The trick to cutting a spectacular layered cake like this is to ensure that it is refrigerated for a few hours before cutting to allow the shortbread to soften slightly. Choose a good sharp, fine-bladed knife and cut with a fast sawing action – avoid applying too much pressure, which will cause the filling to ooze out.
- 250 grams (8 ounces) butter, softened
- 1 cup (160g) icing (confectioners') sugar
- 1 egg
- 3¼ cups (485g) plain (all-purpose) flour
- 500 grams strawberries, sliced crossways
- 1/3 cup (75g) caster (superfine) sugar
- 2 tablespoons plain (all-purpose) flour
- 2 tablespoons cornflour (cornstarch)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
- 1 cup (250ml) milk
- 4 egg yolks
- 300 mL thickened (heavy) cream
- 2 tablespoons caster (superfine) sugar
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons water
- 250 grams (8 ounces) strawberries, sliced crossways
- 1Beat butter and sugar in a small bowl with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in egg. Transfer to a large bowl; stir in flour to form a soft dough. Knead dough on lightly floured surface until smooth. Divide dough into four portions; enclose each portion in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- 2Line four oven trays with baking paper. Roll each portion of dough on a lightly floured surface to about 3mm (1/8-inch) thick. Cut each portion into a 22cm (9-inch) round. Place rounds on trays; prick all over with a fork. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.
- 3Meanwhile, preheat oven to 180°C/350°F.
- 4Bake rounds for 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on trays for 5 minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool.
- 5Meanwhile, make pastry cream and strawberry compote.
- 6Place one shortbread round on a cake stand or plate; top with a quarter of the pastry cream and a third of the fresh sliced strawberries. Repeat layering two more times. Finish with the fourth shortbread round and last quarter of pastry cream. Spoon strawberry compote on top, drizzled with the syrup.
- 7Serve shortcake dusted with a little more sifted icing sugar,
if you like.
- 8Combine sugar, flours, vanilla and ¼ cup of the milk in a medium bowl.
- 9Heat remaining milk in a small saucepan until almost boiling. Gradually stir hot milk into flour mixture.
- 10Return mixture to pan; cook, stirring, over medium heat until mixture boils and thickens. Remove from heat; quickly stir in egg yolks. Transfer to a medium bowl; cover surface with plastic wrap.
- 11Refrigerate for 2 hours or until cold. Beat cream in a small bowl with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Fold cream into cold custard, in two batches.
- 12Stir sugar, juice and the water in a small saucepan over low heat until sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil; simmer for 5 minutes or until thickened slightly. Add strawberries; remove from heat. Cool.
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