celebrations and strawberry dream cake

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.”

Yield: Serves 8 to 10.

Strawberry Dream Cake

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.


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 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 salt
8 ounces fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced thin


For the cake:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

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37 Responses to “celebrations and strawberry dream cake”

  1. 1
    Deborah Mele — June 28, 2011 @ 3:16 pm

    How pretty! I don’t like fussy desserts but this looks like something my family would love. Will have to wait for strawberry season next year to try it though. The cake means so much more with such feelings behind it. THANKS for sharing!

  2. 2
    Liz — June 28, 2011 @ 3:30 pm

    Stunning cake…and I can only imagine how delicious!

  3. 3
    Sarah michel — June 28, 2011 @ 3:45 pm

    This is very similar to the strawberry cake I make, except I chop the strawberries and put them in the batter and use a strawberry meringue buttercream. Fresh strawberries really do make cake so delish! Since you can use frozen strawberries, you can really make it year round. I am going to give your recipe a try next week!

  4. 4
    Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite — June 28, 2011 @ 3:51 pm

    Congrats MJ – 14 years is quite the milestone. And that cake? Well worthy of a celebration. Or, any day!!!! Hugs XOX

  5. 5
    Kimmy @ Lighter and Local — June 28, 2011 @ 3:55 pm

    I’ve been looking for the perfect way to use up the last of the strawberries I picked this week. I think I just found it.

  6. 6
    Gail — June 28, 2011 @ 4:05 pm

    Who could even read the recipe? I’m still wiping the tears away from the fact that your dad made the stained glass windows in the church that was your grandfather’s congregation. Then you hit me with your mother & your aunt’s birthday.

    Note to self: Always scroll down and read the recipes first.

    • 6.1
      Merry-Jennifer — June 28, 2011 @ 10:12 pm

      It really was an amazing wedding filled with tradition and meaning. Miss you, by the way.

  7. 7
    Kate @ Savour Fare — June 28, 2011 @ 4:53 pm

    Lovely! We love strawberry cakes in our house too. And by we, I mean me. But I bake them! Happy anniversary!

  8. 8
    Aggie — June 28, 2011 @ 5:25 pm

    Happy Anniversary!!! I absolutely love the pink hue in the frosting and knowing its the “real” deal…what a beautiful cake, and a beautiful post!

  9. 9

    Its true in so many ways, you have ‘Come a long way, baby.’ Huge congratulations on your anniversary, Happy Birthday to your Mom and Aunt and good for you for finding a way to keep the tradition of the cake alive but in a manner that reflects your continued journey towards making it fresh and fabulous!

    • 9.1
      Merry-Jennifer — June 28, 2011 @ 10:11 pm

      Thanks, Barb. Yes, it’s been a continuous journey and I’ve had so much fun along the way!

  10. 10

    I’ll definitely be having dreams about this one!

  11. 11
    SMITH BITES — June 28, 2011 @ 10:51 pm

    congrats to you and the Mr. MJ – you’ve got one year on me and The Professor but they have been the best years of my entire life . . . and that cake looks divine!!

  12. 12

    Beautiful cake! I love strawberries but not the artificial flavored cakes, your recipe sounds dreamy. Happy anniversary.

  13. 13
    DessertForTwo — June 29, 2011 @ 12:41 am

    Aww, happy anniversary! 🙂

  14. 14
    Jane — June 29, 2011 @ 1:45 am

    Congrats! 70 years ago today my grandparents walked down the isle. And last Thursday I celebrated my birthday with a strawberry/chocolate cake with strawberry, chocolate cream cheese, and caramel icings! Big cake, big flavor!

  15. 15
    Alison @ Ingredients, Inc. — June 29, 2011 @ 8:17 am

    This looks fantastic!

  16. 16
    Milena — June 29, 2011 @ 10:45 am

    What gorgeous strawberries!!! Where I live is way too hot and humid to provide strawberries like this… nevertheless the ones we have here are quite tasty! This cake is definitely in my “to bake” list, it looks so beautiful…

  17. 17
    Paula — June 29, 2011 @ 5:26 pm

    Every wedding is a blessed event but to have yours take place in the church who’s windows your own father made, to have your grandfather officiate your ceremony and to have had it on your mother and aunt’s birthdays just makes it a occasion that was not only blessed by God but also, so deeply personal by some of the people who mean the most to you. Happy Anniversary and may you be blessed with many, many more happy years together and be able to share them with those you love.

    Your cake…beautiful!

  18. 18
    Liren — June 29, 2011 @ 5:51 pm

    Happy Anniversary! What a blessing to have been surrounded by so much love and guidance – I can’t think of anything more meaningful.

    This cake is just gorgeous – I know I have had my share of hideous cakes in my lifetime – this, MJ, is absolutely worthy of celebration.

  19. 19
    Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction — June 30, 2011 @ 2:36 pm

    My hubby would love this! He had to have strawberry cake for our wedding, and he constantly requests it… I’m bookmarking this recipe! 🙂

  20. 20
    Rachel @ Not Rachael Ray — June 30, 2011 @ 2:50 pm

    Looks so good! Perfect for summer. Happy Anniversary!

  21. 21
    Baker Street — July 1, 2011 @ 1:10 am

    Happiest anniversary M.J! and happy happy birthday to your mom and her sister.

    Your cake is just perfect! Lovely, just lovely.

  22. 22
    Jennifer (Savor) — July 2, 2011 @ 5:25 pm

    Happy Anniversary! Our is 10 years this year.

  23. 23

    My mouth is totally watering right now! Will be making this at some point for sure.

  24. 24
    Tracey — July 14, 2011 @ 2:00 pm

    Happy Anniversary, what a gorgeous cake!

  25. 25
    Rochelle — July 28, 2011 @ 4:52 am

    Would someone please actually make the recipe instead of just gushing over how good it looks!

  26. Pingback: It’s My Birthday, Let’s Talk Cake! | Not Rachael Ray

  27. 26
    Holly — August 15, 2011 @ 9:17 am

    I tried making this cake and didn’t think it was that successful. In the recipe it doesn’t say how much vanilla to add. Tasted like a strawberry shortcake and the frosting was too much like strawberry flavored cream cheese. I add more strawberries and sugar to frosting.

    • 26.1
      Merry-Jennifer — August 15, 2011 @ 9:39 am

      Holly – I’m sorry it didn’t work out for you. Thanks for pointing out the error in the vanilla measurements. I’ve just corrected it – should be 2 teaspoons.

  28. 27
    sonya — April 17, 2014 @ 11:16 pm

    I love this cake. I spilled some of the strawberry part the first time and it didn’t turn out quite right, but I’m so glad I gave it a go again. this is a truly special cake. it also makes fabulous cupcakes which are easy to top with a slice of fresh strawberry each. which reminds me, I love cooks country magazine so much too! down home cooking, but made as tasty and flavorful as you can imagine, and also fool-proof….what’s not to love?

  29. 28
    Megan — January 12, 2015 @ 5:55 pm

    If I do not have a stand mixer, do you have any recommendations for the instructions for mixing?

    • 28.1
      Merry-Jennifer — January 12, 2015 @ 7:51 pm


      I’ve only ever made it in a stand mixer, but I’m sure you could use a regular hand mixer, too. Or, if you put a lot of strength into the mixing, you could try it using your muscle power!

      Good luck!

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