Jan has been cooking and writing about food for over 20 years. She has cooked on multiple television stations, including the Food Network.
Scratch Strawberry Cake
This particular pink bombshell of a cake really should be made no earlier than June. Wait for the real, homegrown strawberries to make their appearance before making this. You can certainly do it at other times of the year, using hothouse berries, or even frozen ones, and the result will be perfectly acceptable.
But when strawberries are fresh and in season, bursting with intense flavor and natural sugars, this cake becomes far more than acceptable. It becomes akin to something divine. It's a little difficult to find strawberry cake recipes that are truly scratch—that use the subtle sweet/tart thing of a fresh strawberry instead of flavored gelatins or pudding mixes for the flavor. Perhaps if you're making this in January, it wouldn't be a bad idea to cheat with a mix. But if you have a batch of fabulous strawberries, then this is the cake for you.
In this case, I use a strawberry buttercream frosting with just a hint of lemon zest. I made it for my oldest, who is a strawberry fiend, but who also doesn't like cakes or frostings that are so sweet they overwhelm natural flavors (yeah, I know. I've raised food nerds). A hint for success with this cake: make sure the cake layers are absolutely cool before frosting. Going a bit further and chilling them is a better idea. The cakes are moist and have a delicate crumb, and can split from the weight of frosting if even a little bit warm. As soon as you've frosted the layers, pop them back in the fridge to chill and set.
Feel free to garnish with fresh berries of course! But keep in mind that very ripe strawberries, which taste the best, will also have a tendency to 'weep' a bit once they are in contact with the frosting. So garnish at the last possible minute to preserve the appearance of the cake. Or use blueberries and flaked, sweetened coconut for the contrast or to celebrate the 4th of July. Or, beautiful edible flowers for a baby shower or birthday... you get the picture. So, pop this one out next summer. Each bite will burst with the sweetest taste of summer.
- butter and flour - for the cake pans
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1 1/2 cup strawberry puree
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
- 4 large eggs, beaten
- red food coloring (optional)
For the strawberry puree, simply run two to three cups of strawberries through the blender or food processor until very smooth. You can strain the puree to remove seeds if you wish, but I usually don't bother.
- Preheat oven to 325F. Butter and flour three 8-inch cake pans, and set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, vegetable oil, baking powder, salt, strawberry puree, vanilla, lemon zest, and eggs.
- Divide the batter evenly among the prepared cake pans. Bake in preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes. The tops of the cakes should be springy to the touch, and a cake tester (aka wooden toothpick or skewer) inserted into the center of each cake should come out clean.
- Allow cakes to cool in their pans for 10 minutes, then turn cakes out onto wire cooling racks to cool completely. You can frost them once they reach room temperature, but it is better to chill the cakes for at least an hour before assembling and frosting.
- Frost cakes with either vanilla buttercream, cream cheese frosting, or with strawberry buttercream (recipe below). Garnish with fresh strawberries or blueberries or with sweetened flaked coconut. Store the finished cake in the refrigerator.
- 4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 cup strawberry puree
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 4-6 cups powdered sugar
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and stir well. Stir in strawberry puree and lemon zest.
- Working in one-cup batches and keeping the mixer on low, scraping down the sides of the bowl as you work, slowly add the powdered sugar. You may need more or less powdered sugar—depending on what consistency you desire, and how sweet the berries were that you used in the puree. I recently used a full 7 cups of powdered sugar, but I broke my own rule and used frozen wintertime berries that weren't the least bit sweet. I've used as little as four cups in the middle of July.