My most-requested cake.  My Strawberry Letter 22.  My best hope for the Nobel Prize in Baking.

As you may have guessed by the fact that this picture, so clearly out of the league of my usual, was taken by a pro photographer.  My friend Angie Garbot.  Call her if you want an absolutely beautiful and memorable portrait of you, your family, your pet, your feet, your cake, whatever.

I have made this when strawberries are at their peak and straight from the farmers’ market and I’ve used the suspiciously perfect-looking ones you find at the grocery store in the dead of winter — it’s a crowd pleaser either way.  The whipped cream is stabilized with cream cheese which means it won’t get all weepy on you if you make it ahead and it also adds a pleasant tang.  There is a little bit of a problem with this recipe that has annoyed me for 10 years and I finally have a public forum in which to bitch about it.  Buckle your seat belts.

Here it is:  while the recipe calls for 2 lbs. of strawberries it then tells you to select the 24 best looking ones (for the pretty outside edge) and make a jam out of the rest.  Even poor old math-challenged me knows that mixing measuring units — from weight to number — will only result in tears and tragedy.  It’s as nonsensical as the lyrics to the song I mentioned above.*  You will not have enough berries left to make the jam.   Because I know my way around this cake I know to get more than 2 lbs. of strawberries, but I still have to guess how many extra I need. The simple solution would be to say “select 24 berries and be sure you have at least 1 lb. (or whatever the right amount is) remaining for the jam.”   I will try to do this next time I make it and report back but don’t hold your breath.  I’m busy and forgetful.

You can make this ahead.  Wrap the baked cake in a double layer of plastic wrap and freeze.  How long?  Oh please, they’re not going to do this for you!  They don’t say anything about the filling but I’m pretty sure you can make that ahead too.  You can also complete the entire recipe and chill for 4 hours.