Well, hello there! I’m here, I’m here! Life got a little crazy for the past 2 weeks–cakes and beyond (beyond and beyond), but I’m so glad to be back and focused on my personal mission to
never wear a bikini again share all of my favourite cakes and baked goods with you, one by one. Strawberry cake has been on my recent would-love-to-make-again list, because, well, I just love the old-fashioned taste of strawberry cake and strawberry frosting. I did recently (my birthday) make a strawberry Swiss buttercream to top a dark chocolate cake (here), but I was still craving double strawberry cake, and, dare I say, more sugary-but-satiny frosting. Then, it happened: I was officially inspired by a jelly bean. Yep, a tiny, little, harmless jelly bean. See, a few weeks ago, while doing some “candy research” for another project, I found the discovered the yummiest jelly beans ever created, and I’m not even a “jelly bean girl.”
I bought a bunch of Jelly Belly’s “Cold Stone Ice Cream Parlor Mix,” and these little things pack some serious ice cream flavour–I actually couldn’t even believe it. I think I may need to revisit the whole I’m-not-really-into-jelly-beans thing. This particular bunch I bought is a variety of ice cream related flavour combinations, including a pink one they call “Our Strawberry Blonde.” One little wee, pink jelly bean manages to pull together the flavours of strawberry ice cream, graham cracker pie crust, strawberries, caramel, and whipped cream . . . can you imagine? So, although I didn’t incorporate graham cracker pie crust or caramel (yet), I was inspired to create a sweet strawberry cake with an overall ice cream parlour taste.
For the cake, I went with a moist strawberry butter cake, frosted with whipped strawberry frosting that, for some inexplicable reason, tastes like strawberry ice cream (remember it in vanilla form, here?). I topped it with some whipped cream swirls, and, of course, the ice cream parlour jelly beans. I should say, though, that although I’m usually a bit more of a dessert purest, the cake recipe itself does use strawberry gelatin (yep, Jell-O) to boost the colour and flavour, in addition to the real strawberry puree. Although there are bakers out there that strive and succeed to use only puree and/or strawberry pieces to flavour the cake (and those recipes do look gorgeous), for some reason, I’m personally not offended by incorporating the gelatin. I was really close to going the purest route as well, but in this situation, I find the sweet strawberry flavour really reminiscent of my childhood, and I love it: I love that it’s pink, and I love the taste. Overall, it has a really ice cream parlour feel to me, and nothing bad ever comes from an ice cream parlour, does it?
On a sidenote, I get oodles of emails asking about slicing cakes, and how I get mine to slice “so perfectly,” so here are my thoughts on that–I’m not a cake-slicing expert, but I hope it helps in some way:
Tips for Cutting the Perfect Layer-Cake Slice:
1. All Cakes are Not Created Equal: The first issue is the type of cake you’re slicing–some varieties simply slice and serve neater than others. I find that very moist, light cakes, such as the Fluffy Vanilla Cake, tend to want to fall not so perfectly when sliced (although, we won’t hold that against it, or other cakes like that, because they are so yummy and uniquely delicious). That being said, I find that if I refrigerate those cakes for an hour or so after frosting, it does tend to set them a bit. The only issue with that, is that typically refrigeration butter cakes can dry them out a touch. Chocolate cakes I have no problem slicing neatly at room temperature, but they are particularly easy to slice when they are refrigerated for a short time as well. The great news is that oil-based chocolate cakes stay so moist, even once refrigerated, so that’s a definite win-win.
2. The Right Stuff: Slicing a cake with a sharp, long, thin knife is key for me when slicing layer cakes. I use a large glass of hot water to dip the knife into and dry cloth to wipe clean between each cut. This makes a huge difference, I find.
3. Method to the Madness: I believe that the method you use to slice your cakes is really important. I press the tip of the knife gently into the centre of the cake once I’ve placed it where the slice will be cut, then slowly begin to slice the cake with the knife’s tip cutting the cake just slightly before the rest of the knife, so that it is the first part of the knife to hit the bottom of the slice/cake plate. I use one relatively clean cut, but never a sawing motion. Once the entire knife has reached the bottom of the slice and is touching the cake board/plate, I slowly remove the knife straight out towards me, never letting the bottom of the knife lift from bottom of slice. To remove the slice from the plate, I like to slide the flat side of the knife under the cut slice, so it is supporting the entire piece, and gently remove it so it is resting on the knife. Then I usually lay it flat on a plate to serve. For photos I do often place the slice upright, which works for many cakes–you can judge the likeliness of that once you pull out the first slice, and go from there.
4. Size Matters: This may go without saying, but you’ll find that the taller your cake, the more difficult slicing the perfect slice can be, but it’s definitely not impossible. You’ll likely notice that two-layer cake will cut much cleaner than a 4, 5, or 6+ layer cake. Even a 3-layer cake can give you trouble if it’s too fragile or if you’re not using the right knife or method. If you follow steps 1-3, though, you will likely find that you can make it work.
