I told you I was on a strawberry kick.
Last week was Bill Beaucoup’s birthday. When you have a summer birthday, you should get a summery cake. One that is fresh and tasty, and not too heavy. Also, one must hope that it won’t take three attempts to perfect (like Rosie Beaucoup’s cake). I like a recipe that works. One that works the first time.
This cake isn’t hard to throw together, and the result is perfectly delightful. You’ve gotta do a little extra work to mash some berries and make a syrup, but it’s worth it, and it’s not like you need a flame thrower or anything. It’s pretty basic stuff. The cake isn’t too dense, yet doesn’t crumble apart and fall off the fork before you can jam it in your mouth. It’s the right densiosity. I made up that word, but you can use it if you like. Also, the cream cheese frosting really hits the spot. I could have shovelled the whole bowl in my mouth, but then my father wouldn’t have had a very nice cake on his birthday.
Serve this cake at room temperature – it just tastes better. So, if you have leftovers in your fridge, slice a piece off and leave it on the counter for a bit before slammin’ it back. Trust me. Also, trust me about putting the leftovers in the fridge. You don’t want to be eating rotten cream cheese icing. I’m pretty sure it’ll make you yack.
Alright, now I need to talk to you about something. Something that really, really bothers me. I loathe it when a recipe tells you to preheat an oven way before you need to. For example, a great number of recipes begin with: preheat oven to 350°F. Then the recipe tells you how to make something like cookie dough, and then the recipe tells you to chill the dough for an hour. So… why did we preheat that oven? If we generally list ingredients in the order they should be used, shouldn’t we do the same thing with the directions for baking? I get that this in no way relates to scarfing back a delightful strawberry cake, but still. It’s really starting to tick me off.
Okay, so don’t eat rotten cream cheese frosting. (See how I brought it back? That’s good writing, people.)
. . .
For the cake:
- 2 cups frozen strawberries
- 3/4 cup whole milk, room temperature
- 6 extra large egg whites, room temperature
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 1/4 cup cake flour
- 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
- 4 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces and at room temperature
For the frosting:
- 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
- 2 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
- 12 ounces cream cheese, cold and cut into pieces (1 1/2 Canadian packages/bricks)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- pinch of salt
- 1 1/2 cups fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced thin (pat dry after washing)
Lightly spray two 9-inch round cake pans with non-stick baking spray and line with parchment paper. Transfer frozen strawberries into a microwave-safe bowl and microwave until the strawberries are soft and have released their juice, about 5 minutes. Place the strawberries in a fine-mesh strainer set over a small bowl. Firmly press fruit dry (juice should measure about 3/4 cup). Reserve the strawberry solids. Transfer the strawberry juice to a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until syrupy and reduced to 1/4 cup, 6-8 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in milk to combine.
Preheat the oven to 350º F.
Whisk the strawberry milk, egg whites, and vanilla in a bowl. In the large mixing bowl of a stand/electric mixer, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add the butter, 1 piece at a time and mix until only pea-size pieces remain, about 1 minute. Add half of the milk mixture, increasing the speed of the mixer to medium-high, and beat until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Reduce speed to medium-low, add remaining milk mixture and beat just until incorporated, about 30 seconds. Give the batter a final stir by hand.
Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans and bake until the cakes are lightly golden, about 20-25 minutes. Cool cakes in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove the cakes from the pans, discarding parchment, and cool completely, about 2 hours.
Let’s decorate this puppy. Using a stand/electric mixer, mix butter and sugar on low speed until combined, about 30 seconds. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the cream cheese one piece at a time and beat until incorporated, about 1 minute. Add reserved strawberry solids, vanilla extract, and salt and mix until combined, about 30 seconds. Use immediately or refrigerate until ready to use for up to 2 days.
Place one cake round on a serving plate or cake stand. Spread about 3/4 cup frosting over the top of the cake. Then press 1 cup (or more) of the strawberries in an even layer over the frosting (place those berry slice close to each other) and then cover with an additional 3/4 cup frosting. Place the second cake round on top and spread remaining frosting over the top and sides of cake. Garnish the cake with the remaining strawberry slices. (Cake can be refrigerated for up to 2 days. Bring to room temperature before serving.)