Strawberries. Sweet, luscious, red through and through strawberries. They herald the summer season of fruits, and do so delightfully as we move to the longest day of the year.
Happy Summer Solstice! Here we are at the longest daylight of the year, which means twilight here until nearly 9:30 p.m., tons of fireflies, and I’m loving it. My granddaughter caught one on her first try a couple of nights ago, and I remembered catching them and putting them in a canning jar when I was a kid. Of course, on the longest day, that means chattering of the birds really early as well, but their music is indeed welcome after a long winter. And to my friends in the southern areas of the globe, Happy Winter Solstice, and the celebration of the wonderful return of the light!
Celebrate the season with strawberries
My grandson requested a strawberry cake, not just any strawberry cake but one that would remind him of those summery ice-cream creations with the strawberry and crunchy cake-like coating. It was a tall order, but I came up with a lovely dessert that pleased everyone.
Always something special on Sunday
My mom loved making cakes. She worked hard all week, and on the weekends would fuss with at least one lovely dessert for Sunday dinner. Often cream puffs, or a pie, but she loved most making beautiful frosted layer cakes, topped with mounds of buttercream or her favorite seven-minute frosting, They were always lovely to look at, and a flavorful treat.
During strawberry season, she would make a wonderful cake using the wild strawberries that grew by our home. They were tiny little gems, the size of your pinkie nail, and picking them was quite tedious! But their flavor was beyond anything the commercial growers could produce. Precious as they were, I think my mom thought tossing them in a cake would be the best way to extend the harvest to all seven of us!
The elusive recipe
I could not find her recipe for this cake in her box, so I set about experimenting. While there are a few wild strawberries around here, not nearly enough to consider using in a cake, so the farmers market would have to do. This year, the strawberries are the best I’ve tasted in years, so I was hopeful.
A slow start
My first attempt was a failure. I just used my mom’s yellow cake recipe and tossed in chopped strawberries. The cakes fell in the middle, drastically, I’m assuming because the strawberries released too much liquid. I cried, but just for a few moments. Now, this became a challenge.
So, now what do I do?
I looked in a few cookbooks, not much there, and then on-line, and the recipes were all over the place. Many used strawberry Jell-O, which I immediately rejected for its artificial flavors. A lot of them started with a cake mix, and for the same reason I passed them by as well. I noticed some of the scratch cakes called for making a strawberry puree and reducing it to concentrate the strawberry flavor. This sounded reasonable to me, since this would reduce the amount of liquid the strawberries exuded. Maybe my cake wouldn’t fall.
Daughter, the baker, to the rescue
Then I called my daughter, who loves to bake as much as her grandmother did, and she told me that if I wanted to ramp up the flavor, I needed to add some freeze-dried strawberries (not dehydrated), which are sometimes hard to find, but she told me where to look. She said to add twice as much as I thought I should. As for making it taste like those ice-cream treats, she said to pick up some of those strawberry flavored wafer cookies, and they would be great sprinkled on top or in the filling. I actually found some made with real strawberries! Cream cheese frosting seemed to be the way to go, so I decided to use my white chocolate cream cheese frosting and add some more of the freeze-dried strawberries. OK, I had a plan.
A few changes, here and there
I adapted a recipe I found from Life, Love, and Sugar baking site for the cake. This called for making the puree, but I change a few things. I used a non-fat yoghurt rather than the sour cream because that is what I had on hand. I also used oat milk rather than dairy, and cake flour rather than all-purpose. To enhance the strawberry flavor more, I added a cup of pulverized freeze-dried strawberries to the batter as well as to the frosting. I used the food processor to grind them to where I wanted, not a powder, but with some texture left. Some of her reviews said the cake was quite dense. To further lighten, I separated the eggs and whipped the whites to fold in at the end.
Did it taste like my mother’s cake? Nope, but it was bursting with strawberry flavor and delicious, and maybe my memory is a bit off after all this time. Did it taste like a strawberry ice-cream bar? You bet it did, and everyone was delighted with the flavor and texture. I will definitely make this cake again, but only when the strawberries are in season.
Great minds and all that!
A final, humorous note: This morning, as I was finishing this post, I spotted a very similar cake on my friend Terrie’s wonderful site Comfort du Jour! The cakes could have been twins to look at, but vastly different in flavor! Great minds and all that! Her twist, and of course there is always one, was to create a Strawberry Daiquiri Cake, and by the looks of it, and some trial and error, she definitely succeeded in creating the flavors she wanted with rum and boozy strawberry daiquiri syrup to soak the bake layers. Take a cruise over to see her luscious cake, with much more detailed instructions than mine! I even forgot to take a photo once we cut the cake!
Summer Solstice Strawberry Crunch Cake
- 3 cups of chopped strawberries
- ¾ cup sour cream or yoghurt, or plant yoghurt
- ¼ cup milk, or plant milk
- 4 large eggs, separated
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 2 ½ cups cake flour
- 1 ½ cups sugar
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- ½ tsp. baking soda
- ½ tsp. salt
- ¾ cups unsalted butter or vegan butter
- 1 cup pulverized freeze-dried strawberries
- Pink or red food coloring, optional
- 1 ½ recipe white chocolate cream cheese frosting, below
- About 8 oz. strawberry wafer cookies, more or less
- 1 cup more chopped fresh strawberries, and a few to garnish
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare three 8” cake pans by buttering, flouring, lining with parchment, and buttering and flouring that as well. Set aside.
First, make the strawberry reduction. In a food processor, purée the berries until they are smooth, about 1 ½ cups. Slow boil over medium heat until thick and reduced by half. Let this cool.
Combine the strawberry reduction, yoghurt, milk, egg yolks, and vanilla in a large bowl.
In the bowl of your stand mixer (or a large bowl if beating with a hand mixer) combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. On the lowest speed, add the butter a tablespoon at a time, making sure it is incorporated before adding the next piece. The mixture will start clumping together like beach sand. Add the freeze-dried strawberries. This is going to start smelling really good just about now.
Slowly add the strawberry mixture, a little at a time, also on low speed, and scraping down the bowl. You can add food coloring here if you want a deeper color. I didn’t bother because I was looking for flavor not color, but it is your cake!
Beat the egg whites to very soft peaks, then gently fold into the batter.
Divide among the prepared cake pans and pop in the oven, setting the timer for 25 minutes for the first check. Bake until that ever-present toothpick comes out clean.
Let cool completely. In the meantime, crush up the wafer cookies.
Make the frosting, below. To assemble the cake, place on cake plate and add some of the cream cheese frosting to the top of that layer, along with a half cup of the fresh chopped strawberries. Add a nice layer of the cookie crumbs on top, them repeat with the second layer, place the last layer on, and frost the entire outside of the cake. Get as fancy as you like, and garnish with a few more pretty strawberries.
Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting
This is 1 ½ recipe of my usual frosting, with freeze-dried strawberries added. Make sure all ingredients are soft and at room temperature.
- 2 1/2 8 oz. (226 g.) bricks cream cheese, room temperature (total 20 oz. or 565 g.)
- 12 oz. white chocolate
- 1 ½ sticks butter, room temperature
- 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
- 3 cups 10X confectioners sugar
- 2 cups freeze-dried strawberries, pulverized
In a double boiler, melt white chocolate. Set aside to cool slightly.
In the stand of an electric mixer (or use a hand mixer) beat together cream cheese and butter, both softened at room temperature.
Once nice and fluffy, add the chocolate and vanilla extract. Sprinkle in confectioners’ sugar and the strawberries.
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