Strawberry Cake

It’s a simple name.  Strawberry cake.

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I thought about calling it Fresh Strawberry Cake, but this recipe uses frozen strawberries. It could have been Natural Strawberry Cake but that didn’t sound quite right. The bottom line is this…the cake is made with real strawberries, not strawberry gelatin or drink mix or any other artificial flavors.  And, it’s covered with that amazing frosting I shared with you last week, Whipped Cream Cream Cheese Frosting.

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I’d never made a strawberry cake until last year, when my son decided he wanted one of the layers of his birthday cake to be strawberry.  This was to be a new challenge since I had no “go to” strawberry cake in my repertoire.  My kids are quite creative around birthday time, always coming up with something we haven’t done before…keeps it exciting. (I’ll definitely post that birthday treat sometime in the future…that was a deee-licious cake.)

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I researched recipe after recipe and finally found one that I thought would be good.  It came from Smitten Kitchen via Sky High Cakes.  I took a big risk in choosing a new recipe since the cake I was making was rather large and I didn’t have time to do a test batch.  I figured the recipe was from a trusted blogger via a book that had great reviews, so I thought I’d be pretty safe. It was a calculated risk.  I do that a lot.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

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Thankfully, the cake turned out really well.  I mean, better than really well.  I was a bit flabbergasted.  Why?  Well, here’s the deal.  I love strawberry shortcake, strawberry tarts and pies and strawberry cream cakes.  Yep, I love all things strawberry. But if there were a bunch of cakes sitting in a case that I could choose from?  Well, I probably wouldn’t choose a pink strawberry cake.  I think it’s because I never think of strawberry cake as a wonderful scratch cake.  I immediately think of box mix or artificial flavors.  At least I’m guessing that’s why I would never choose it.  Or, it might be like fruity ice creams.  I always seem to choose something with chocolate, caramel, nuts, or maybe mint.  I rarely pick the peach or the strawberry ice cream.  But when I do…I always wonder why I don’t pick it more often because I really love it. strawberry-cake-07

I’m sure I wouldn’t even be conscious of the thought process.  I just wouldn’t pick it.  This cake changed my mind.  When I was mixing it up the first time, it smelled amazing, just like fresh strawberry ice cream (oh the irony.)  Deb at Smitten Kitchen mentions that and it’s true.  The batter looks like a big vat of strawberry creaminess ready to hit the ice cream maker.  I thought, can a cake really taste that much like real strawberries?

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Well, yes.  Yes it can.  This cake tastes like strawberry ice cream in cake form.  I was shocked how much I liked it, how much we all liked it.  I loved the flavor, I loved the texture, I loved everything about it.  However, when I made it this time, I took a few shortcuts that I shouldn’t have and learned a few lessons:

  • Make sure your frozen strawberries are completely thawed and at room temperature before adding to the cake.  My were thawed but still quite cold when I pureed them. When they were added to the butter mixture, the butter got a bit clumpy.  I  know better, but I was trying to finish up and take some photos before I lost all the good light. (I lost all the good light anyway and had to shoot the next day :(
  • Don’t use egg whites from a carton.  Separate eggs to get your egg whites.  I used egg whites from a carton this time and it affected the texture.  It got heavier or a bit denser which I’m sure was also the result of the butter issue.
  • Make sure your eggs are at room temperature for the same reasons stated above.  My egg whites from a carton were cold too.  Yes, apparently I doubled down on the cold ingredients…(what was I thinking?!!!)
  • Room temp on the milk as well.  You can leave it sit out for 30 minutes or heat it briefly in the microwave to take the chill off.  Just don’t make it warm or you’ll create new issues with melting the butter.
  • This could go either way, but this time I spread a layer of strawberry jam on each layer before I filled with the frosting.  The first time I went with the layer of frosting, then spread the jam on top.  I think the jam on top works better, but the photos show it the other way.  It’s good either way, but I’ll make a note in the recipe.
  • I have three 9″ cake pans.  One is light metal, one is medium, one is dark.  If you look at my cake layers, you’ll see that they also baked up differently in the different colored pans.  It worked out okay, but I need to buy two more light colored pans so I can get more consistent results.
  • I used some food coloring to enhance the pink color for these photographs.  I told myself the last time that I wouldn’t use food coloring, but that was before I had a blog where the visual would speak before the words.  I added more than I needed and it’s pinker than I would have liked, almost mauve-y.  If you want to make it pinker than it is naturally, you’ll only need a bit of food dye.  For me, I’m going au natural next time. I have a like/hate thing with food dye anyway.

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The cake was still delicious, but learn from my failed shortcuts and just make the cake as stated in the recipe. (I’ve made all the notes in the recipe below so neither you nor I shall forget.) Everyone who had the cake wanted seconds.  So even though I took way too many shortcuts, and you should definitely not take them because the cake is pretty easy to make as is, it was thoroughly enjoyed by all.  You have the fresh strawberry flavor in the cake and my favorite super creamy whipped frosting. Then there’s the addition of some strawberry jam between the layers to punctuate the strawberry flavors and because its a great partner to the Whipped Cream Cream Cheese Frosting.

