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A Surprise Strawberry Birthday Cake

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Angel food cakes are one of my personal favorites to serve with fruit. The texture of this cake is light and spongy; from a flavor standpoint, it’s a blank slate and gives you the freedom to do whatever you want with it. I’ve previously flavored angel food cakes with almond, coconut, coffee, green cardamom, pandan, and vanilla. For a summer dessert, the lighter pillowy texture of the cake works beautifully. I made a cardamom-flavored angel food cake for THE TR’s birthday cake and filled the center with lightly sweetened vanilla bean-infused crème fraîche. I then decorated the top with a relatively large quantity of strawberry preserves that I infused with black pepper, vanilla bean, and pomegranate molasses and stuck several strawberry-flavored Pocky sticks all around the top.

For these strawberry preserves, I used my Joule sous vide. The goal was to make preserves that absorbed the flavors from the spices but still held their texture, tender but not mushy. It’s much easier to do this with sous vide, where the temperature can be accurately controlled and achieve the correct consistency; cooking them on the stove is much riskier. Make the strawberry preserves a day before you need to use them.

Here’s my recipe for the Angel Food Cake, and here are the Strawberry Pocky Sticks I used. It’s best to make the cake 4 to 6 hours before serving; that provides enough time to cool. Put the cake together just an hour before serving, so the cake doesn’t get enough time to absorb all the syrup. I like to see some of the syrup surround the cake.

  • Yield: 12 servings


For the Sous Vide Strawberry Preserves

2 lb/910 g fresh ripe strawberries, hulled and halved lengthwise

1 cup/200 g sugar

1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped

1 tsp ground black pepper

3 Tbsp/45 ml pomegranate molasses

For the Sweetened Crème Fraîche

8 oz/230 g crème fraîche

1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped

2 Tbsp confectioners’ sugar


  1. Heat a water bath to 180F/82C.
  2. Place the strawberries, sugar, vanilla bean stalks and scraped seeds, and black pepper in a food-safe, vacuum sous vide bag. Seal the bag and remove most of the air, taking care not to crush the strawberries during vacuum sealing. Place the bag in the preheated water bath and let sit for 15 minutes. While the strawberries cook, prepare a large ice water bath. Once the strawberries are done, remove the bag and immediately dunk it into the ice water bath to stop it from cooking. Once cooled completely, open the bag, add the pomegranate molasses, seal the bag and let sit overnight in the refrigerator. Before using, remove and discard the vanilla bean stalks. Use the strawberries and syrup over the cake.
  3. Fold the crème fraîche, vanilla bean seeds, and confectioners’ sugar together. Taste and add more sugar if needed. Make this 1 hour before using.

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