My little girl is 5 years old. She is finally old enough that she remembers every last piece of our birthday traditions: how we decorate, the need for flowers, the appropriate balloons, our red plate. She made sure we were on track for every element of her special day right down to her cake.
Her very favorite color is blue. Blue. Blue. Blue. And yet, she wanted a strawberry cake. So we decided on a pink and aqua party + dinosaurs. Typical 5 year old fashion, right? A little of this, a little of that. All that matters is she loved it.
I looked high and low for the right kind of recipe for her cake and finally found inspiration in a somewhat odd place. Annie's Eats has an amazing looking Neapolitan birthday cake on her blog: chocolate, vanilla, strawberry layers all piled high with pink frosting. When I took a closer look, the recipe for the strawberry layer looked fascinating. I decided to double batch it and pair it with our favorite Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream from last year. Though the photos don't show it well, the frosting was tinted aqua as dark as I could make it without spoiling the fluffiness.
I used the last jar of our homemade strawberry freezer jam inbetween the layers. The cake is dense, very strawberry-ish, and the frosting is light and airy and just the right amount of sweet. We decided to serve it with Neapolitan ice cream and the Peanut thought that was just incredible: "Three Flavors in One?!"
If you're looking for a strawberry cake with vibrant color, look no further. The gelatin in the recipe is what really turns it vivid pink. It really was pretty in person and a huge hit with the party goers.
Strawberry Birthday Cake
Adapted from Annie's Eats
2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
2 ½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
2 cups sugar
3 oz. strawberry gelatin
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 large eggs
1 cup milk
3 tsp. vanilla extract
½ cup sweetened strawberry puree*
*To make the strawberry puree, process partially thawed frozen strawberries with a bit of sugar in a blender or food processor until smooth. If using sweetened frozen strawberries, no additional sugar is necessary.
Butter and flour the edges of 2 9-inch round pans, shaking out the excess flour. Line the bottoms with a round of parchment. In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt; whisk to blend and set aside. Combine the sugar, strawberry gelatin and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Beat the eggs into the sugar mixture one at a time, mixing well after each addition. With the mixer on low speed, add half of the dry ingredients to the batter and mix just until incorporated. Blend in the milk and vanilla extract. Add in the remaining dry ingredients, mixing just until incorporated. Blend in the strawberry puree.
Preheat the oven to 350Àö F. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake, rotating halfway through, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 35 minutes. (My cakes needed an additional 10 minutes. Not sure if it was my oven or the fact that I doubled the recipe or both.) Transfer to a wire rack and let cool in the pan for 20 minutes. Run a knife around the edges, then turn the cake out onto the rack and let cool completely.
To assemble the cake, spread a thin layer of good strawberry jam and top with frosting before adding the second layer. I'm not sure that would work if you used a frosting recipe thicker than the meringue version I did, so just proceed carefully!