Remember in my last post how I said it had been a long time since I’d messed something up? So long, in fact, that I couldn’t recall the last time I had made such a big oops…? Well, ladies and gentlemen, it seems that as of late I may have lost my touch in the kitchen. This is horrifying news, for you and me both. In fact, the destruction of this cake I’m posting for you was so horrific that I was told to pretend it was intentional and pass it off as a wreck.
The idea (behind the cake) was GENIUS. I was bringing something to a pot luck bbq for Labor Day, and what is more summery than strawberries? The idea was a plain yellow cake (I used a Funfetti mix, who doesn’t love Funfetti?) enhanced in not one but TWO ways with the berries. Specifically, these berries:
I had a fantasy of strawberry cream cheese frosting and strawberry filling between the layers. Then I had the even more brilliant idea of making a 4 layer cake. Let me tell you, once I got over patting myself on the back for successfully torting 2 cakes, I realized what a fool I had been. The cake was too soft and fluffy (is there such a thing?), without having cut each layer in half, to support the weight of ANYTHING, let alone my lofty dreams of strawberries. Yeah, comedy ensued, but it took me a while to see the humor in it. I would recommend making this as a 2 layer cake at most. Please heed my warning!
So start off with your favorite yellow or vanilla cake recipe as a base. I used a boxed mix to save time, and see where that got me… But I digress.
Next, or while that’s baking, you’ll want to make your strawberry filling so it has time to cool before you need it for the cake.
- 2.5 Cups strawberries, washed and sliced into small chunks
- 1/2 sugar
- 2 tsp corn starch
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 tsp lemon juice
Bring the strawberries and water to boil in a medium saucepan. (Make your chunks of berries smaller than mine too. Learning from my mistakes, that’s how I roll.)
Then add in the sugar and corn starch and stir. Continue to cook until the mixture thickens significantly. This will take a bit, maybe 10 minutes? Maybe longer? Once it’s thickened, remove it from heat, add the lemon juice and stir to combine. Then let it sit and cool down.
Now once your cake is done let it cool completely before frosting it in any way. However, I say make the frosting and put it in the fridge to firm up a bit before the cake is even ready. Then again, to anyone considering making this cake – DON’T! This seems to be the kind of frosting that belongs on a cake with no layers, one that just wants to be drenched from head to toe in frosting, but not filled with it. I didn’t realize how un-sturdy cream cheese frosting can be, especially since I’m more used to working with buttercream. This is best suited for cupcakes or a one (maaaaaaybe 2) layer cake. Really like a sturdy bundt cake. You’ll see.
Then again, another reason (not that I gave you a first one) that I haven’t been baking lately is because it has been ridiculously hot in “the valley” where I live. It was seriously over 100ºF on Sunday before Labor Day. Who the hell wants to turn on an oven? (this guy, apparently.) I should have realized that things which should stay cool will not, in fact, stay cool if it isn’t cool outside where said thing is located. We just keep learning with each step, don’t we?
Let’s make frosting!
STRAWBERRY CREAM CHEESE FROSTING
- 12oz cream cheese
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 1/2 cup pureed strawberries
- 6 cups powdered sugar
Puree your strawberries in a processor. I have a mini one which is handy for stuff like this where I don’t want to clean out the full-sized one.
Those 4 berries at the top of my post went into this part. They made just over 1/2 cup (and I let that extra tablespoon or so slide. Who doesn’t want more strawberry flavor?)
Cream the cream cheese and butter in a mixer. Don’t mix too much or the cream cheese will lose its firmness. The problem with this concept from the beginning was that ideally the cheese and butter are supposed to be room temp, which they were. On a super hot day in LA, that’s not really a good idea. Should have been my first clue…
Add the pureed strawberries and mix.
Then add in your powdered sugar. After adding 2 extra cups (to total the 6 I wrote above) and realizing that it was a) not getting thicker and b) starting to taste like strawberry sugar, I had to stop and just put it in the fridge and pray. On a side note, Strawberry Cream Cheese (specifically from Dunkin’ Donuts) is one of my favoritest things of all times. This is a pretty good way to make it at home. Just don’t add so much sugar…
PUTTING THE CAKE TOGETHER – AKA the Massacre
Take 2 of your layers and coat with frosting. You want frosting on the layes so the filling doesn’t seep into the cake layers instead of remaining between them. Next, make a dam around the edge of one of the layers with a piping bag and a Wilton #12 tip (or equivalent).
See how the dam is running already? Awesome, you’re in for fun. Ideally, if you were using, say, buttercream, this would be a firm wall within which you would place your filling and it would stay because that is what a dam is for. (Do you have any dam questions?)
Put the filling inside the walls of the dam, and laugh heartily because you think mere sugary walls can contain the berries bursting within.
How naive I was at this point. Well not too naive, you see the dam walls have edged out even further than they started. No biggie, once I put the next layer of cake on top, with a little frosting smeared on the side that’s face down, there shouldn’t be a problem!
See? All frosting starts oozing like that… right? If I thought it was a bit iffy at this phase, I didn’t let on, because I stuck another layer just filled with frosting on top of that, followed by the last layer with more strawberries in between and, well, stuff started getting sticky.
Merely a flesh wound! Let’s see what happens when we try to cover the cake with frosting, shall we? What’s that? The layers keep sliding off each other, and now you can’t even pick up the cake to put it back in the fridge? You can’t read this anymore because you’re laughing so hard your eyes are filled with tears at the absurdity of my idea? Try using something to stabilize it, and then laugh harder when they (lollipop sticks) slide on a slant along with the rest of the cake.
Yeah. I just want to remind you that it took me a while to see how funny this was, and how ridiculous I was being trying to preserve it. I was using my hands to scoop up the extra berry filling and frosting that kept seeping over the edges. See how well that worked? It wouldn’t stop flowing!
Here’s the part I should have brought my camera for. If you thought that by some miracle this cake made it the 12 minute drive to my friend’s bbq you are sadly mistaken. Not only did the layers slide off each other near completely (fortunately they were in my carrier so the dome stopped it as best it could) but the “dowels” ended up splitting the cake into thirds. Now not only were the layers sliding off each other, but now they were doing it in 3 directions.
Once I arrived at the party I had to figure out how to “right” the cake somehow. Someone suggested a spatula, another recommended using a paper plate. Hygiene be damned (of course I washed first!) I used my hands to slide them back on. There was no saving it now, and no room in the fridge. Everyone told me it looked amazing, and I am grateful to have friends that are such convincing liars.
Of course, if you know anything about strawberries and sugar, you knew that this cake was the most delicious creation under the sun. Without much regard for presentation, the cake was still eaten and received much acclaim from my friends. While this might not be the best season for me to experiment with any other foods that are prone to melting (I was asked repeatedly if this were, in fact, an ice cream cake), the strawberry flavor could not have been better celebrated in any other manner.
Please follow my advice on this cake, (sturdier, less layers, not a hot day), and you’ll end up with a real crowd pleaser, no matter what it looks like.