Just like Gwen, this cake’s got a little twist

It’s strawberry time in the Valley and this cake is a celebration of just-picked, ripe, red berries smothered in a basil-infused whipped cream slathered between the lightest, fluffiest chiffon sponge cake you will ever baked. I don’t even feel like I’ve oversold it.

I’ve never used grapeseed oil in a cake before and was skeptical. Colour me wrong. I knew as soon as the batter started to come together that it would be super light and produce a wonderful sponge and it’s wine country here. What a perfect use for a by-product…

Chiffon cake ingredients

  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup grapeseed oil
  • 1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 8 large egg whites (from my neighbour Lucy’s chickens)
  • 3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Preheat the oven to 350F and grease and line the bottoms of two 8-inch cake pans with parchment paper.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the oil and 1 1/4 cups of the sugar on medium speed for one minute. Add the vanilla and egg yolks, one at a time and mix for about three minutes. The mixture will increase in volume (I told you) and be pale in colour. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl.

Turn the mixer to low and add the flour mixture in three batches, alternating with the milk. Mix on medium for no more than 30 seconds after the last streaks of dry ingredients are combined. Pour the batter into a large bowl and set aside.

Clean the mixer bowl and paddle and dry well. In the clean bowl of the stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk the egg whites on medium-low speed until foamy. Add the remaining two tablespoons of sugar and the cream of tartar and whisk on high until stiff peaks form.

Stop the mixer and fold the egg whites into the cake better. Evenly divide the batter between the prepared pans and bake for 25 to 28 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cakes comes out clean. Let them rest on a wire rack until cool before running a paring knife around the edges of the cakes and removing them from their pans.

The basil-infused whipping cream gives the cake an extra something. The basil flavour pairs beautifully with strawberries. The Handyman, whose heart is only really moved by chocolate, says he would have skipped this whole basil step but my other food critics disagreed. I feel Gwen Stefani would be cool with it too.

Basil-infused whipped cream ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups lightly packed fresh basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Slowly heat 2 cups of the cream in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat until it begins to simmer. Meanwhile, gently muddle the basil leaves with mortar and pestle (or crush them up a bit with your hands if you are short of kitchen equipment.)

Once the cream begins to steam and simmer, remove the pan from the heat and add the basil leaves, cover and let them steep for 30 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a container and refrigerate until cold.


Strain out the basil leaves, re-measure the cream and top it off with more cream if necessary so you have a total of 2 cups. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk, whisk the cream on medium speed until it begins to thicken. Add the sugar and vanilla and whisk on high until it forms medium peaks. For best results, store the whipped cream in the fridge and assemble the cake just before serving.



Some assembly required

  • Four cups fresh strawberries

With the assistance of my son’s lovely fiancĂ©, the cake was easy to assemble. Hull and slice the fresh strawberries 1/4 inch thick until you have about four cups of sliced berries. Reserve a few whole berries with their tops on for decoration.

Once the cakes have cooled completely, carefully halve them horizontally to create four even layers. Level the cakes and choose which layer will be the bottom. Place it on a cake plate and spread on one-quarter of the basil-infused whipped cream and one cup of the berries.

IMG_2421Top with the next layer of cake and repeat. Place the reserved strawberries on top of the last layer to decorate.


Eat your Gwen Chiffani immediately or keep refrigerated for up to two days.

This recipe, with some re-branding, came from Layered by Tessa Huff, a fellow British Columbian. My new mission in life is to make every single cake in this amazing cook book.