Friday, February 11, 2011

New Look and Strawberry Cake!

I am not sure which is better, so it's a good thing I don't have to choose.Last week, and a little before, I was hard at work redesigning the blog, making it more streamlined and reader friendly, while still keeping it lively and colorful. How did I do? What do you think?
If you usually read the Harmless Color posts through a subscription, take a minute to come on out to the blog and check out the new pages I have put up. And, a little assignment for all of you: comment.
Leave me question to put up on my FAQ page, to answer in a post, or just say hi and tell me you're reading! I have readers over Thirty Countries, but I have only received comments from three countries, ever. Take a minute and say hello no matter where you are from!
And what better way to have a grand opening for the blog's new look than to share with you the cake I have had for my birthday since I was twelve? I can think of few things more delicious. (And for those of you wondering, I turned 25 in January, so that is more birthdays with this cake than without it!)

The story with me and the cake goes like this...
 During my childhood I loved everything strawberry. I have mentioned here before that I was a terribly picky eater, and the truth is that for a few years even when it came to yogurt (one of my main food groups at the time) I only ate the strawberry fruit on the bottom variety, vanilla or plain. I loved strawberry milk shakes, ice cream, and jam, though strawberry milk was never a big thing for me because it was too fake. Luckily I began eating more than just strawberry yogurt before too long (though it probably seemed like forever to my parents), and by 8 or 9 I was eating most things. My strawberry dependence went under the radar for a while, until somewhere around the end of my 12th year I remembered it, and requested a strawberry cake for my birthday. My Mom, knowing I wasn't up for fake strawberry, investigated the strawberry cake options and found not a single recipe. What was my mom to do?
I think we talked about having strawberry shortcake instead, or something with strawberries on top, but my Mom is an ingenious lady, so she went ahead and invented what was lacking.
If the world had realized earlier, what was lacking, someone surely would have created this earlier than 1998.


My Mother's creation was so wonderful I requested it every year since, and after leaving for college, graduate school, and eventually marriage; I have made this cake for myself many of the years I wasn't home. I have photographs of this cake with a great number of my friends, and one of them, who actually despises berries, said of the strawberry cake I made my senior year of college, "This is the best food I have ever eaten." 
I think that's saying something.
So grab yourself a bag of frozen strawberries and give this recipe a try. 
And tell me how it goes.
I have a few tips cake making tips I will mix right in there to help you out with homemade cakes in general, so if it looks long and intimidating don't be afraid, it's just a normal cake and I am wordy. I have made this cake without a nothing but a wooden spoon and a bowl at least twice, but if you have a hand mixer or stand mixer, using it will be the best thing for both you and the cake. Also, frozen strawberries are chosen for a few reasons. They are usually sweet year round, they are cheap, and they break up easily during mixing. I have never tried the recipe using fresh, but if you try it, mash them a bit first.

Sarah's Strawberry Birthday Cake  yield: 1 double layer cake
2/3 cup butter, softened not melted (that's 1 stick plus ~2.6 Tablespoons)
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups sifted cake flour (or 2 2/3 cups unbleached all purpose flour)
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups defrosted frozen strawberries and juice, with enough milk drizzled over the top to fill the gaps if there are any (the milk can be skipped if necessary)

4 cups sifted powdered sugar plus a little
1/2 cups butter, softened not melted (that's 1 stick)
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 Tablespoons defrosted frozen strawberries and juice, plus a little
2 Tablespoons cream or whole milk, plus a little (if you have it, if not use more strawberries) 

Prepare two nine inch cake pans by coating them with a thin layer of butter, and lining the bottoms with waxed paper (or parchment), and then buttering the top of those too, and dusting all of it with flour. This will ensure your cake comes out of the pan cleanly, so don't skip it. The easiest way to get the paper perfect is to trace the bottom of the cake pan onto the waxed paper before cutting it.
Cream the butter, meaning whip it until it is fluffy and gets slightly whiter from the air mixed into it (this is why it's important that you don't melt the butter). Add the sugar gradually and cream this too. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until fluffy. 
Sift dry ingredients together; measuring the flour by using a tablespoon to drop small piles gently into your measuring cup. Since we do not measure in grams here in the U.S., this will ensure that you do not put too much flour and make the cake too stiff. When you don't have cake flour (who does?), always adjust by using 2 Tablespoons fewer for each cup of unbleached all purpose. I have calculated this adjustment for you above. 
Add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture alternately with your strawberries and milk. Beat for 1 minute, allowing the mixer to break up the strawberries, but leaving some small chunks.
Divide the batter (which will be a thick one) between your two cake pans, and bake at 350F for 30 to 35 minutes. The delicious (use fresh eggs!) and beautiful light pink batter will turn slightly brown on top, and is done when a toothpick or knife inserted comes out clean.
Set the pans on a rack and cool for 10 minutes. Carefully run a butter knife around the edge of the pan, and turn the cakes onto a cooling rack. Leave them there until they are completely cool and resist all urges to frost until then.
For the frosting (shown in the second picture), cream the softened butter and gradually add the powdered sugar. You will have a funny little paste, but this will eliminate sugar lumps. Add the vanilla, 3 Tbs strawberries, and 2 Tbs milk, mixing until the frosting is creamy and the strawberries are mostly crushed. You may want to add a little more strawberry or milk to adjust frosting texture, depending on your brand of powdered sugar. It should not be drippy, but it should spread easily and not be too stiff either. (Maybe try for stiff peaks.)
When layers are completely cool, place a dab of frosting on a plate to cement the bottom layer in place. Ice the top of the bottom layer, then stack the second layer on and ice the entire outside, working quickly with a flat spatula or knife. I always have a bit of frosting left, so don't worry if you do, just enjoy it.
Let the frosting dry, and enjoy in small pieces.
This cake is rich and wonderful.
Store unfinished cake in the refrigerator, or for a treat in the future it also freezes well.

So yummy.


  1. This looks so absolutely delicious! I want to try it.

  2. Mmmm... I might just have to make this for Noah, who is our strawberry lover AND the pickiest 3-yr-old on the planet. Your soulmate? Glad to know there's hope for the picky ones! :-)

  3. Seriously... how many cake memories do I have with your family?

    (1) Eating this cake for all your birthdays. The one that especially sticks out was when we you, Holly, and I slept in your living room and watched President Bush's inauguration in the morning.

    (2) Your mom's secret birthday cake, made entirely while she was on the phone. Well, until the Pyrex pan broke in the snow. :) Of course, you and I had nothing to do with this because we were too busy making a presidential slide show on the green iMac.

    (3) MY mom's secret birthday cake, made by Janna, Nina, and Megan... which was less than an inch thick. And again, we both had nothing to do with it (you weren't even in the same state, lol).

    (4) And, of course, your wedding cake.

    Who knew cake was such an important part of the relationship between our families?

  4. Abby and Saina, you will definitely love this cake!

    Darcy, that is not only a lot of cake, but also a lot of presidents...hmmm.

  5. Yes, this cake is delicious. I'm glad you posted it.

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  7. Looks amazing! (and hi, Sarah!) I like your new logo, but I thought the old one was great, too.


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