Easter is here and May day is next week. Strawberry season is just about a month away. It’s time to finish up the 2010 strawberry jam in the pantry and make room for the new jam jars. I spent the day thinking about the season’s fruit: planting the bush cherries and blueberry bushes.
This strawberry later cake is a southern-style recipe, frequently shown with buttermilk and the red dye that is also typical of red velvet cakes. It’s an easy recipe, yielding a soft, tender and moist cake. And a great looking dessert to go with the pastels colors of Eastertide and bases of spring blooms from the garden.
Later, in strawberry season you could easily substitute fresh sliced strawberries for the jam. Or add sliced berries to between the layers. You can skip the strawberry jam in the frosting and frost the cake in pure white and garnish with big fresh strawberries. But don’t bother with the flavorless California strawberries that are ubiquitous in American supermarkets. Stick to the flavorful fresh local berries that are available only in June.
Instead of the cream cheese frosting, I had a container of classic butter cream in the freezer so I saved time and steps by defrosting it and added a tablespoon of strawberry jam. I filled the cake with a layer of butter cream and a layer of pure jam, then covered the top and side with the pink butter cream.
3 c flour, plus 2 T for pans
1 T baking powder
½ t kosher salt
1 c milk
½ c seedless strawberry jam (or 1 c pureed fresh berries)
2 c sugar
½ c (one stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 c canola oil
1 t vanilla extract
(optional: 2 t red food color*)
8 oz block cream cheese, softened
1 – 1 lb box 10x (confectioners sugar)
1 T strawberry jam (or 1/4c finely pureed fresh strawberries)
16 T softened unsalted butter (2 sticks)
Butter or spray to coat the pan.
Heat oven to 350. Butter and flour 2 – 9” round pans. I usually line the pans with parchment as well but this is optional.
In a small bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt, set aside. In another bowl combine milk, jam and food coloring (if desired). Set aside. With a standing (or hand) mixer, beat together the sugar, butter, oil, vanilla on medium, then add eggs, one at a time until fully incorporated. Mix on high until pale and smooth – 2 to 3 minutes. In three steps, add dry and wet ingredients, beginning and ending with dry. Mix until combined (be careful not to over mix.) Divide the batter between prepared pans and smooth the tops. Bake until toothpick tests clean, about 40 minutes. Let cool 15 minutes, unmold and then cool completely.
For the frosting: In a large bowl beat butter and cream cheese on high speed until smooth and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes. Add optional food color, confectioners sugar and strawberry jam , beat until smooth. Place one cake layer on a cake stand and spread 1/3 of frosting over the top. Cover with the second layer. Frost top and sides with remaining frosting. Refrigerate for about an hour to chill and firm the frosting. Best served at room temp.
* If you want to make a pink cake without using food coloring, (the jam is not bright enough to really color the cake) you can use the juice of a red beet. To can get the juice in one of these three ways 1. When you roast beets, seal them in foil; they will exude a little juice, save this in the freezer to use as a dye. 2. You can juice half a beet in a vegetable juicer. 3. Hand shred or process one beet, gathering the shreds in a cheesecloth and squeezing out the juice into a small bowl. Add 1 T of juice at a time to the recipe, until you have a good pink color.
Day 2: I can attest that the cake slices more easily and is delicious served cold.