5/22/11

Strawberry Cake & A Big Fat Thank You

Dear Readers, Friends, and Dogs who can read: I'm going to tell you a story about a little cake that tasted like a strawberry Scooter Crunch ice cream bar. (So far I am the only person I know who remembers enjoying Scooter Crunches as a child.) The cake came to me from the pages of Saveur and there was something about it that spoke to me. It called for red dye and strawberry extract, two elements that people might snub their noses at, but I was so drawn to the below photo that the recipe could have called for a cup of hydrogenated soybean oil and a dash of MSG and I still would've made it.
 photo by Todd Coleman

I just love how it's kind of sphere-shaped and how the two layers are so fat and outlined in a coat of darker crust. I also love the jagged cuts, the paper plate, and what looks to be a plastic lid or tray or frisbee that it's sitting on. It looks delicious, fun, approachable, and unreal all at the same time. 

After two trips to two grocery stores and no strawberry extract, I sally-forthed. The extract was for the icing layer anyway, which I wasn't even going to tackle until the following night. In 24 hours, surely, I could find some strawberry extract.
I didn't. And as much as I would love to blame someone for this extract shortage, I have only myself. I simply couldn't make another grocery trip. And so, just like Kristen Wiig's character drives right by that cop (over and over again) in Bridesmaids, I drove right by two grocery stores on my way home from work. Besides, I knew I had fresh strawberries at home. Couldn't I just mash some of those up and use them?
My favorite part of this whole cake was what happened when Matt found it fully assembled and sitting in our refrigerator in the cake carrier. "Wait. What's our cake doing in the cake carrier?" It had been a busy week and I guess I'd forgotten to tell him that I was taking it to a dinner with my lady friends. It was a double blow. Not only did he realize that he was on his own for dinner (hardly very young-wife of me), but I was taking the cake with me too.

And so, that's how I ended up arriving to dinner with the below, what I call the Pac-Man presentation. 
Luckily, the cake was so delicious no one cared that Matt had scored first dibs at home hours earlier. And, if you'd like to see a photo of the cake fully intact with strawberry extract as it was intended to be, hop over to Lottie + Doof. He knocked it out of the park. 
And while I'm directing you to other sites, did you guys see this, or that badge my site is now wearing over towards the right of the screen? I won Saveur's Best Culinary Essay! Many many many thanks to everyone who voted for "In The Kitchen With Grandma" and to Saveur for recognizing all of the amazing blogs that create such great, thoughtful content week after week.

Strawberry Cake via Saveur (with a Bon-Appetempt option)
serves 12

16 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened, plus more for greasing pans
3 cups flour, plus more for pans
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 cup milk
1/2 cup seedless strawberry jam
3 tbsp. red food coloring (optional)
2 cups sugar
1 cup canola oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 eggs
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 1-lb. box confectioners' sugar, sifted
1 tsp. strawberry extract (or, for the extract-challenged, 1/4 cup mashed fresh strawberries?)

Heat oven to 350°. Grease and flour two 9″ round cake pans; set aside. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside. Whisk together milk, jam, and 2 tbsp. food coloring in a small bowl; set aside. Beat together sugar, oil, vanilla, and eggs in a mixer on medium-high speed until pale and smooth, 2–3 minutes. In 3 additions, alternately add dry and wet ingredients to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with dry; mix until combined. Divide batter between prepared pans and smooth tops; bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle of cakes comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Let cool 15 minutes, unmold, then cool completely.

In a large bowl, beat butter and cream cheese on high speed of a mixer until smooth and fluffy, 1–2 minutes. Add remaining food coloring, confectioners' sugar, and strawberry extract; beat until smooth. Place one cake upside down on a cake stand, and spread a healthy amount of frosting over top. Cover with second cake, top side up; frost top and sides of cakes with remaining frosting; refrigerate for 1 hour before serving. Serve at room temperature.
Print Friendly and PDF

21 comments:

Matthew said...

Sorry for Pac-Manning the cake. It was my only recourse.

Katie said...

Hey there, I'm a new reader, just got done prowling your archives and am pretty impressed. I live in Maastricht now (and am blogging about that at katie-thehungrytraveler.blogspot.com) but will become a fellow LA resident in the late summer/fall. I want my blog to become more cooking-oriented (as opposed to more observational as it is now) and I think your site will provide some much-needed courage/inspiration to get me in the kitchen. Congrats on the award, your essay was great! Your cake looks great, too. I saw the one on Lottie + Doof and though that color frosting sure was a show-stopper, I think I would actually prefer eating a cake with chunks of real berries in there.

Heather Taylor said...

this cake is still haunting me even a week later. i want it now!

Jenny said...

OMG, I do remember those strawberry bars, I used to get them in the school cafeteria after lunch! EEP! This cake looks just the right kind of insane. IE, awesome. Did you try Surfas for strawberry extract? I'd be shocked if they don't have it...

Madeline said...

I used to love those strawberry ice cream bars! The cake looks amazing.

Paola said...

I'm still waiting for my piece. Now after reading this I want it even more.

Meister @ The Nervous Cook said...

I can't stop thinking about this cake! Your version looks ridiculously off-the-hook: Fresh strawberries FTW, I think.

Megan Taylor said...

It was the best cake I've ever had...full of nostalgia and coziness!!! xoxoxo

amelia said...

@Katie thank you so much!! you will LOVE los angeles.

@jenny: I sure didn't! Couldn't make it to Culver City in time. & so glad you remember Scooter Crunches--what a name!

@Madeline -- yes!

@Paola: sorry. I'm a jerk.

@meister: FTW hahahaa

Jessica said...

BEST CULINARY ESSAY 2011! You so deserve it! Now where's the freaking book deal?!?! Great post as always!
- JESS

Mary Anne said...

First of all, I'm pretty sure "your version" was an improvement on "their version"!

Second, I think your pac-man presentation was totally "young wife"! I mean, after all, marriage is all about compromise (I think??)!

Mary Anne said...

p.s. That Saveur WINNER badge looks sooooo freakin cool....

Fashion Intel said...

Congrats on your win, you totally deserved it! Many more exciting things to come, I'm sure.

Sunday Taylor said...

So excited for you that you won the Saveur blogging award. You really deserved it! I loved your essay and I am so happy you have gotten this recognition. Cake looks amazing!

keepfeeling said...

dude. totally thought of this cake when i was eating my strawberry macaroon yesterday morning. i think i'm having a strawberry moment.

Christina said...

I got such a kick out of reading your post just now, because I think we had almost the exact same experience making this cake, within days of each other. Too funny! I definitely think things are almost always improved by throwing bits of strawberries in the mix. Just sayin...

changingmoods said...

That cake looks so tasty. I just want to reach through the computer screen and cut a slice for myself. Impressive!

jeana sohn said...

i can't believe i haven't commented here yet! i thought i did!!! i loved the cake so much. i can eat it everyday.

Lia said...

holy. crap. i totally forgot about those ice cream bars until just now. AND I LOVED THOSE!!!!! now i gotta try the cake!

michelle williams said...

i am making this over the weekend. i can't wait!!!! thanks for sharing

JennyTheArtist said...

when i licked the screen, it didn't taste as good as you described...