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Poslfit Recipes: Kristen's Birthday Cake

1 package angel food cake mix
water, as required by cake mix instructions
1½ 300 mL cans of sweetened condensed milk
1/3 cup lemon juice (one big lemon's worth)
1/2-1 t. almond extract
250 mL whipping cream
1 10 oz. package of frozen sliced strawberries in syrup
2 L fresh strawberries
Kristen's childhood birthday cake recipe, as passed on from her mom. You can substitute raspberries for strawberries if you're worried about allergies, in which case you need only 1/2 L fresh berries. The recipe is rather sweet, and Justin has suggested redoing the icing using cream cheese instead of condensed milk. I'll give it a try sometime.
The recipe is also somewhat dated in terms of its ingredients. Condensed milk used to come in 15-oz. cans; even when I started making this recipe in 1999 (?), you could only buy it in 300 mL cans in Canada. I need to find something to do with the extra half-can.
Until 2013, I could still buy the 10 oz. packages of thinly frozen sliced strawberries in syrup; they have been replaced at the supermarket by giant bags of frozen halved strawberries without syrup. To use these, bring ¼ c. sugar and ¾ c. water to a boil, reduce to a gentle boil, add 65 g of frozen strawberries, cook for 20-40 minutes occasionally poking at and squishing the strawberries until it's reduced enough that it starts to thicken and froth. Remove immediately from heat, strain the strawberries, and pour the syrup over 200 g of frozen strawberries. Microwave to finish thawing but do not overheat.
(Getting ready) If you're baking the angel food cake from scratch or from a mix, preheat your oven to 350°F. Make sure the whipping cream is chilled.
(Bake the cake) Make the angel food cake according to the package instructions. This should take about an hour. Invert the cake, either onto a bottle or onto the legs of your cake pan, if you have a fancy-shmancy angel food cake pan with legs. Let it cool that way completely. I usually do this the day before. If you're in a rush and set the cake outside to cool, watch out for raccoons, who will come out in broad daylight if they smell cake. Set the frozen strawberries out to thaw when while the cake cools. Don't try to effect a direct heat exchange between the two without adequately protecting the cake from strawberry juice or the effects of uneven cooling.
(Prepare the filling) While the cake is in the oven, combine the condensed milk, lemon juice and almond extract in a medium bowl and beat well. In another medium bowl, whip the cream. Make it very, very firm, or the icing will end up runny. It should be so firm that it retains its shape when you tip the bowl. Do not add sugar to the cream before you beat it; the condensed milk is very sweet on its own. Fold the whipped cream thoroughly into the first bowl, using the slowest setting on a hand mixer. If it's not homogenous, the whipped cream will separate out and the icing won't stick to the cake. Keep cool. If you did this the day before too, then just put what you've got in a sealed container in the fridge.
(Filling the cake) Once the cake is cool, you can cut it with a long, sharp knife. Take an inch-thick "hub cap" off the top and set aside. Use a fork or your fingers to scoop out a tunnel for the filling that should be about an inch thick and an inch deep, with one inch walls on the inside, outside and bottom, all around the torus of the cake. Don't make the tunnel too big, or the walls won't be strong enough to retain the filling, and at the very least some entasis will result. Shred the pieces as they come out, so that they're no more than about an inch in diameter, and set them aside. Inspect the cake tunnel thoroughly for cracks. You'll be pouring a fairly viscous fluid in, but if you have a massive failure of structural integrity, you'll be sorry. If you can see a crack, tear some of the shredded pieces up into tiny bits and stuff the crack with them. Now take about a third of the chilled filling, at least half of the tunnel debris and all of the thawed frozen strawberries, including the syrup, and gently fold it all together. Spoon (or if you're feeling dextrous, just pour) the mixture into the tunnel. Put the hub cap back on top. Check to make sure that the remaining two-thirds of the cream mixture (that doesn't have strawberries in it) is cool enough that it doesn't dribble down the sides of the cake, but warm enough that it can be spread without shredding the cake. Use it to frost the top and sides of the cake. Chill for about four hours.
(Final preparations) Slice large strawberries in half and place them all around the outside of the cake. Put whole small strawberries on top of the cake, along with birthday candles. Sing "Happy Birthday", take pictures. Serves 12-16.