Wednesday, April 20, 2011

*That* Strawberry Cake...

Most people like a good strawberry cake, but getting a good one isn't always easy. When my nephew requested strawberry cake with strawberry icing for his last birthday, I went searching for a recipe. Most called for strawberry jello or jam, neither of which are favorites of mine.

Then I found a recipe online. Real strawberries, based on Paula Deen's hummingbird cake. I don't know this blogger, but I'm so grateful for her posting this recipe! It's perfect: Lots of strawberry flavor, without all the fake stuff, and an easy recipe to boot. She added food coloring, but I didn't even worry with that. After all, who cares what color your cake is, as long as it tastes right?

My biggest adjustment for this recipe was to adjust it to whole wheat flour--which means adding baking powder and salt as well. I've baked this recipe in a sheet cake, three eight-inch pans, and two nine-inch pans, and other than the time adjustments in the oven, it's always turned out great.

Homemade Strawberry Cake from
Adapted from Paula Deen's Hummingbird Cake

3 cups self-rising flour
0r:1 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1 1/2 c. unbleached, all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/4 t. salt
2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cup pureed and strained strawberries (puree and strain, then measure)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon zest
4 large eggs, beaten

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spray and flour three 8-inch round, two 9-inch round, or one 9x13 rectangular cake pan, tapping out excess flour; set aside.

Prepare the cake batter: in a large bowl, stir to combine flours, baking powder, salt, and sugar. In another bowl, mix together oil, pureed strawberries, vanilla, lemon zest, and eggs. Pour liquid into flour mix, combining as thorougly as possible without over-beating. (I like to use a whisk and a rubber spatula.) Divide batter evenly between prepared pans, smoothing with an offset spatula. Bake, rotating pans halfway through, until the tops spring back when gently pressed with your fingertips. (26-28 minutes for 8-inch pans, 35-40 minutes for 9-inch, and 28-30 minutes for a 9x13 rectangle.)

Transfer pans to a wire rack to cool 10 minutes. Invert cakes onto wire rack. Re-invert cakes and let them cool completely, top sides up. (Or, you can rush the process by placing the cakes in the freezer.

Ah yes-- but this is a strawberry cake with strawberry icing. Not cream cheese. Not that cream cheese is a bad thing... it's a very good thing. But cream cheese with strawberries? Yum. I didn't change anything, except to add a little lemon zest when I felt like the frosting wasn't firm enough. Other than that, this recipe stands on its own... we eat the leftover icing like desert, and around here, icing is usually a path to cake.

Fresh Strawberry Buttercream from

3/4 c. unsalted butter, softened (1 1/2 sticks)
4 oz. cream cheese, softened (1/2 pkg)
2 tsp. vanilla
4 1/2 c. confectioners sugar (about 3/4 of a bag)
3/4 c. fresh crushed and drained strawberries

Prepare strawberries: place in sieve to drain out the juices. In large bowl, cream butter, whipping until fluffy. Beat in cream cheese and vanilla. Gradually add confectioners sugar, beating well (mixture will be quite stiff). Add strawberries, beat in gently. Mixture will immediately soften. You can chill slightly to firm it up if you wish to frost the sides of a cake or to pipe the frosting, otherwise spread immediately on cooled cake. Try not to lick the spatula constantly. (Heheh-- I think this might be my favorite direction for a recipe ever.) Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving. Yields enough to frost a 2 layer cake, a sheet cake, or 2 dozen cupcakes.

The only thing wrong with this icing is that I always seem to catch it at the "too limp" or "too crusty" stages. I'm sure it has a perfect stage, but I just never catch it there--perhaps I just need to chill it longer before I start applying it. It' s wonderful as one of those frostings you pile in the middle, and just let hang out, like shown in the original blog post. If I'd made my strawberry cake pink from fake food coloring, this probably wouldn't be such a big deal-- but since I didn't, I used this icing as a filling. After all, this time, it was supposed to be a celebration cake.

So that means I need to give you the recipe for my most favorite cream cheese frosting... the one my family always uses. It doesn't make a lot, and it's pretty soft, but that's part of its charm. We've been using this since we discovered it in the '97 Joy of Cooking, along with its most-perfect carrot cake. I think it's better because it's just not as sweet as all the other cream cheese frosting out there, so the flavors really balance well.

Cream Cheese Icing

8 oz. cream cheese, cold
5 Tablespoons butter, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla
2-2 1/2 c. powdered sugar

Food processor method: Combine all ingredients in food processor and pulse until smooth and creamy. Do not overprocess. If desired, stir in addtional flavorings, such as grated lemon or orange zest, or ground cinnamon.

Electric mixer method: in a medium bowl, beat together cream cheese, butter, and vanilla. Add the powdered sugar in three batches, and beat just until smooth. If desired, stir in addtional flavorings, such as grated lemon or orange zest, or ground cinnamon.

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