I just celebrated another birthday, and it also happens to be the one-year anniversary of my blog! Celebrations were in order, and this cake was a great way to kick off the holiday weekend.
Every year for my birthday my mom would ask what kind of cake I wanted, and my answer was always the same: strawberry cake with strawberry icing. So on May 23rd she opened the box of Duncan Hines and spread the baked cake with canned frosting. It was everything I could have wanted. That is, until I caught on to the obsession of this whole bake-from-scratch thing.
I love strawberries, and count the seed-studded fruit as one of my favorite indulgences. They can be covered in chocolate, dusted with sugar, or poured over angel food cake. When my in-laws found out I loved strawberries, I spent several years driving back to Santa Barbara with a trunk load of strawberry-flavored treats. Strawberry cereal, strawberry pop tarts, strawberry candy. If they were shopping and something strawberry caught their eye, it was mine. They’ve since caught on that it’s really the fresh berries I’m after, and still stock chocolate sauce and plastic containers full of them when we visit (so sweet!).
So, was this cake everything I hoped it would be? Absolutely. Although some experiments might be in order during the next few years (cupcakes, strawberry icing, strawberries between the layers, etc.), this recipe as is, was exactly what I wanted.
Strawberry Birthday Cake or Pink Lady Cake or Strawberry Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
Recipe courtesy Smitten Kitchen, via Sky High
This cake makes quite a bit of batter, so you have several options for how you’d like to proceed. I happen to have two, 8-inch cake pans and was feeling lazy (on the Friday afternoon of a three-day weekend), so I opted for two very thick cake rounds instead of three. I later cut them in half to create four layers.
Cooking times may vary depending on how much batter you place into each pan. For two pans, I spread 5-6 heaping ladle’s of batter into each. What began as 30 minutes turned into something like 45-50, so just check on them and adjust your baking times accordingly.
I added three small drops of red food coloring to the batter. For the frosting, I planned on keeping the color white, but then threw caution to the wind and started adding food coloring. I lost count around drop eight, but just add them one by one until you get the desired color. I might add more next time for a more neon pink, or less to keep it elegant, so just follow your heart.
For the cake
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
1 1/2 cups pureed frozen strawberries*
8 egg whites
2/3 cup milk
1 to 2 drops red food dye, if using (to make the pink color pop more)
4 to 6 large strawberries, thinly sliced (These are optional, but I think adding them between each layer really drives the strawberry flavor home.)
For the cream cheese frosting
3 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks; 6 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
3 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Make the cake
1. Preheat the oven to 350»F. Butter three 9-inch round or 8-inch square cake pans. Line with parchment or waxed paper and butter the paper.
2. Put the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large mixer bowl. With the electric mixer on low speed, blend for 30 seconds. Add the butter and strawberry puree and mix to blend the ingredients. Raise the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes; the batter will resemble strawberry ice cream at this point.
3. In another large bowl, whisk together the egg whites, milk and red food dye, if using, to blend. Add the whites to the batter in two or three additions, scraping down the sides of the bowl well and mixing only to incorporate after each addition. Divide the batter among the three prepared pans.
4. Bake the cakes for 30 to 34 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow the layers to cool in the pans for 10 to 15 minutes. Invert and turn out onto wire racks and peel off the paper liners. Let stand until completely cooled before assembling the cake, at least an hour.
Make the cream cheese frosting
5. In a medium bowl, cream together the cream cheese and butter until creamy. Mix in the vanilla, then gradually stir in the confectioners’ sugar. Store in the refrigerator after use.
Frost and assemble the cake
6. Place one cake layer on a cake board or platter. Tucking scraps of waxed paper under the edges of the cake will protect the board or plate from any mess created while frosting the cake. (I forgot, as can be clearly seen above.) Spread about 2/3 cup frosting over the layer, spreading it to the edge and lay strawberry slices on top. Repeat with the second layer. Add the top layer and frost the top and sides of cake with remaining frosting, reserving a small amount if you wish to tint it and pipe a decoration on the cake. If not, you can decorate the cake top with thinly-sliced strawberries. Remove the waxed strips to reveal and neat, clean cake board.