Fourteen years ago today, I walked down the aisle, arm in arm with my father as we walked toward the front of the church and my future husband. I looked up at the stained glass windows in the Methodist church I was getting married in. My father, an artist and stained glass window designer, had made those windows. Officiating the wedding was my grandfather – my mom’s father and a minister.
Our premarital counseling about a month prior had consisted of a casual sit-down chat around my mom’s round oak dining table, warped and curved at the edges from too many years in the Florida humidity and no air conditioning. My grandfather asked us if we knew what we were getting into. Sam and I looked at each other and nodded. “Well, okay then,” said my grandfather. And that was about it. There may have been more to that conversation, but what I remember most is more of a feeling. I felt loved and cherished by the two men around that table – my future husband and my grandfather, our minister.
We married on another special occasion – the birthday of my mother and her twin sister. June 28 will always be a special day for me, for all of these reasons.
Celebrating with cake seems appropriate, doesn’t it?
My husband has been a fan of strawberry cake for a long time. Several years ago, I made one for him for his birthday. It was my very first layer cake attempt, and it was downright hideous. It was the ugliest cake I had ever seen, much less made. The only saving grace was that it tasted so incredibly good. I followed a recipe for the cake that called for a box white cake mix and a package of strawberry-flavored gelatin. I improvised on the frosting and made a pink-hued cream cheese frosting designed to complement the artificially-colored cake. There may have been an actual strawberry cut up for decoration on top.
Now that I’ve learned a little more about cake making, I decided to give the strawberry cake another go. Except this time I did it right. This one is made with real strawberries. You know – the kind you can actually feel good about eating. There is no food coloring involved. The beautiful pink color of the frosting, and more subtle hue of the cake itself, comes from strawberries, not from FD&C Red #40.
This is a celebration cake. The real deal. It’s a cake worthy of any special occasion – anniversaries, birthdays, first day of school, or even Sunday dinner. It’s the cake my children have now requested for their birthdays later this year.
Not only is this strawberry cake beautiful and perfectly sweet and not at all too rich, but it expresses a feeling. This cake says, “I love you.”
Strawberry Dream Cake
Yield: Serves 8 to 10.
I used to make a strawberry cake using white cake mix and strawberry gelatin. This is SO much better and not a single change or adjustment to the recipe was needed. Topped with a rich strawberry cream cheese frosting, it's the best strawberry cake I have ever eaten.
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
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2-1/4 cups (9 ounces) confectioners' sugar
12 ounces cream cheese, cut into 12 pieces and softened
8 ounces fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced thin
For the cake:
- Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Butter two 9-inch round cake pans, line bottom with parchment, butter the parchment, and flour.
- 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); reserves 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 to 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 to 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.
For 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. (Note: Cake can be refrigerated for 2 days. Bring to room temperature prior to serving.)
Recipe reprinted with permission from Cook's Country.