For Emma's birthday, I could not envision making anything short of a strawberry cake for my little sweetie. She loves strawberries and whipped cream so I had originally planned on making this French Strawberry Cake for her.
However, when Paul came back from his European adventure, he brought the plague with him. Within 24 hours of being back, I suddenly had one of the worst respiratory viruses I have ever had in my entire life. Here we are, nearly a month later, and I still have not fully recovered from it! Luckily, neither of the kids was affected but I was so sick and burnt out by the time we were ready to celebrate Emma's birthday that I just did not feel like making a labor-intensive cake.
Thank goodness for cake mix! My Mom and I had a discussion about how useful cake mix can be as a quick base that can be "dressed up" to make some pretty darn good tasting desserts. Mom says she always feels a little "ashamed" to admit to using a cake mix - but I think if it tastes great and people love eating it, who cares?
Now, you certainly could use your favorite white or yellow butter cake recipe and make this same cake, but it is so easy to just open a bunch of boxes, dump all the ingredients into a mixer, let it whip a couple minutes, and then pour into cake pans. It took me about 5 minutes of work and then I went back to lying on the couch with my mountain of tissues.
After the cake has been baked and cooled, a simple whipped cream frosting is made - using a bit of cream cheese to help stabilize - and lots of chopped, sweetened strawberries are hidden between the layers. I added a little heart shaped strawberry patch onto the very top of my cake and garnished the sides with additional strawberries. Simple, elegant, and the birthday girl was very pleased!
The cake was delicious! The cake itself had a bit of an "angel food cake" taste to it thanks to the addition of the white chocolate pudding. Of course, this combination was great when combined with the whipped cream and fresh strawberries. It was a lovely, not-to-sweet taste of spring! Paul and I both loved how it did not feel "heavy" or "painfully sweet" like some cakes can. I will definitely be making this again - I think it's a crowd-pleaser!
Strawberries & Cream Cake
adapted from Let's Dish Recipes
For the Cake:
1 box white cake mix
1 box (3.4 oz.) instant white chocolate pudding (I used Hershey's White Chocolate Pudding)
5 egg whites
1 cup sour cream
1/3 cup oil
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the Frosting:
3 cups heavy cream
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
For the Filling:
3-4 cups chopped strawberries, plus more strawberries for garnish
1-2 tablespoons of sugar, depending on the sweetness of your berries
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 3 9-inch cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, combine cake ingredients. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. Bake for 17-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pans for 10 minutes before turning onto wire racks to cool completely. After the cake layers are cooled completely, they can be wrapped very tightly in a double layer of plastic and frozen for up to a month.
When ready to decorate, place the chopped strawberries into a medium bowl and sprinkle with enough sugar to taste. Mix everything together and then set aside, tossing occasionally, while preparing the whipped cream frosting.
For the frosting, beat the heavy cream in a medium bowl until very stiff peaks form. In a separate large bowl, beat the softened cream cheese with an electric mixer on high speed until light and fluffy. Add the sugar and vanilla to the cream cheese and beat until well combined.
Place one cake layer on a cake stand. Top with half of the macerated strawberries and then top with a generous portion of the whipped cream. Spread the whipped cream gently to the edges. Place a second cake layer on top and add the remaining macerated berries. Press down gently onto the strawberries to make sure that they are firmly adhered to the cake layer, then add another generous helping of the whipped cream frosting. Place the third and final layer on top. Generously spread the remaining whipped cream up and down the sides of the cake. Smooth the top and sides and garnish with additional strawberries. Place in the fridge until ready to serve!! The cake is best served a couple hours after assembling to give all the flavors a chance to really meld together.