Thursday, February 7, 2013

A Birthday: Strawberry Cake

So we didn't celebrate the Superbowl.  We don't have a TV, anyway, I don't care about the commercials, and I wasn't really interested in Beyonce shaking her booty at me.

Instead, we celebrated my daughter's second birthday.

It's hard to believe it's been two years since that bright clear morning when I went for a walk, only to turn around and deliver a baby just three hours later.  We got out N's first year baby book and as she gawked at the pictures, I marveled at the fact that the tiny blob-like creature that I held in the hospital, convinced that she could not possibly be mine to keep, has become this spunky, opinionated, spirited, happy toddler, who selected the pinkest, poofiest skirt in the overpriced children's store (for which we had a very old gift card) to wear for her birthday. 

N. informed me, weeks ago, that we were going to have strawberry cake for her birthday.  I wasn't even sure if she liked cake.  But being the mostly responsive parent I am, I went scouring the internet for recipes.

Of course, after she had greedily licked the beaters while making the cake, and after we'd baked it and frosted it into a three-tiered celebration of the color pink, she didn't want any.  Wouldn't touch it.  Wouldn't even TRY it.  Wanted nothing but plain strawberries and a bowl of vanilla ice cream for her birthday dessert.

And of course, there were only four others there to eat this behemoth.  My mother, who has just recently rejoined Weight Watchers and agreed to the tininest of shavings; my husband, who doesn't really like strawberries in cake form; my son, who basically eats the frosting off of things; and me, still upset about the fifteen additional pounds I seem to have hung on my frame in the past year and pledging to follow a  mostly-vegan minimal-processed-sugar (I'm not entirely unreasonable) diet.

I cut two slices for the neighbors, sent some home with my mother for directions on freezing it for my brother (who had a Superbowl party to attend, and was doing due diligence on a platter of wings, no doubt), and there was still a half a cake left.

I spent the week eating it.  And finally, on the last day, my daughter took a bite of cake from the quarter slice left on my plate.  And demanded more.

Which pretty much just about describes her to a T.

The Brown Betty Bakery's Strawberry Cake with Strawberry Buttercream Frosting
(Adapted from The Brown Betty Cookbook, and from the beautiful baking blog Hummingbird High)

For the Strawberry Puree
32 oz frozen strawberries, thawed
1 T. lemon juice

For the Cake:
(makes a three 8-inch cakes)
4 c. cake flour
1 3/4 t. baking powder
3/4 t. salt
2 c. (1 lb.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 c. sugar
6 large eggs, at room temperature
2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
a few drops red food coloring (optional)
1/4 c. milk, at room temperature

For the Strawberry Buttercream Frosting:
8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
2 t. vanilla
2 cups (1 lb.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 cups confectioner's sugar
For the Strawberry Puree

Mash thawed frozen strawberries through a strainer until you get about 2 cups of juice. Set aside the mashed strawberries. Add the juice to a saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook until reduced to 1/2 cup.

Using a food processor or blender, finely chop the reserved mashed strawberries.  Add the cooked strawberry juice and lemon juice to the chopped strawberries and blend thoroughly. Set aside (you can even do this in advance and refrigerate it)

For the Strawberry Cake:

Preheat the oven to 350. Coat three 8-inch round cake pans with a nonstick cooking spray.  Cut rounds of parchment to fit into the bottom of each pan; lay the parchment on top of the cooking spray and coat the pans again, so that the parchment is now covered in cooking spray.  This will help with easy release of the cake.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the cake flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter until light and fluffy, then reduce the speed and cream the sugar and butter together.  Add the eggs and yolks, one at a time, beating until blended. Add 3/4 cup of the strawberry puree and 1/4 teaspoon red food coloring (if desired for a more pink color) and beat until just blended.

Alternately add the flour mixture and milk in four additions, beating on low after each addition, and scraping the bowl as you go.

Divide the batter equally among the prepared pans and bake until a wooden pick inserted into the middle comes out clean, around 35 to 40 minutes.  Let the cakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes before turning them out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

For the Strawberry Frosting:
Is your butter room temperature?  Make sure it is.  Same goes for the cream cheese. 

Once you're absolutely sure that this is the case, place the cream cheese in a large mixing bowl.  Beat cream cheese with an electric mixer on medium speed until soft. Add unsalted butter (cut into 1" chunks) and salt and beat until light and fluffy, using a rubber spatula to scrape the bowl as necessary, about 3 minutes. Reduce the mixer speed to low, add 1/4 cup of the strawberry puree, and beat until just blended.
Gradually beat in the confectioner's sugar, scraping the bowl occasionally, until well blended. You may want to try adding less sugar to start (about 3 c.) and increase the mixer speed to high and beat until the frosting is fluffy, about 1 minute. If you want you frosting to be a bit stiffer (I did), continue to add sugar.

Level the first layer of cake if it's extremely domed, using a serrated knife to cut off the dome.  Place this first layer bottom-side up on your serving plate. Use an offset spatula (I own a plastic one of these now and it was worth every penny of the $2.50 I spent for it) to spread 1 cup of frosting on the top of the cake.  Spread just a bit of the extra strawberry puree on top of the frosting, to about 1" from the edge of the cake.

Repeat this process with the second layer: level if necessary, place the cake bottom-side down on top of the first, and spread 1 cup of frosting on top.  Spread a bit more of the strawberry puree on top of the frosting.

Top with the third cake layer, top side (domed side, most likely) up. Frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting.
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  1. Cracking up because that is so the Wolvog. He'll ask for a cake, I'll point out he doesn't eat it, he promises he will, I make the cake, and he tells me he's too scared to try it. And... the cake is donated :-) The one you made is gorgeous.

  2. Great cake! That story sounds like Munchkin at 2. happy Birthday to your little girl!

  3. I would say that my daughter is exactly the same, except that I would weep tears of joy if she ever agreed to ingest a plain strawberry. Other than that, they could be twins ;-)

    Beautiful cake, regardless.

  4. Happy birthday to your not-so-little girl!

  5. What a gorgeous cake! I would say that I wish I had been there to eat it but I can't. :( Stupid, unreasonable fertility diet.

    Happy 2nd birthday to your beautiful baby girl!

  6. Over here, over here! You can send it over here! Strawberries in a cake are my two favourite things in one. :) It looks wonderful.

    Seriously though, I can't believe N is two already! Congrats. I hope you all had a wonderful celebration.

  7. This made me laugh out loud. N is my kind of kid. Happy birthday, little one!

  8. Ha, thats hilarious. Damn, if I were your neighbour, I totally would have helped relieve you of your burden! No use saying that now, though, is there?

  9. I am so intrigued by the fact that you don't have a TV! Don't get me wrong - the cake intrigues me too - but I kind of adore you for not having a TV. I used to not have one years ago - and I never once missed it. But I think of not having that" babysitter" for my are one fierce woman!

  10. Wow that cake is gorgeous and looks SO delicious, totally wish I was your neighbor:) Hard to believe it's been two years...time so quickly goes by us! Happy Birthday to your little girl...loved the story about her response to the cake, sounds like a typical toddler...they are definitely a test in patience at times!

  11. The cake looks lovely! And we don't celebrate the superbowl either.
    Happy Birthday to N! Mine LOVE cake, wouldn't touch a new vegetable or other food to save their life, but dug into their birthday cakes from 1 year on with NO hesitation.

  12. Two. She's 2. I'm still stuck on that so much it's hard to lust after the gorgeous cake (but I'm managing to multitask and do that anyway).

    Happy 2nd birthday, to a girl who knows her mind. But isn't above changing it. :-)


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