When I was younger, my mom made a strawberry cake. And it was the greatest cake I'd ever had. Fast forward ten or so years and I asked for it again and got it for my sixteenth birthday. The fond memories wrapped up with the insatiable love of strawberries made it the best cake I'd ever had. Again. Going in with these kinds of high expectations was really just setting myself up for disappointment. I realize this now. But in the end, it is what it is. Also, I hate that phrase.
The last two cupcake flavors, vanilla and chocolate, were a cake walk (heh. cake) compared to finding a good strawberry cake recipe from scratch. I found a few promising ones on AllRecipes.com but every one seemed to have Jello in it and when made, somehow weighed the cake down without making it dense. It was almost sticky-thick but not heavy. The first (the Strawberry Cake from Scratch from AllRecipes) was a disaster: not sweet enough, not strawberry-y enough. I'll take responsibility for it, though; I took some suggestions from the reviews and commenters and I will be more cautious about that in the future. The second, I started to fiddle with by myself. Instead of just pureed strawberries, I made The Cake Bible's Strawberry Puree/Sauce which concentrates the juices, adds sugar, makes it stronger. It still had Jello in it so that consistency thing was still an issue but it came out not bad. But it was only the second try so I soldiered on.
Next I tried to substitute strawberry puree for bananas in a Banana Cake recipe. What came out of my oven was a purple crime against nature. Let us never speak of it again. But it did teach me one lesson: strawberry puree alone barely flavored cake at all and there was a reason this Jello stuff was in all these recipes. In a last ditch effort, I attempted strawberry jam (with a Jam Cake by Emeril Legassi). It was nothing like what I was looking for; it had brown sugar, cinnamon and it had the darker color and taste that accompanies these flavors. It tasted okay, just not what I wanted.
So in the end, the one I modified and made more strawberry-y came out on top. The recipe called for a cream cheese (with butter) icing which just came out ho-hum and tasting a little like yogurt so I made a simple whipped cream topping for them. The cake is sweet enough and has a strong enough strawberry punch that the light cream works with it, just as real whipped cream does with fresh strawberries. I'd like to try a vanilla buttercream just to see how those two strong flavors go together but for now, this would be fantastic as a layered cake with whipped cream and sliced strawberries in the middle and whole ones for decoration on top.
2 cups Self rising Flour
1 cup vegetable oil
1 3/4 cup sugar
1 pkg strawberry jello (3 oz)
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 1/4 cup of Strawberry Puree
Prepare Strawberry Puree (*recipe follows)
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two standard 12-cup muffin pans with paper liners; set aside.
2. Sift flour into a bowl and set aside. In another bowl beat eggs then add oil, sugar, gelatin, and buttermilk. Stir until well blended. Add flour to the mixture and blend. Fold in puree.
3. Pour in pans and bake for 17 to 20 min, or till lightly browned. Let cool on wire racks completely.
* STRAWBERRY PUREE AND SAUCE
5 cups strawberries, fresh (or 20 oz bag of frozen, unsweetened)
2 tsp lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1/4 cup sugar (optional)
Freeze fresh strawberries. In a colander suspected over a deep bowl, thaw the strawberries completely. This will take several hours. Press them, if necessary, to force out the juice. There should be close to 1 1/4 cups of juice.
In a small saucepan (or a microwave* on high power) boil the juice until reduced to 1/4 cup. Pour it into a lightly oiled heatproof glass measure.
In a food processor puree the strawberries. You should have 1 full liquid cup of puree. Stir in the strawberry syrup and lemon juice. Add sugar (if needed; depends on sweetness of berries). The correct amount of sugar is 1/5 the volume of the puree (for 10 tablespoons puree, add 2 tablespoons sugar). Stir until the sugar dissolves.
*If using a microwave, place the juice in a 4-cup heatproof glass measure or bowl to allow for bubbling.
1/2 cup heavy cream, well chilled
1 tbsp confectioners' sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1. Place a mixing bowl and beaters from electric mixer in the freezer or refrigerator until well chilled, about 15 minutes.
2. Combine the heavy cream, confectioners' sugar, and vanilla extract in the mixing bowl.
3. With an electric mixer on low speed, begin beating the cream, gradually increasing the speed to high as cream thickens. (Do this slowly, or the cream will splatter.)
4. Beat until the cream forms soft peaks. Test to see if it is ready by turning off the mixer and lifting the beaters out of the cream - if the cream makes soft peaks that topple over slightly, then it's done.
Serve immediately or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 2 hours.
I've made my peace with strawberry and now I can move on to the next flavor. Lemon!!