Growing up in Cleveland, I knew this as "the really yummy cake with the fresh strawberries." It was only after leaving Cleveland that I realized you can't get this cake everywhere, which is so, so sad for everyone else in the world.
Think of it as the strawberry shortcake of your dreams: layers of light, moist chiffon filled with fresh strawberries and custard and frosted with whipped cream. For me, it's the fresh strawberries that really make this cake; they're tossed with just a couple spoonfuls of sugar to release their juices but still stay firm and almost have a little crackle because of the seeds.
I decided to adapt the recipe from Sweet Amandine by creating the layer cake in small Mason jars. This way you can see all the pretty layers and have your cake, too! —Joy Huang | The Cooking of Joy
Whisk together all of the custard ingredients in a saucepan. Heat over medium-low heat, whisking constantly until thickened. Turn down the heat if it starts to simmer. Transfer the custard to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and cool to room temperature. Transfer to the refrigerator and chill for at least 3 hours, or up to 2 days.
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line the bottom of a 9" x 13" cake pan with lightly oiled parchment paper. Sift or whisk together the flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl.
In a separate bowl, beat together the yolks, water, oil, lemon zest, and vanilla until smooth. Stir into the flour mixture. In another large bowl beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and beat on high until the peaks are stiff but not dry.
Using a rubber spatula, fold about a quarter of the fluffy egg whites into the egg yolk mixture. Then very gently fold in the remaining whites. As soon as the egg whites are no longer visible, stop folding. Scrape the batter into the prepared cake pan and spread evenly. Bake for approximately 35 minutes or until the top springs back when lightly pressed and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool in the pan on a cooling rack for at least an hour.
In the meantime, hull and slice the strawberries thinly. Sprinkle with the sugar and stir. Allow the strawberries to macerate for 1 hour, giving them a stir every so often.
Whip the cream and sugar together until stiff, making sure not to overwhip (or else you'll be making butter!).
When the cake is completely cool, run a knife around the sides and lift the cake from the pan using the parchment paper. Transfer onto a cutting board.
Use the lid of a Mason jar as a template to cut out 10 (I was able to get 11, but 10 is a nicer, round number) circles, making sure to cut slightly inside the outline so that the cake will fit inside the jar. Tear the remaining cake scraps into large crumbs (you will use this for the middle layer of each jar).
Slice each cake circle in half horizontally. Place the bottom half in the bottom of a jar. Top with a spoonful of the sliced strawberries (including some juices) and then a spoonful of custard. Tap the jar a few times to make sure everything is settled. Top with a layer of the cake crumbs and then another layer of the strawberries and custard. Place the top half of the cake circle on top of the second layer of custard and top it all off with a dollop of whipped cream.