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Now that I know how good it can be,  I’ll always look at a strawberry cake choice a bit differently.  I’m sure I’ll ask if it’s made with real strawberries…and then I’ll ask what kind of frosting it has and if it’s a really sweet frosting…ugh, I’m kidding myself.  I still am not likely to choose a strawberry flavored cake from a menu or case line. Or, if it looks really good, I’m certain I would be negotiating splitting additional choices with friends/family so I’m not putting all of my cake splurge eggs in one basket. (I like to plan for the best possible outcome.) I probably won’t run into any strawberry flavored cakes any time soon anyway. That’s totally fine.

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Because now I can make a real Strawberry Cake that I know I’m gonna love right here at home.  No other choice necessary.

 

Strawberry Cake

Strawberry Cake

Ingredients

  • 4 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 5 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into chunks
  • 1 1/2 cups pureed frozen strawberries (this was just a little over 12 ounces for me)
  • 8 egg whites (do not use egg whites from a carton)
  • 2/3 cup milk, room temperature
  • a couple drops red food dye (optional)
  • For filling and assembly:
  • 1/2 cup seedless strawberry jam
  • 2 separate batches of Whipped Cream Cream Cheese Frosting
  • fresh strawberries for garnish

Instructions

  1. Make the cake. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter or spray three 9 inch round cake pans. Line with parchment and butter or spray the parchment paper as well.
  2. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl with an electric mixer. Blend for 30 seconds. Add the chunks of room temperature butter and room temperature pureed strawberries into the flour mixture and mix on low to blend the ingredients. Raise speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.
  3. In another large bowl, whisk the egg whites, milk and red coloring (if desired) until you've thoroughly broken up the egg whites and they are well combined with the milk.
  4. Add the egg white mixture to the batter in three additions, scraping down the sides as needed and mixing only to incorporate each addition.
  5. Pour batter evenly into the three prepared pans. Bake the cakes for about 30-34 minutes until a toothpick comes out with just a very few moist crumbs attached.
  6. Cool in pans for 10-15 minutes. Remove cakes from pans, peel off the liners and finish cooling on wire racks. Let them cool completely before assembling cake.
  7. To assemble the cake, slightly warm strawberry jam in the microwave to melt it a bit and make it easier to spread. Stir and set aside.
  8. Make your first batch of Whipped Cream Cream Cheese Frosting.
  9. Place first cake layer on serving plate, flat side down. Spread evenly with 1/4 cup of the jam. Top with a generous cup of frosting and spread to within a 1/2 inch of the edge. Place the second layer of cake on top of the first, then repeat the spreading of frosting and jam.
  10. Place the final layer flat side up on top of the two layers that have been filled with frosting and jam.
  11. Use the rest of the frosting to fill in all the gaps left between layers and form a good crumb coat on the sides of the cake. Generously frost the top with at least a cup of frosting or however much you want for your finished cake. (This is only important if you want to use a heavy piping technique on the side of the cake as you will want the entire second batch to go to the sides.)
  12. Place the cake in the refrigerator while you make another batch of frosting.
  13. Use the second batch of frosting to finish covering the cake. There is enough for you to do a heavy piping technique as I did or you can just use an off set spatula to swirl the frosting in any pattern you choose. See notes for piped frosting technique.
  14. Decorate with fresh strawberries, if desired.
  15. Cake should be stored in refrigerator, but will taste best if you let it sit for 30 minutes at room temperature before serving.

Notes

*When I filled the layers, I spread the jam on the cake and then spread the frosting (as the photos in the post illustrate.) The first time I did it the opposite way. I actually prefer spreading the frosting first and then the jam on top. Either way it's good, but I like the way it looks when you cut it when the jam is on top.

*I used a 1M piping tip and starting at the bottom, made columns of ruffles. I should have taken video, but here's a tutorial

*The cake makes about 10 cups of batter. It's a lot of batter. The first time I baked it, it went into a 16" square pan and baked for about 22 minutes and made a one inch layer, which was perfect for what I needed at the time. I've not tried it, but I'm pretty confident that you could cut this recipe in half for a smaller batch of batter.

*Not all cakes work as cupcakes. I haven't tried this batter as a cupcake yet, if you do and it works, please let me know. I will do the same.

*I freeze leftover cake all the time. I slice it and wrap each slice in wax paper and place the wrapped slices into a freezer Ziploc. Thaw in the refrigerator, or if you're careful, you can also thaw in the microwave at one of the lower powers.

*Update 8-15-16: I use the spoon and sweep method for measuring flour. First I stir the flour in the canister to lighten it up, then I spoon the flour into the measuring cup and then level with a knife. There are 4 and 1/2 cups of flour in this recipe. With so many cups of flour, if you over measure your flour, you could end up with a lot more flour than the recipe calls for and have drier cake with a different texture.

Cake adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Frosting from Whipped Cream Cream Cheese Frosting

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