Sunshine and Strawberries

Strawberries are everywhere in grocery stores right now. I think the worst part of baking a cake with strawberries is shopping for the beautiful red fruit to begin with. Finding all red berries, not half white and half red, and hoping for great flavor can be quite the challenge. I would love to sneak a berry, checking for authentic strawberry flavor instead of great texture and no flavor, but the idea of hiding the evidence of a little green leafed cap in my hand while I casually walk around the store, looking for a proper place to dispose of the little cap, is just not worth it. I will continue my quest of tipping plastic containers upside down and sideways to make sure I have the best set of strawberries that I can possibly get. I refuse to dwell on the fact that all the strawberry packages start looking alike after a while.

The strawberries chosen this time were a great choice. So was the recipe for a Vanilla Cake with Strawberry Cream Frosting. The frosting is smooth, creamy, lightly pink, and very tasty! In fact, if time is limited, day 1 can be making the frosting and refrigerating, as the recipe will state, and baking the cake. Assembly can be for Day 2. I think it is fun this way because more time will be spent enjoying the process, don't you think?

I was reading the new May 2009 Bon Appetit and a reader had asked the magazine to get the recipe for this cake from the restaurant, J. Morgan's Steakhouse in Montpelier, VT. I am ever so grateful to Louise Ziegler for taking the time to ask! The recipe will now become a staple in my kitchen for the Spring and Summer. The cake is chalk full of sliced strawberries, strawberry frosting as a filler, and strawberry seedless jam. The vanilla cake is dense and absorbs the strawberry juice wonderfully. Swirling spoonfuls of seedless strawberry jam into the outside frosting can be therapeutic and the result is a varied coloring of pinks and reds. This is a 4-layer cake that slices very well and will impress.

Vanilla Cake with Strawberry Cream Frosting

Frosting Ingredients:
2 (8-oz.) packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup seedless strawberry jam
3/4 cup chilled heavy whipping cream

Cake Ingredients:
3 cups cake flour
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
3 cups sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
7 large eggs
2 T. vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream
6 T. plus 1/3 cup seedless strawberry jam
2 1/4 pounds strawberries, hulled, sliced (about 6 cups), divided

Frosting Directions:
Using electric mixer, beat cream cheese and butter in large bowl until smooth, stopping to scrape down sides of bowl. Beat in sugar, then jam. Beat cream in medium bowl until peaks form. Fold whipped cream into frosting. Cover; chill until firm enough to spread, about 2 hours.

Cake Directions:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Butter and flour two 9-inch cake pans with 2-inch high sides. Sift flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda into medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat sugar and butter in large bowl until fluffy. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating to blend after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Add sour cream; beat 30 seconds. Add flour mixture in 3 additions, beating to blend after each addition. Divide batter between prepared pans.

Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Cool in pans on rack 10 minutes. Run small sharp knife around pan sides, then turn out cakes onto racks and cool completely.

Using large serrated knife, cut each cake horizontally in half. Place 1 cake half, cut side up, on cake plate. Spread 2 Tablespoons strawberry jam over, then 3/4 cup sliced berries, arranging in a single layer. Repeat 2 more times with cake layer, jam, frosting, and berries. Top with remaining cake layer, cut side down. Spread 2 cups frosting over top and sides of cake in thin layer to coat completely. Spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cake. Stir remaining 1/3 cup jam to loosen. Spoon teaspoonfuls onto top and sides of cake, then use back of spoon to swirl jam decoratively into frosting.

Can be made 8 hours ahead. Cover with cake dome and refrigerate.

Cut cake into wedges. Serve with remaining sliced strawberries alongside.


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