River House Whipped Cream Cake Recipe

Our River House Whipped Cream Cake is a simple and delicate holiday cake filled with a sweet mixture of pureed cranberries, strawberries  and buttercream (we call it Berry-Berry Filling).  It’s frosted in classic style with an old-fashioned silky cream cheese buttercream frosting. What could be more charming for your holiday festivities (or any special celebration) when you want a simple and elegant homemade classic?

California Road Tripping: Heading north from L.A. to the country to cook up a  storm with the fam.  Nearly every trip to the ole’ hometown of Merced, we try to visit the Merced National Wildlife Refuge at some point — if only just to drive through on a circle loop. As long as the windows will roll down we’ll be rolling through. Why? Because it’s inspiring.

The Photo Blind is a big ground hole for photographers

This ten-thousand-acre wildlife reserve is an unusual spot of earth — like an incredible free and open bird zoo. It’s also an amazing feat of technology — with specialized plantings, rotating food crops and pumping water systems for different times of the year. It is one of many (even larger and more diverse) in the 400-mile-long Central Valley of California. And it is home to up to 60,000 geese. Okay. THAT’S a big bunch of geese! (They’re winging their way along the Pacific Flyway south from Alaska and Canada.) The geese hang with about 20,000 cranes and what seems like a gazillion ducks, owls (burrrowing owls, you said?  yes!) and other amazing creatures.  We now know that a “paddling of ducks” refers to ducks on water and a group of geese on the ground is called a “gaggle of geese” (actually, we already knew that, right? 🙂 ). But this one’s good —  A “skein of geese” refers to geese in flight.

The reserve is loaded up with hidden duck blinds and geese blinds for the hunters. In this area hunting season runs from about October through January.  (I come from a way-Photo Blind sign Merced National Wildlife Reservehunting family (when I was a kid my dad owned the local duck hunting club for a time) so that doesn’t bother me…but you will hear rifle fire every now and then during the cold season.  Sorry.)  My dad always said that the reserves would not be around if not for the hunters who help to fund them in a big way but, if you’re timid about being around hunters, maybe visit in the spring — there are always tons of birds to see.

But when it’s cold and foggy and darkish, it can sort of blow your mind. How about tripping around in the tule fog through the marshland at dawn only to freeze stone-cold solid as TENS OF THOUSANDS OF GEESE launch into the sky all at once!!  TALK ABOUT WOW!  I’m telling you it’s like standing on an airport runway. Think: jumbo jet taking off right next to you. Just the SOUND of a million fluttering wings.  BUT THEN — the honking. Aw, yes, the honking!

I took this little video with my iPhone so you could sense how strange it was to hear the sound of all these birds coming close but not seeing them in the fog — catching only sporadic glimpses of the “skein” (see, I can learn a new word along with the best of ’em). 🙂

Here is the panoramic series of 3 photos I took along the marshy shores in a dawn fog…If you ever get the chance, check it out (and let me know what you think). 🙂

Home for the holidays: When we’re cooking at the river house we always aim to use great-grandma’s vintage cooking tools and long-lost recipes to bring that old-fashioned holiday feeling back for the family.  Everyone takes part in bringing the house alive. My 90-year old mum plays the upright piano while Uncle Bill acts as the chef d’jour. On Thanksgiving he made us slow-roasted turkey brined in orange juice, cornbread stuffing, baked sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes with giblet gravy and green bean mushroom casserole. My son, Michelangelo, created some lovely yeast rolls for us using the bread baker skills he’s learning at the restaurant where he works in Carmel. Our family friend, Felix, brought his father’s amazing-and-incredible baked ham (that his father prepares only on special order nowadays for friends after retiring as a chef). Sister Christine brought us, not one — but three — homemade pumpkin pies (my son ate nearly one whole pie all by himself!).  Brother Mark brought special champagne and nephew, John, the family wine connoisseur, brought lovely wines (and a carrying case packed with traveling wine glasses and decanter). 🙂

Of course, I brought the Whipped Cream Cake, all locked and loaded for the trip from Los Angeles, along with some holiday sugar cookies and a homemade cranberry sauce (that we used a portion of for creating the cake filling for this cake).

