It’s a simple name. Strawberry cake.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
Because now I can make a real Strawberry Cake that I know I’m gonna love right here at home. No other choice necessary.