5. Let Them Eat Cake: Just remember that my efforts to achieve super-neat slices of cake is mostly because I want to photograph a cake in its loveliest possible moment. When I serve cake at home, it’s not always neat and tidy because I insist on serving it as fresh and soft as possible. If it means a yummer-but-messy cake, I recommend just doing whatever it takes to get the cake to your guest in its freshest, tastiest form–even if it is a little messy. If you follow the above steps, really, it shouldn’t be sloppy, but some just may be cleaner cut than others.
I hope this helps!
- 1-3/4 cups (350 g) granulated sugar
- 1 (85 g) package strawberry flavored gelatin (such as Jell-O)
- 1 cup (227 g) unsalted butter, softened
- 4 eggs (room temperature)
- 3 cups (300 g) sifted cake & pastry flour
- 1 tablespoon (15 g) baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon (5 g) salt
- 1 cup (240 ml) whole milk, room temperature
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) strawberry puree made from frozen strawberries (puree itself should be closer to room temp, not frozen or icy)
- 3 sticks + 2 tablespoons (375 g) unsalted butter, softened and cut into cubes
- 4 cups sifted (500 g) confectioners' sugar (icing, powdered), sifted
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) milk
- 1-1/2 teaspoon (7.5 ml) pure vanilla extract
- pinch of salt
- 3 tablespoons (45 ml) strawberry puree made from frozen strawberries (if you want the frosting seed-free, you can put the puree through a sieve before adding to frosting)
- If you're making your own strawberry puree, remove frozen strawberries (about 2 handfuls) from freezer and place in a single layer in a flat dish to thaw slightly. Place into food processor and puree the strawberries until smooth. Stir to ensure it is nice and smooth and not icy. Measure out 1/4 cup for cake and 3 tablespoons for frosting, and freeze the remaining puree for another use.
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter, line with parchment, and flour three round 8-inch pans, tapping out the excess. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl or measuring cup, combine and stir the milk, strawberry puree, and the vanilla. Set aside. Sift and whisk dry ingredients together in a medium bowl, and set aside.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the sugar, gelatin, and butter on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
- Add the eggs, one by one, mixing well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl with spatula.
- Add the wet & dry ingredients to the creamed mixture by alternating--beginning and ending with dry ingredients and mixing just enough after each addition to incorporate, but not over-mix.
- Divide the batter in three, spreading it evenly with a small offset palette knife. If you have a kitchen scale, weigh each pan filled with batter, to ensure 3 even layers. Bake 25-30 minutes or until a cake tester comes clean when inserted into the center. Be so careful to not over-bake. Check cakes at 20 minutes, but not before, and once you feel it's almost ready, set the timer for 2 minute intervals. Let cool on racks for 10 minutes before loosening the sides with a small metal spatula, and invert onto greased wire racks. Gently turn cakes back up, so the tops are up and cool completely.
- Wrap tightly and store at room temperature for up to 2 days, refrigerator for up to 5 days, or frozen for up to 2 months. Best eaten day one.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip butter for 8 minutes on medium speed (I use "4" on my KitchenAid). Butter will become very pale & creamy.
- Add remaining ingredients, except strawberry puree, and mix on low speed for 1 minute, then on medium speed for 6 minutes. Frosting will be very light, creamy and fluffy. Add strawberry puree (can be cool, but not frozen or icy) and mix until incorporated.
- Place a cake layer face-up on cake plate or 8" round thin cake board. Place 1 cup of frosting on top, and spread evenly with a small offset palette knife.
- Repeat until you come to final layer and place final layer, face-down. Place a generous scoop of frosting on top, spreading evenly with a small offset palette knife and working your way down the sides until you have a thin layer of frosting over the entire cake. Use a bench scraper to achieve very smooth sides. Chill until set, about 30 minutes.
- Remove from refrigerator and cover with a final layer of frosting. Finish with any decorations of choice, or frosting borders.
*I used stabilized whipped cream (1 cup whipping cream whipped with 1/4 tsp unflavoured gelatin) and Jelly Belly's "Our Strawberry Blonde" jelly beans (combines the flavour strawberry ice cream, graham cracker pie crust, strawberries, caramel, and whipped cream...um, yummy!)
**A little tip to help make evenly spaced whipped cream (or other decoration) touches: Take a cake pan the same size and shape as your cake, trace onto a piece of parchment paper and cut it out. Fold it in 1/2, then again, and once more for 8 servings. Unfold, and gently place onto top of chilled cake, and using a toothpick make a little mark in the center of each "slice," where the whipped cream will go. Remove paper and keep for next time. Pipe your whipped cream over of each mark.
[cake layer recipe adapted from allrecipes.com]
Good luck & enjoy!