DirectionsIn a small saucepan, heat 1/4 cup sugar and 1/4 cup water over high heat, stirring, until sugar dissolves.
It will thicken slightly.
Remove pan from heat and stir in 2 Tbsp.
Set syrup aside.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans.
In a large metal bowl, whisk eggs with 1 cup sugar.
Place bowl over a large pan filled partway with water; place pan over medium heat.
Heat until mixture is lukewarm and sugar has dissolved, whisking well.
Remove from heat.
With electric mixer at high speed, beat egg mixture for 10 minutes, until thick and lemon-colored, scraping bowl occasionally with rubber spatula.
In small bowl, mix flour and salt.
Sift flour mixture over egg mixture; fold in just until blended.
Then fold in vanilla, melted butter, lemon zest (if using) and 2 Tbsp.
Divide batter among pans.
Bake 15 to 20 minutes, or until cake is golden and springs back when touched.
With small knife, loosen layers from sides of pans; immediately invert onto wire racks to cool.
Brush layers with reserved syrup.
Slice 1 pint of strawberries, leaving the other pint whole.
In a large bowl, toss sliced berries with 2 Tbsp.
sugar; let sit until sugar dissolves.
In a chilled bowl, with cold beaters on an electric mixer, beat cream until thickened.
Add 2 Tbsp.
remaining sugar and vanilla; beat until stiff peaks form.
Place one cake layer on a serving platter.
Spread about half the whipped cream over the top.
Using a slotted spoon, remove sliced strawberries from bowl, shaking off excess liquid.
Spread berries on top of cream.
Place second cake layer on top; spread remaining whipped cream over.
Place whole berries, tip side up, on top of cake.