There’s no getting around the fact that strawberries make things pink, which given my obsession with all things strawberry flavored, inherently makes me a sucker for pink food. But there’s one pink food that totally beats all the other pink food out there: strawberry cake. It’s a southern staple, a cake I hunt for every time I’m in Alabama. I’ve been perfecting my recipe for several years, but was waiting to share it until after teaching it in my Southern Cakes class at The Pantry (so much fun!). And it was hard keeping it to myself. Especially after a certain magazine that shall remain nameless (shame on you!) printed a particularly icky version (strawberry extract? gross!). But the truth is, like most southern cakes, this cake comes from a humble place. Try finding a great recipe online and it’s easy to be turned off by the miles of recipes calling for yellow cake mix and strawberry jello. Hence the several years… But alas! I can now have my pink cake and eat it too.
It starts with a bright batter flecked with puréed strawberries.
And ends with layers of perfect strawberry cream cheese frosting.
Now go find yourself an 8 year old girl’s birthday party, while there’s still one more week of strawberries at the market!
SOUTHERN STRAWBERRY CAKE:
Yield: 1 three layer 8″ cake
10 ounces (2 1/2 cups) cake flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 vanilla bean
4 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature, beaten
1 cup pureed strawberries
1 teaspoon lemon zest
– Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter three 8” cake pans and line with rounds of parchment. Set aside.
– In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
– In another medium bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, and almond extract. Set aside.
– Split and scrape out the seeds from the vanilla bean. Rub the seeds into the sugar. In an electric mixer, beat the butter and vanilla sugar with the paddle attachment until it forms a paste. Add the eggs in a slow stream, beating well after each addition. Beat for 1 minute at medium speed. Gradually add the buttermilk mixture and beat for 1 minute at medium speed.
– Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture. Mix until just combined. Stir in the pureed strawberries and the lemon zest.
– Spoon into the prepared cake pans and bake until the cakes spring back when touched lightly in the center. Cool before removing from the pan.
STRAWBERRY CREAM CHEESE FROSTING:
1 pound cream cheese, room temperature
6 ounces unsalted butter
1 cup powdered sugar
6 tablespoons strawberry jam
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons∑ lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
– In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and cream cheese on medium speed until smooth.
– Sift in the powdered sugar, and beat on low speed until incorporated. Add the strawberry jam, vanilla, lemon juice and salt, and beat well to incorporate. If the frosting is lumpy from the sugar, bump the speed up to medium-high continue beating until smooth.