strawberries and cream cake
Conversation heart cake success!!!
I have been dreaming about making this cake ever since conversation hearts first landed in the stores this season. I mean, what could be better — you can have your cake, and eat it too, and read it too!! ;)
Although I have a bit of an irrational fear of baking layer cakes. So I played it safe and went with a nice small 6-inch cake as I’m working my way into the 8- and 9-inch territory. But you could easily turn this into a larger cake if you’d like! As far as the decorating technique goes, it couldn’t be simpler — just layer on zillions of conversation hearts! It takes a little while, especially if you get distracted reading all of the cute sayings, but it actually went much more quickly than I thought. And it was all the better with an episode of “Nashville” on in the background for some cake decorating country music serenading. (Yes, I’m obssessed – 11 episodes in one week and counting.)
I’m also completely happy to report that my experiment with the inside of the cake was just as exciting as the outside! But alas, I literally got on such a roll with taking photos of the outside of the cake that I totally forgot to snap a pic of the inside. (I told you, I’m a layer cake rookie!) But trust me that this recipe for a strawberries and cream cake is absolutely incredible. The strawberry cake is 100% fresh –no food coloring, no Jello, no cake mix, nada. Just a great scratch cake flavored with strawberry puree. And then of course, the entire cake is hugged with rich cream cheese frosting. Absolutely delicious. And as my friend said, it is way better than any box mix. Success!
So as one of the conversation hearts said, “I M SURE” that this cake definitely made my day, and I hope it will make yours! Happy Valentine’s Day, friends!
Strawberries and Cream Cake
- 16 ounces frozen whole strawberries (2 cups)
- 3/4 cup milk, room temperature
- 6 large egg whites, room temperature
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 2 1/4 cups cake flour
- 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
- 4 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. salt
- 12 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces and softened
- 2 (8 oz.) bricks cream cheese, softened
- 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 6-8 cups powdered sugar
- 1 (16 oz.) bag conversation hearts
Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 9-inch round cake pans, line bottoms with parchment, grease parchment, and flour. (**I used two 6-inch round cake pans, although there is enough batter for three 6-inch cake pans if desired. You can follow Wilton's guidelines for cake sizes and batter here.
Transfer strawberries to bowl, cover, and microwave until strawberries are soft and have released their juice, about 5-7 minutes, stirring once halfway through. Place strawberries in a fine-mesh strainer set over small saucepan. Firmly press fruit dry (juice should measure at least 3/4 cup); discard strawberry solids. Bring juice to boil over medium-high heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until syrupy and reduced to 1/4 cup, 6 to 8 minutes.
Whisk together strawberry juice, milk, egg whites, and vanilla in bowl, and set aside.
Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt on low speed until combined. Add butter, 1 piece at a time, and mix until only pea-size pieces remain, about 1 minute. Add half of strawberry mixture, increase speed to medium-high, and beat until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Reduce speed to medium-low, add remaining milk mixture, and beat until incorporated, about 30 seconds. Give batter final stir by hand, being sure to mix in any clumps on the bottom of the pan.
Scrape equal amounts of batter into two prepared 9-inch round pans, and bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes, rotating pans halfway through baking. (Or if using 6-inch round pans, pour 2 cups of batter into each prepared pan, bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, baking 25 to 30 minutes.) Cool cakes in pans on wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove cakes from pans, discarding parchment, and cool completely, about 2 hours.
Use a knife or a cake leveler to level out the cakes so that they are perfectly flat. Then add a thick and even layer of frosting on top of the first cake, and set the second cake on top. Continue to frost the entire cake with a very thin layer of frosting for the "crumb coat" (to seal in the crumbs). Then go back over the entire cake and frost with a thicker layer of frosting for the final coat. Layer with conversation hearts, beginning at the bottom and working your way to the top and center. (**You will want to work as quickly as possible so that the frosting stays moist for sticking.**)
Serve immediately, or store in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the cream cheese and butter on medium speed until smooth. Add the sugar and vanilla and mix at low speed until combined. If you need to thicken the frosting, add more powdered sugar. If you need to thin, add a teaspoon or two of milk.
**For easier slicing, I recommend placing the hearts in vertical rows instead of alternately spaced. You also totally don't need to eat ALL of the hearts. They can be decor. ;)
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