Strawberry Lemonade Layer Cake

This is the last (and somewhat belated) post about strawberry desserts for a while. I worked almost all the way through the two gallons before leaving town, and I’m okay with setting down the fruity desserts. Though this cake was bomb.

I went back and forth and back and forth about frosting it with strawberry or lemon frosting. Seriously. There were a solid two days of making up my mind in one direction, then changing it, then changing it back. I was waiting for my students’ final projects to come in, so obviously, this was an important choice to make. Ultimately, since I made the Strawberry Crisp for the same event as this cake, I came down on the side of lemon. (I like lemon better anyhow).

Consequently, the cake is a hybrid between a bunch of different recipes. Pre-strawberries, I had decided to make the Lemon Drop Cake from the Baked cookbook. Then I acquired a billion strawberries and found inspiration in this Strawberry Lemonade Cake from Southern Living. So I went all Frankenstein in my kitchen and made the Baked cake, the Southern Living strawberry filling, and a lemon frosting of my own invention.

Flavor-wise, this was loooooovely. Bright burst of strawberry against a relatively mellow amount of lemon tartness. I’m not sure I was totally enamored with the cake density/texture, and the method of folding in egg whites is a bit more hassle than I’m a fan of. So I’m going to give this an A- mainly because of the amount of effort involved. And because I don’t have any 8-inch round pans, let alone three. I opted for 2 9-inch pans and then had to cut the layers, which was a hassle. I may invest in one of these layer cake slicing kits if I’m really going to get into cakes.

Also of note – good idea to assemble the layers (with strawberry jam), then stick it in the fridge for a while before frosting. Had a (predictably) hard time keeping the pink jam out of the yellow frosting.

Strawberry Lemonade Layer Cake

Grade: A- for complexity

For the strawberry lemonade jam filling:

  • 2 1/2 cups coarsely chopped fresh strawberries
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch

For the cake layers:

  • 2 ½ cups cake flour
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ cup vegetable shortening, at room temperature
  • 1 ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • Grated zest of one lemon
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 ½ cups ice cold water
  • 3 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar

For the lemon cream cheese frosting:

  • 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3-5 cups confectioners sugar (to taste)

Start by making the jam: 

Process the strawberries in a blender until smooth, then press the mixture through a wire-mesh strainer into a 3-qt. saucepan, using the back of a spoon to squeeze out juice. Discard  the left over pulp/seeds, and stir the sugar into the pan.

Whisk together the lemon juice and cornstarch, then gradually whisk the mixture into the strawberry sauce. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, and cook, whisking constantly, roughly 1 minute. Remove from heat. Place plastic wrap directly on warm jam, and chill 2 hours or until cold.

Make the cakes:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Butter three 8-inch round cake pans (or two 9-inch pans), line the bottoms with parchment, and butter the parchment. Dust with flour, and knock out the excess flour.

In a large bowl, sift the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and shortening on medium speed until creamy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the sugar, vanilla, and lemon zest and beat on medium speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, and the egg, and beat until just combined. Reduce speed to low. Add the flour mixture, alternating with the ice water, in three separate additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Scrape down the bowl, then mix on low speed for a few more seconds.

In a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Do not overbeat. Gently fold the egg whites into the batter.

Divide the batter among the prepared pans and smooth the tops. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through the baking time, until a toothpick inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean.

Transfer the cakes to a wire rack and let cool for 20 minutes. Invert the cakes onto the rack, remove the pans, and let cool completely. Remove the parchment.

Chill before slicing into smaller layers or assembling full cake.

For the frosting:

Beat cream cheese, butter, lemon juice, lemon rind, and vanilla together until smooth and fluffy. Add the confectioners sugar about a cup or half cup at a time, testing for flavor (I hate overly sweet frosting). Beat until creamy. Add more icing sugar or juice as needed for easy spreading.

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