This idea to create a strawberry cake creeped into my mind late Thursday evening. I began to envision strawberry buttercream frosting. Perfect slices of strawberries placed sequentially in a circle from the edge of the cake all the way into the center.
I didn’t want just any regular strawberry cake. Nothing made from a box, or some strawberry powder made specifically for this purpose. But, a strawberry cake made rich from actual strawberries. A strawberry cake that was fluffy and moist, strawberry icing that was creamy and sweet.
This idea quickly became an obsession and started hours of endless research. Luckily for me, I stumbled upon this amazing recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction and I had to try it. I was familiar with this food blog before, so I knew instantly this recipe would be exactly what my taste buds were searching for.
This recipe offers a strawberry cake made with a reduced strawberry puree that gives the perfect balance between a gentle and rich strawberry flavor. The icing on the cake, both literally and figuratively is the strawberry frosting made using freeze-dried strawberries that are blended into a powder and folded into the frosting.
While I am no professional at baking, I absolutely love it and the process. There is something about baking that feeds my soul in a way differently than cooking a meal for dinner. When I make a meal served for breakfast, lunch or dinner I can often times create it on the fly. I am able to add and change things as I go, creating something based on what I see as the meal is being prepared. I can also change the nature of the dish right in the middle, manipulating seasons and flavors. A lot like love, baking requires patience, precise measurements of the right ingredients, carefulness and the right temperature to bring everything together into something beautiful.
MY EXPERIENCE WITH THIS RECIPE:
When creating the strawberry puree, the recipe advises to reduce 1 cup of puree and reduce it down to one cup on medium-low heat. This process should take 30 minutes and at the end, you should have a thick strawberry puree with highly concentrated strawberry flavor. In my experience, the liquid began to separate leaving a thick chunks of strawberry puree at the bottom and frothy layer of liquid at the top. Once 30 minutes had passed, my strawberry puree looked like a creamy strawberry soup, rather than the thick and grainy puree displayed on Sally’s Baking Addiction. Given the differences, I followed the recipe as suggested and the taste was still amazing!
The strawberry frosting calls for 1 cup of freeze dried strawberries that, after blended, will leave you with ½ cup. For me, this meant that I had to use two bags of freeze-dried strawberries to make a complete cup. After blending, it fell just below ½ a cup, but I continued the recipe any way and it still came out very rich in flavor. Preferably, I likely would have used a little less? Maybe a bag and a half, or a bag and ¼ — however, two bags is still just as delicious.
¾ cup (1.5 sticks; 170g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
5 large egg whites, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
½ cup (120ml) whole milk, at room temperature
1/3 cup (75g) sour cream or plain yogurt, at room temperature
½ cup reduced strawberry puree
FOR THE ICING:
1 cup (10-12g) freeze-dried strawberries
1 - 8-ounce block full-fat cream cheese, softened to room temperature
½ cup (1 stick; 115g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
3 cups (360g) confectioners' sugar
2 Tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
salt, to taste
Create the reduced strawberry puree and allow it to cool completely. Store in the fridge to allow to rest a day prior. (At a minimum, for 8 hours.)
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease and flour cake pans.
Whisk all dry ingredients: cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together. Set aside.
Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the butter and sugar together on high speed until smooth and creamed for about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula as needed.
Add in the egg whites on high speed until combined for about 2 minutes. Once complete, add in the sour cream and vanilla extract. Scrape down the sides as needed.
With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients until just incorporated. With the mixer still running on low, slowly pour in the milk just until combined. Do not overmix.
Fold in ½ cup of reduced strawberry puree, making sure there are no lumps at the bottom of the bowl. The batter will be slightly thick.
Pour batter evenly into cake pans. Bake for around 24-25 minutes or until the cakes are baked through. To test for doneness, insert a toothpick into the center of the cake. If it comes out clean, it is done. Allow cakes to cool completely in the pans set on a wire rack. It is best that the cakes are completely cool before frosting.
MAKING THE FROSTING
Using a blender or food processor, process the freeze-dried strawberries into a powdery crumb. You should have around 1/2 cup. Set aside.
In a large bowl using a hand-held or stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, beat the cream cheese for 1 minute on high speed until completely smooth and creamy. Add in the butter until combined.
Add in confectioners' sugar, strawberry powder, 1 Tablespoon milk, and vanilla and beat on medium-high speed until combined and creamy. Add 1 more Tablespoon of milk to slightly thin out, as desired. Taste, then add a pinch of salt if needed.