The Whipped Cream Cake: This cake has no butter but the heavy cream adds the goodness (and the fat) needed to make a delightful vintage celebration cake. I think it would be hard to find a more delicate cake that speaks of old-fashioned homemade goodness.  Although I sliced the bottom cake layer to be level, I left the top cake uncut so that the slight mound of the finished cake resembles just what we’re after — the by-gone days come alive again.

A slice of history: Recipes for Whipped Cream Cake are plentiful in old cookbooks and on the web. Sometimes you’ll find them under the heading, “Cream Cakes” (although many

Amercian Woman’s Cook Book recipe for Whipped Cream Cake 1939 p471

older recipes mean “milk” when they say “cream” and “sweet cream” when they mean “heavy cream” and on and on…so be prepared for some confusion when it comes to terms like “cream cake”.  Not to confuse matters further, but check out our recipe for a vintage Cream Cake (a lovely tea cake) that uses milk (in accordance with the historic recipe) as its main ingredient — our Carmel Cottage Cake — that you can find by clicking HERE.

Okay. Time to make whipped cream memories…This one’s easy!

Vintage Whipped Cream Cake

Tools Needed for Cake:

2 – 8″ baking pans
Butter for greasing baking pans
Wax paper or parchment for lining
2 Large mixing bowls
1 Medium mixing bowl
Electric mixer
Spatula (for folding flour into whipped cream)
Measuring cups and spoons

Whipped Cream Cake Ingredients:
Prep: 1 Tablespoon of butter for preparing the baking pans
1-1/2 cups heavy whipping cream (also called just “heavy cream”)
1-1/3 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract, fine quality
1-3/4 cups cake flour
2-1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Cake Baking Directions:

Set out on the counter to come to room temperature for about 30 minutes (or place them in a bowl of warm water until they lose their chill):
2 large fresh eggs
Tip: This step of warming the eggs is optional but seems to produce a lighter cake. 🙂

Set the oven rack to center position and temperature to 375 degrees.

Prepare two 8″ baking pans by rubbing them with about a tablespoon of unsalted butter and lining the bottom with a cut-out circle of wax paper or parchment that is also rubbed with butter.
Tip: I used wax paper instead of parchment and it works fine.
Alternative method (but not recommended): Spray pans with cooking spray, line with paper, spray again. Butter tastes better on the crumb crust of this cake. 🙂

In a large bowl, beat on high until just soft and fluffy (but not stiff, about 1 to 2 minutes):
1-1/2 cups heavy whipping cream

In a medium bowl, beat on high until creamed and thickened (about 5 minutes):
the room temperature eggs
1-1/3 cups sugar

Beat into the egg-sugar mixture until incorporated:
1 teaspoon vanilla extract, fine quality

Using a spatula, fold the whipped cream into the egg-sugar mixture until thoroughly incorporated.

In a large bowl, whisk until thoroughly mixed:
1-3/4 cups cake flour
2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Using a spatula, fold the whipped cream-egg-sugar mixture into the flour mixture until thoroughly incorporated.
Tip: As an alternative, you may use the electric mixer on low to beat the flour into the egg mixture in portions beating only until just thoroughly incorporated.

The batter itself is delightful and it looks like a whipped cream cake right from the start. 🙂

Load the batter into the prepared pans. (See how the batter shines?)

Bake the cakes at 375 for 25 to 30 minutes until lightly golden and toothpick test comes clean.
Tip: If you press very gently on the top center of the cakes when you believe they are done, they should not leave an indent mark. If this happens, just plop them back in a tad. 🙂

Cool the cakes thoroughly before frosting (or before wrapping for storage or travel).  They are quite delicate but will hold nicely for pre-prep while you work on other holiday dinner goodies.

I baked my cakes 2 days early, wrapping them tightly in plastic wrap and tucking them inside a cake-keeper — and then hiding them from inquisitive teens. 🙂 They stayed light and fresh and traveled well unfrosted.

Stay tuned for the silky and luscious Old-Fashioned Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting…We’re going to keep the crumbs on this cake (because they’re delicious) but I’ll show you how to frost it even when it is loaded with a light crust.

…and the delightful Berry-Berry Filling in our next post….

Thank you for all your kind words!  I so love hearing from you.  Be sure to stay in touch and follow us on Facebook and Pinterest!

Happy holidays,


Michelangelo’s yeast rolls

The Holiday Spread

Christine serving her apple pie with rum cider

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