My older boy turned six on Friday and he had asked for a chocolate strawberry cake.
And the number of recipes online I pored over, trying to find the right recipe. There was this one from Two Peas and their Pod that looked good but didn’t sound quite so right. It was more chocolate than strawberry, I thought. Nothing wrong there but I was looking for a cake with more strawberry frosting. Also the cake layers sounded a bit heavy. I was looking for something far lighter, kind of like a Japanese style or Asian bakery style cake, which usually has sponge-like cake layers.
After quite a few days lost in that Internet search blackhole, I had a sudden thought – last year I had made a pretty good Black Forest cake for the husband’s birthday and the cake layers were easy enough and also nice and light.
I returned to the original recipe which was from the blog Natasha’s Kitchen.
9 large eggs, room temp
1 cup granulated sugar (I used slightly less than a cup)
1 cup all-purpose flour (I used cake flour, weighing out 120g which is what 1 cup of flour is equivalent to)
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Hershey’s special dark cocoa powder)
4 Tbsp (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temp
1/2 tsp vanilla extract (I used 1 tsp)
Preheat oven to 350F /180C
Beat the eggs with the whisk attachment for 1 min on high. With the mixer on, gradually add the sugar and continue beating on high speed for 8 min. It will be thick and fluffy.
Whisk together 1 cup flour and ½ cup cocoa powder and sift into batter, one-third at a time, folding with a spatula between each addition. Once all flour is in, continue to fold just until no streaks of flour remain, scraping the bottom of the bowl to get any pockets of flour; do not over-mix.
Gently fold in the vanilla essence and butter, folding as you add butter in a steady stream and scraping from the bottom. Fold just until incorporated.
Divide batter equally between two prepared 9 inch cake pans and bake in preheated 350F oven 20-25 minutes. It’s important to put it in the oven as soon as possible as the batter may deflate
Let cool in pans for 10 min then run a thin edged spatula around edges to loosen cake. Transfer to a wire rack and remove parchment backing.
When completely cooled, use a serrated knife to slice the cake into layers.
Strawberry frosting (adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction)
I loved this frosting – it uses freeze-dried strawberries (Trader Joe’s always has them, sometimes places like Sprouts do too) and so you don’t have to fuss with fresh strawberries. I had read some comments on other frosting that use fresh strawberries that it can be too watery. So this solves that problem by using freeze-dried strawberries. And yes, they still taste like strawberries. However, I found that the frosting was just too sweet (as a lot of things in the US are for me), so I may reduce the sugar more next time.
1 cup (10-12g) freeze-dried strawberries
1 cup (235g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
4 cups (480g) confectioners’ sugar (when making this again, I will cut down the sugar further. I had reduced it to 400g but I think I may try another 25g-50g less)
3 Tablespoons (45ml) heavy cream (I used about 4 tablespoons)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
salt, to taste (I used about 1/2 tsp salt but I would add more, about 1 to 1 1/2 tsp)
Using a blender or food processor, process the freeze-dried strawberries into a powdery crumb. You should have around 1/2 cup. Set aside. No blender or food processor? Then do what I did and place the strawberries in a ziplock and give them plenty of good whacks with a rolling pin.
In a large bowl using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle, beat the butter on medium-high speed until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add confectioners’ sugar, strawberry powder, cream, and vanilla. Beat on low speed for 30 seconds, then switch to high speed and beat for 2 minutes. Taste. Add a pinch of salt if frosting is too sweet. (I would recommend more than a pinch – consider at least 1 tsp of salt)
This cake was to have four layers. And essentially it was a cake – frosting – sliced fresh strawberries (repeat) kind of cake. Ending with whole strawberries on the top of the cake!
The birthday boy had the biggest smile on his face when he saw the cake. And that made all the hard work worth it!
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