I dearly love strawberry-flavored treats- strawberry milk, strawberry ice cream, strawberry macaron, strawberry cakes- delicious. The pink color, the strawberry flavor- perfection. A real strawberry cake made from scratch is hard to come by- most from scratch strawberry cakes are really vanilla cake with strawberries dotted within the frosting or diced into the batter. “Real” strawberry cakes use strawberry gelatin to achieve the color ad flavor. What’s a baker to do when she wants to make a real strawberry cake without resorting to strawberry gelatin?
Science to the rescue! Freeze-dried strawberries pack an intense strawberry flavor and color and don’t dilute cake batters. Combined with fresh pureed strawberries, I knew I had a solution to my strawberry cake dliemma. However, cake after cake I baked failed. Why?
Happily, my online baking guru, Stella Parks, had the answer. She had fought this same battle as me, and won. Her solution was a different ratio of baking soda and baking powder (to account for the acidity of the freeze-dried strawberries), and using egg whites instead of full eggs (to prevent any dulling of the pink color by the yolk). Success- a true strawberry cake.
I used the extra freeze-dried strawberries I bought to make an out of the world intensely strawberry-flavored buttercream. That first bite of this cake was heaven, a moment of pride for not giving up despite baking failure and relying on science and wiser bakers than I guiding me through. The rest of the bites? Sheer tastebud indulgence.
I have to add a few extra special photos to this blog post; I made this cake in celebration of a new addition to my pet family. Meet Bodhi, the most adorable Golden Retriever puppy, born this February. He joins my German Shepherd boy Charlie, whose 4th birthday is in a few days, 8-year-old calico girl cat Millie, and Gaia and Mowgli, 10-year-old girl and boy Cheetoh cats born one day apart. Having so many pets can complicate cooking and baking (kitchen deep cleanings before and after each project), but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
3 2/3 cup cake flour
3 heaping cups of freeze dried strawberries
3 1/2 cups chopped fresh strawberries
3 sticks of softened butter
2 1/4 cups sugar
3 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
5 egg whites
Extra strawberries, for garnish
2 cups freeze-dried strawberries
2 cups softened butter
4 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
6 tablespoons heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Pulverize the freeze-dried strawberries into a powder using a blender or food processor.
Using a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, add the butter into the bowl and which on medium high speed until the butter lightens in color and is soft and creamy. Add the confectioner’s sugar, strawberry powder, cream an vanilla. Beat on low until the ingredients are combined, then switch the speed to high and beat for 5 minutes. Set the frosting aside, covered, until you are ready to use it.
Combine the cake flour and 3 cups of freeze dried strawberries into a food processor or blender and grind them into a pink dust.
Using a blender or food processor, puree the fresh strawberries until lusciously smooth. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare 3 eight inch cake pans with baking spray and parchment paper. Set aside.
In a large bowl, cream together the butter, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt until the butter mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in each egg white one at a time, bating well between each addition. Add the strawberry flour and strawberry puree in alternating additions, scraping down the bowl each time.
Divide the batter evenly between each cake pan and bake for 30 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking time.
Cool the cakes in their pans for 1 hours, then remove from the pans.Trim your cakes as needed to make them level. Place one cup of frosting on the first layer and spread it thickly out to the edges, then top with the next cake layer. Add another cup of frosting and repeat. Top with the final cake layer and another 2 cups of frosting, using a spatula to smooth frosting over the top and sides of the coke. Refrigerate the cake for 30 minutes to set the scrum coat.
Using the remaining frosting to coat the cake. Make fun swirls in the frosting to create texture. Place the extra strawberries along the top border for decoration. Slice and enjoy!