Thursday, March 27, 2014

Strawberry Cake with Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting

After many, many requests for the recipe for Emma's birthday cake, I decided to share it. I had been hesitant about posting it earlier only because the family was rather split down the middle about this cake. Emma and I found it to be divine while Paul and Matthew were not wild about it. Paul claimed that the frosting was just too tart for him while I thought it was the perfect balance of sweet and tart. I usually have issues with layer cakes because they are too sweet but I thought this one was light, moist, and delicately flavored with real strawberries. I was really disappointed that Paul found it so "meh." It shook my confidence in this cake a bit, despite how much the birthday girl and I enjoyed our slices. That's why initially I had decided not to post the recipe.

However, I sent the remainder of the cake to work with Paul and his co-workers kept thanking him over and over again for bringing it in. They all loved it! Those compliments, combined with the other email requests for the recipe, spurred me to share it with you. That and remembering how weird and finicky my husband and his textural issues with cakes and frostings can be - the problem might just be him, not the cake!

This recipe makes such a pretty cake - it really is perfect for a springtime celebration even if the weather outside certainly is not cooperating. (Emma received 6 inches of snow on her birthday as a present from Mother Nature!)

Most strawberry cakes use strawberry-flavored Jell-O to flavor the cake. I was thrilled that this recipe only used fresh and frozen strawberries! You extract all the juices from the berries and boil them down into a syrup that is strained and then used to infuse the cake batter with sweet strawberry flavor. The strawberry solids are then added to the cream cheese frosting - ingenious! I loved the little flecks of strawberries in the frosting. Emma and I were also eating spoonful after spoonful of the frosting from the bowl. We couldn't stop! I had to pop quite a few lactaids. Historically, lactose and I are not friends - but some things are worth the stomach ache!

Obviously, I added a couple drops of pink food coloring to my cake, but without the food coloring the strawberry juice that is added to the cake batter does impart a light pink hue to the final cake. I wanted a more striking color, so that's why I chose to enhance this effect with the food coloring.

Next time I make this recipe (because I would certainly make it again), I would spread some strawberry preserves in between the layers along with the cream cheese frosting. I think this would really kick up the strawberry flavor a notch!

Strawberry Cake with Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting
adapted from Cook's Country

Note: As I said above, instead of simply adding some chopped strawberries between the cake layers, I think it would be fantastic to add some strawberry preserves or jam. Simply spread a thin layer of frosting on the bottom of one cake layer. Make a little "dam" with additional frosting around the perimeter of the cake layer, and then lightly spoon some preserves into the center and gently spread evenly. Top with the second cake layer and use the remaining cream cheese frosting to cover the rest of the cake.

For Cake:
10 ounces frozen whole strawberries (2 cups)
3/4 cup whole milk, room temp
6 large egg whites, room temp
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2-1/4 cup (9 ounces) cake flour
1-3/4 cup (12-1/4 ounces) granulated sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces and softened

For the Frosting:
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2-1/4 cups (9 ounces) confectioners' sugar
12 ounces cream cheese, cut into 12 pieces and softened
Pinch of table salt
8 ounces fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced thin

To Make the Cake:
Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Butter two 9-inch round cake pans and line the bottom with parchment.
Transfer strawberries to microwave-safe bowl, cover, and microwave until the berries are soft and have released their juices (about 5 minutes). Place strawberries in a fine mesh strainer or sieve set over a small saucepan. Firmly press fruit dry (juice should measure at least 3/4 cup). Reserve the strawberry solids. Bring juice to a boil over medium-high heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until syrupy and reduced to 1/4 cup (about 6-8 minutes). Whisk milk into juice until combined.
Whisk strawberry milk, egg whites, and vanilla in bowl. Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt on low speed until combined. Add butter, 1 piece at a time, and mix until only pea-size pieces remain, about 1 minute. Add half of milk mixture, increase speed to medium high, and beat until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Reduce speed to medium-low, add remaining strawberry milk mixture, and beat about 30 seconds, until incorporated. Give batter a final stir by hand.
Scrape equal amounts of batter into prepared pans and bake until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, 20-25 minutes, rotating pans halfway through baking. Cool cakes in pans on wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove cakes from pan (discarding parchment) and cool completely, about 2 hours. Cooled cakes can be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and stored at room temp for up to 2 days.
To Make the Frosting:
Using stand mixer fitted with paddle, mix butter and sugar on low speed until combined, about 30 seconds. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add cream cheese, one piece at a time, and beat until incorporated, about 1 minute. Add reserved strawberry solids and salt and mix until combined, about 30 seconds. Refrigerate until ready to use, up to 2 days.

Pat strawberries dry with paper towels. When cakes are cooled, spread 3/4 cup frosting over 1 cake round. Press 1 cup of sliced strawberries in even layer over frosting, then cover with an additional 3/4 cup frosting. Top with second cake round and spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cake. Garnish with remaining strawberries.

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