It was hard to make this cake. Not because of the recipe, but because of the color of the cake. You see, I'm not a fan of pink because it reminds me of gender stereotypes that are pinned on people from the time most parents know the gender of their child. Gender stereotypes can sometimes hinder people from being and doing whatever they want because of societal expectations, and that bothers me to no end. Yes, all of these feelings surged about because of the color of this cake. Yes, I have problems hahaha. Moving on...
Anyway, I was really craving strawberries and cake, and I kept seeing strawberry cakes popping up on the internet, but they were all made with cake mix as its base and/or looked too dry. I wanted a true, homemade, strawberry cake that was sure to be moist and soft. I decided to use this vanilla cake recipe as a base and go from there. It was fun to experiment with the ingredients, but I was afraid of how the cake would turn out.
Fortunately, it came out almost perfectly. I say almost because I think I put too much purée in the batter and frosting because the texture of both was sort of weird... I can't explain it. The frosting was sort of gloppy yet smooth enough to place on the cake. Nevertheless, the cake was AMAZING.
I had meant to take a "fork-in-cake" photo so that you could see how moist and soft the cake was but I wanted to take a bite so badly and before you knew it, I had an empty plate with the lone, half-frozen strawberry on the side of the plate. A few hours later, I grabbed another slice. Yes, it was that good. I'm so sorry I couldn't give you that shot, but this cake was too freaking good. It was exactly what I needed, wanted and craved.
Despite its amazing taste, I need to experiment with the amount of purée required in the batter and frosting. As is, however, it is more than fine. I didn't get to decorate the cupcakes because I was too busy eating the regular cake. So, I will leave that job for the next man or woman to make :D...
In the frosting, I added lemon extract just to test it out. I loved how it gave a welcomed brightness to the strawberry. Oh, I want another slice right now....so, um, I better end this post now. Here's the recipe!
2¼ cups cake flour (9 ounces), plus more for dusting the pans
1 pkg (3 oz) strawberry gelatin (about 1/3+ cups)
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon table salt (I use kosher)
12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1½ sticks), softened but still cool
6 large egg whites (¾ cup or 180 grams), at room temperature
1 cup tablespoons whole milk, at room temperature
2 teaspoons almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 - 1 1/2 cups strawberry purée (I used 2 cups in this cake, so I think 1 to 1 1/2 cups would be better) [1 1/2 cups strawberries with stems removed (fresh or thawed) + 1/4 - 1/3 granulated sugar (depends on how sweet the berries are) + Juice of 1 lemon]
Prepare the purée: Place the cut strawberries in a blender or food processor. Add sugar and lemon juice (without the seeds!). Purée the mixture until smooth.
The Cake: Set oven rack in middle position (If oven is too small to cook both layers on a single rack, set racks in upper-middle and lower-middle positions). Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Spray two 9-inch round cake pans with nonstick cooking spray; line the bottoms with parchment or waxed paper rounds. Spray the paper rounds, dust the pans with flour, and invert pans and rap sharply to remove excess flour (If you use the baker's spray, you don't need to do all of those steps. Just spray and proceed to the next step).
Pour milk, egg whites, and extracts into 2-cup glass measure, and mix with fork until blended.
Mix cake flour, gelatin, sugar, baking powder, and salt in bowl of electric mixer at slow speed. Add butter; continue beating at slow speed until mixture resembles moist crumbs, with no powdery streaks remaining.
Add all but ½ cup of milk mixture to crumbs and beat at medium speed (or high speed if using hand-held mixer) for 30 seconds. Add 1/2 cup of purée and beat for 30-45 seconds. Then, add remaining ½ cup of milk mixture, and beat 15 seconds more. Add another 1/2 cup of purée, and beat for 15 seconds more. Stop mixer and scrape sides of bowl. Return mixer to medium (or high) speed, and beat 20 seconds longer. (Tedious steps but necessary to avoid over-mixing)
Divide batter evenly between two prepared cake pans (I weighed them out on a scale); using rubber spatula, spread batter to pan walls and smooth tops. Arrange pans at least 3 inches from the oven walls and 3 inches apart. (If oven is small, place pans on separate racks in staggered fashion to allow for air circulation OR bake them individually like I did.)Bake until thin skewer or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 22 to 24 minutes.
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened
1/2 cup shortening (can sub more butter for a less fluffy frosting)
3-4 cups powdered sugar (to taste)
1 tsp lemon extract (optional)
1/4 - 1/2 cup strawberry purée
Beat butter and shortening for 3 minutes. Slow down beater or mixer, and add powdered sugar one cup at a time. Once the mixture is well-integrated, add in the purée until desired consistency is reached.