Tom’s birthday was last week, which meant it was time for my annual layer-cake-baking. It’s true, I pretty much only make layer cakes on Tom’s birthday.
I know what you’re thinking. That’s Tom’s birthday cake? I thought perhaps you made it for a 6 year old girl. No.
Tom very rarely comes out and asks for a specific birthday cake. I usually have to ask him like 10 times before I can get him to start thinking about it. This year, I spouted off 7 or 8 ideas I knew he’d like, and he decided on this fresh strawberry cake. I asked what kind of frosting he wanted, secretly hoping he’d respond “cream cheese” and he did (phew).
So, yeah, it’s not the most masculine looking cake on the planet. A fact that was made further obvious by my use of sprinkles, after I realized I neglected to save fresh strawberries for decorating. But that’s okay, because this cake is pretty awesome.
All of that gorgeous pink color is 100% natural. No gels or dyes or anything at all. Just strawberries. To achieve both the beautiful color and flavor, you’ll want to use in season, ripe (preferably organic) strawberries that are as red as you can find.
You can make the strawberry puree simply by processing macerated strawberries, or by cooking the macerated strawberries down, and then pushing them through a strainer. I went with the latter option because Shawnda said it would likely give the cake a more vibrant color and deeper strawberry flavor. Oh, and also? It was slightly quicker.
I made more puree than the original recipe, because I knew I wanted to include some in both the frosting and the filling. By the way, the frosting actually reminded me of this strawberry-sour cream ice cream, which you will not hear me complaining about. Anyway, the only other change I made to the recipe was using a little almond extract, because I love it so much and could probably just drink it by the gallon.
The cake is a snap to make. It takes a little time because the strawberries need to sit at room temperature for a while before you can make the puree, but after that it goes very quickly and is incredibly simple.
The resulting cake is one that is moist, delicate but sturdy enough to layer and frost, and downright delicious. We all loved it. The only thing that sucks about this cake is when it’s all gone, you have one very pissed off toddler.
Fresh Strawberry Cake
Cake adapted from Confections of a Foodie Bride (originally adapted from Cook’s Illustrated classic white cake and Good Things Catered); frosting recipe is my own
2 lbs. strawberries, hulled and roughly chopped
2 tsp. sugar
1/2 cup milk, room temperature
6 large egg whites
1.5 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. almond extract
2.25 cups cake flour, sifted
1.75 cups sugar
4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
12 Tbsp. (1.5 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
To make the strawberry puree:
Place the strawberries in a medium sized pot/saucepan and toss with the sugar. Allow to sit at room temperature for about an hour, until juicy.
Add 1/3 cup water and simmer for about 15-20 minutes, or until the berries are very soft.
Pour into a fine mesh strainer set over a bowl. With a rubber spatula or spoon, scrape and press the strawberries through the strainer until all of the juice is in the bowl and you’re only left with the juiceless pulp. Discard the pulp and transfer the juice back to the sauce pan. Simmer until the liquid is reduced down to 3/4 – 1 cup; set aside to cool.
To make the cake:
Preheat the oven to 350ºF and grease two 8″ or 9″ round pans; line with parchment and spray with oil if desired.
In a medium bowl, combine 1/2 cup of the strawberry puree*, milk, egg whites, and extracts and mix until combined with a fork.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Beat until mixed. Continue beating on slow speed and add the butter. Mix until combined and it resembles moist crumbs.
Add the wet ingredients and beat at medium speed for about 1 minute or until full and evenly combined. Stop mixer to scrape down the sides of the bowl and hand beat for 30 more seconds.
Divide the batter evenly between the two pans and smooth the tops. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the cakes comes out clean. Cool in pans for 10 minutes and then invert onto wire racks to cool completely before frosting.
*You will have extra puree. Some will be used in the frosting and if you have extra, you can use it in addition to the frosting to fill the cake.
Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting
12 oz. cream cheese, softened
8 Tbsp. (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 cup strawberry puree
2-4 cups confectioners sugar, sifted
Beat the cream cheese and butter with a stand or hand mixer until fluffy. Add the vanilla and puree and beat until just incorporated. With the mixer on low, add the sugar a little at a time. Add as much sugar, based on your taste preferences and the consistency of the frosting (I only used 2.5 cups, which is less than standard cream cheese frostings, because I felt this cake was already sweet enough).
Note: This frosting was the perfect amount for a layer of filling in between the cakes, and for covering the outside of the cake. I did not do any sort of special decorating, so if you want to pipe designs, or create a taller cake with more layers, you will want to increase the frosting amount.