedish Punch over each layer before adding the strawberries.

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