An Elegant Holiday Dessert Option for the Non-Baker

As you may have gathered from some of my other posts, I rarely cook since my husband actually enjoys it and gets annoyed with me puttering pestering interfering helping in the kitchen while he is exercising his creative cooking skills.

As we were brainstorming ideas for dessert to bring to our upcoming dinner club (kicking off our 21st year of quarterly gatherings this December! ~ more on our dinner club tradition in this post and this post), I fondly recalled one of the rare occasions I prepared dessert, which happened to be for one of our December dinner club gatherings several years ago.

I share this recipe with you, fellow non-bakers, as a gorgeous holiday option that doesn’t take all day (or multiple days) to prepare ~ Mascarpone-Filled Cake with Sherried Berries, courtesy of a 2008 issue of Gourmet magazine.

Kat's version of Mascarpone-Filled Cake with Sherried Berries
Kat’s version of Mascarpone-Filled Cake with Sherried Berries

Mascarpone-Filled Cake with Sherried Berries

Ingredients for cake:

  • 2 cups sifted cake flour (not self-rising; sift before measuring)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup well-shaken buttermilk

Ingredients for berries: 

  • 1/2 cup Fino (dry) Sherry
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 4 cups mixed berries, cut if large
  • (Kat suggests using Chambord instead of Sherry and then cutting back on the sugar instead ~ this wise suggestion was in one of the comments to the recipe.  As for the berries, use whatever fresh berries are in season ~ different berries could easily change the look of the cake to suit different occasions or holidays.)

For cream:

  • 8 ounces mascarpone (1 cup)
  • 1 cup chilled heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup sugar


  • confectioners sugar

Instructions for making the cake:
Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Butter a 9-inch round cake pan (2 inches deep). Line bottom with a round of parchment paper, then butter parchment.

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Beat together butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy. Beat in vanilla. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. With mixer at low speed, beat in buttermilk until just combined. Add flour mixture in 3 batches, mixing after each addition until just combined.

Spread batter in cake pan, smoothing top. Rap pan on counter several times to eliminate air bubbles.

Bake until golden and a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack 10 minutes. Run a knife around edge of cake to loosen, then invert onto a plate. Discard paper and reinvert cake onto rack to cool completely.

How to macerate the berries:
Bring Sherry (or Chambord if following Kat’s suggestion) and sugar (go light on the sugar, especially if you’re using the Chambord) to a boil in a small heavy saucepan, stirring until sugar has dissolved. Put berries in a bowl and pour hot syrup over them, gently tossing to coat. Let stand 15 minutes.

(Kat suggests: If you are serving this dessert other than at your own home, you can macerate the berries ahead of time and bring them in a sealed container to top off the cake before serving – however, some berries tend to get “soggier” than others, so ideally, macerating the berries relatively close in time to serving tends to provide a better fruit texture).

Final steps: making the cream and assembling the cake:
Beat mascarpone and cream with sugar in a large bowl using cleaned beaters until mixture just holds stiff peaks.

Halve cake horizontally with a long serrated knife. Carefully remove top half and reserve. Put bottom half on a plate, then spread evenly with all of cream and replace top half. Serve with berries.  (Kat suggests: Wait to pour the berries over the top until shortly before serving, so as not to create a soggy sponge cake resembling a holiday jello “poke” cake instead.)

To link to a printable copy of the original recipe:

A nice dessert liqueur or perhaps a small glass of limoncello served alongside would nicely complement this elegant end to a holiday meal!

Ciao! ~ Kat

13 responses to “An Elegant Holiday Dessert Option for the Non-Baker”

  1. I hope when you say non-baker you MEAN non-baker because although I’m pretty handy with deserts, I’m a no-no to baking and I loved this recipe, will probably try it and don’t want to have a fight with it!! In which case, I hope I win. Thanks for sharing!


    • Will be curious how you like it — another suggestion in the comments I may try when I make it again is to use a lemon cake recipe (or mix — no shame in using a mix!) as the cake itself is relatively flavorless with the flavor coming from the cream and fruit. However, I have made it twice with the cake as is, and thought it was fine. Enjoy! ~ Kat


  2. Oooh yes, Chambord, yum yum yum! My grandmother made an English version of a similar recipe as a trifle in a big glass bowl so you could see all the layers, although it is harder to serve. She didn’t drink so would slosh in the sherry ’til she thought it was good and soaked…


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