|Although this recipe is entirely dairy-free, you wouldn't ever know it, as I've fooled several people already with it. Hooray!|
Are we going to get right to the recipe this time? Yes. The story will come later.
Fresh Strawberry Cake
- 10 oz all-purpose flour(or 2 c, sifted)
- 4 oz tapioca flour(roughly 1 c sifted)
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 c strawberry stuff
- Don't worry, I'll explain this in the recipe
- 1/3 c almond milk
- Of course, you can use dairy milk; I just used almond milk here
- 4 large eggs
- 2/3 c vegetable oil
- 14 oz granulated sugar (or 2 c)
- 8-10 drops of pink/red food coloring**
Strawberry "Cream Cheese" Frosting
- 8 oz cream cheese
- I used Miyoko's cream cheese, but you can use whatever you like
- 4 oz vegan butter, divided
- 1 c strawberry stuff + 1/2 c granulated sugar
- I'll explain this!
- 1 1/2 c powdered sugar
First and foremost, let me explain the strawberry stuff.
I've had a bounty of strawberries in my garden this spring and early summer, so I naturally wanted to do them justice. My strawberry patch is about five years old, and that means that my strawberries are coming from good, mature plants. This means that the root systems have developed enough to get a lot of sugars and othersuch nutrients stored up to make incredibly flavorful berries. Even better, we've had a massively rainy spring, which is good news for fruits. To say that my cup runneth over with bright-red strawberries is an understatement!
A quick note about strawberries: they're excellent edible ground cover. If you like an unusual look, especially in a sunnier spot, please consider having a strawberry patch in your landscaping. Not only do strawberries survive easily in most climates, the plants themselves are quite interesting to look at, and do well over winter, so long as they are properly mulched and cared for. Even better, they do have some fall interest. I am a big fan of edible landscaping, and because my strawberries grow the way they do, I have lots and lots of them to transplant all over my yard. Consider the long game when planting strawberries, as they're meant to spread out!
To tell you the truth, this was a massive gamble considering that I had never made a fresh strawberry cake before, nor had I any idea on how to do it. I was basically pouring several days' worth of strawberry harvest into a total lark of an idea that may or may not work. With the right research, the right understanding of cakes, and the right tools, I'm happy to say that I was able to produce an incredibly tasty and tender cake. All of this has to stem from the respect of the ingredients...which, of course, has to start with the right ingredients.
It is no surprise that I am a big fan of seasonal eating. This is my absolute privilege because I have enough land to grow my own produce, enough good relationships with farmers and friends that I can get this good stuff, but with a little hunting and early-rising, you can get the good stuff, too. You really do want local, smaller strawberries because the kind you usually buy in the store are - while often big enough - tend to be flavorless in comparison to their homegrown cousins. If you can get this, awesome. if not, don't worry too much about it.
No matter what, you're going to take approximately 1 1/2 to 2 pints of strawberries, wash them, stem them, quarter them, and place them in a medium bowl. Sprinkle with one pinch of kosher salt and two pinches of granulated sugar. Stir well, cover, and let sit for 30 minutes, to overnight, at room temperature. Yes, you can leave strawberries out at room temperature for that long. Trust me, you'll get much more liquid out of it!
Once your chosen amount of time is up, puree your strawberries and strawberry liquid with either an immersion blender or a standard pitcher blender. Scrape as much of this beautiful red goodness into a small saucepot and bring to a boil before immediately reducing the heat to a simmer. You're going to want to simmer this for about 15 minutes, or until it's thick enough to coat the back of a spoon quite well. This will be your strawberry stuff! You should have roughly 2 cups. Make sure you chill this either in an ice bath or in the fridge. Don't you dare use it until it's cooled!
To make the cake, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F and prepare a 1/2 sheet pan with a silpat mat or with parchment paper. Sift together your flours, baking powder, and salt, and set aside. Mix together your milk and half of the strawberry stuff, which is one cup of it. If you'd like to add a few drops of red food coloring for the strawberry effect, I'd say go ahead and do so. This is an optional step, but I felt that it made the cakes look a lovely natural pink color and gave it a lift so that it didn't look too grayish.
In the bowl of a standing mixer, separate the egg whites from the yolks, leaving the yolks in a large mixing bowl, ideally the largest you have. Whisk your egg yolks together with half of the sugar until light and fluffy, and of a lemony-yellow color. Add in your oil in a thin stream. Take the other half of the sugar and add it to the egg whites. Whisk your egg whites until stiff, glossy peaks form, and fold in your meringue to the cake batter, one third at a time, gently as you can, so as not to lose any of the volume. You should have a gorgeous batter that is light as the day as long.
Sift in a third of your flour, fold in gently, and add half of the strawberry stuff-milk mixture. Mix until smooth, and repeat the steps until everything is incorporated, alternating, ending with the flour. You're going to have a large amount of fluffy, beautiful batter, that will all spread nicely into your cake pan. Make sure you don't have any lumps of meringue or flour, as best you can!
|It'll be such a pretty color when it's baked!|
Gently pour your batter into the pan, spread evenly, and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until done. Let cool completely before trimming the edges and turning out onto the counter so you may assemble. This cake freezes perfectly, but you don't have to freeze it to work with it.
To make the buttercream. add the remaining cup of strawberry stuff back to a saucepot along with 1/2 a cup of granulated sugar. You're going to cook this down at a simmer until it becomes - in essence - a jam. It's going to get thick and gloopy, but please oh please be careful not to burn it! When it's thick enough to drop in gentle clumps from the spoon, add half of your butter to stop the cooking. Mix well until it comes together smoothly, and chill to at least room temperature.
Whip the cream cheese with the remaining butter in the bowl of a standing mixer until totally homogenous and add the powdered sugar, whipping until light and fluffy. If you like, you may add a drop or two of vanilla or rose extract, but it is completely optional. The only reason I suggest rose is because I ended up adding about 1/2 tsp of my homemade rose extract, which is delightfully pink on its own. Next, add your strawberry jam and whip at a medium speed until combined, scrape down the sides of the bowl, and whip on high until you get the most deliciously delightful pink-colored frosting you've ever seen.
|This will make sense in assembly, I promise.|
The benefit of baking your cake in a sheet pan instead of cake rounds is that it's essentially the easiest cake you'll ever assemble. Simply trim the edges to make a lovely straight-sided rectangle and spread 3/4 of the icing all on top. Then, cut the cake into 4 equal rectangles and stack. Like this!
See? I'm not just a pretty face over here!
Next, all you'll have to do is frost the sides and top with the remaining icing and finish with any fresh berries, sprinkles, or any other embellishments you do so choose. I wanted to keep it really simple, so that's what I did. You can chill this to serve later, or have some immediately! This cake is enough to feed a family, share with your neighbors, or get you through one really bad night after crying in the shower. Listen, I'm not judging, and neither is the cake.
Thanks so much for sticking around with me! I'm so glad to share this recipe with you. I hope you try it, like it, and let me know how it goes! If you do try it, please comment below and tell me how it went. I can't wait to hear from you. Happy cooking and happy eating!