French Strawberry Cake

Yesterday we celebrated the birthday of a very special person, Pete’s mom Ginny, over a delicious Italian restaurant lunch and had a wonderful time.

But a birthday just isn’t a birthday without a special cake, so I decided to make a dessert that we could have back at Ginny’s afterwards.

There were only four of us, and not wanting a lot of leftovers, I looked for a single layer cake recipe. With spring FINALLY having sprung in Minnesota, I wanted something fresh and bright in keeping with this new season. Seeing beautiful strawberries at the store, I looked in that direction and found a recipe for French Strawberry Cake, a variation of the classic French Apple Cake.

Exactly what I was looking for, not too big, bursting with spring flavors, and suited for a special occasion. Accompanied by lightly sweetened whipped cream, it was just right, and a cake I will definitely make again. In fact, now I’m wishing we had lots of leftovers!

Fast and easy enough to whip up on whim, but with an almost custard-like center and a sugar-topped crunchy dome, it has a fanciness that elevates it above an everyday cake. Enjoy!

French Strawberry Cake

Adapted from this Foodtastic Mom recipe

1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature

1 1/4 cup granulated sugar, divided

2 large eggs, room temperature

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 1/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup sour cream

1 pound fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced, plus extra whole berries for garnish

1 ½ cups heavy whipping cream

1 ½ tablespoons powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9-inch round cake pan or a 9-inch spring-form pan with removable sides.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and 1 cup of the sugar until pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes.

Add the eggs, one at a time and mix well after each addition. Mix in the vanilla.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Gradually add the flour mixture to butter mixture alternately with sour cream, beginning and ending with flour mixture, mixing just until combined after each addition.

Fold in all but about 1/3 cup of the sliced strawberries. Spread the batter in the prepared pan. Arrange the rest of the sliced strawberries evenly on top of the batter. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup of the sugar.

Bake until the top is golden and the center is set, about 45 minutes.

Let the cake cool completely in the pan. If using a pan with removable sides, run a butter knife around edges and release sides. If in a cake pan, run a butter knife around edges, invert cake onto a plate and turn over onto a serving platter.

Just before serving, place cream and powdered sugar in the chilled bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with whisk attachment. Whisk on medium speed for several minutes, until soft peaks form.

Slice cake and serve topped with a dollop of whipped cream and a whole strawberry. Makes six servings.


Red Wine Velvet Cake with Mascarpone Buttercream

With fresh berries being in season, the time is now for this pretty cake, which actually falls into the category of “naked” cake with its exposed layers and minimal amount of frosting (this was a new term for me and my first “naked” cake).

Given the July birthday boy and girl’s suggestion of a buttercream frosted cake for this month’s office birthday treats, I perused many recipes looking for something rather elevated from your typical cake and frosting. After changing my mind a few times, I settled on Red Wine Velvet Cake from the always solid Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman. And she’s got a new cookbook coming out soon—I’m so excited!!

With three 9-inch layers, it’s a good sized cake, one that I knew would easily feed my sweets-loving office mates. After making a few cakes lately in the 9-inch pans, a two-layer 8-inch cake seems so tiny! And you can cut slimmer pieces when you have three layers and still feel like you get a big piece of cake. Yes, please!

I followed the cake recipe exactly, but switched up the topping/frosting a bit. Liking the fact that mascarpone cheese was called for in the original cake topping, but heeding the request of buttercream, I decided on a mascarpone buttercream—the best of both worlds. It’s easily one of the most delicious frostings I have ever tasted, and not over-the-top sweet.

The addition of the berries was mine after scrolling through an endless number of beautiful “naked” cakes on Pinterest. Wait until just before serving to add them though. Enjoy!

Red Wine Velvet Cake with Mascarpone Buttercream

From The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman

16 tablespoons (225 grams or 2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing pans

2 3/4 (345 grams) all-purpose flour, plus more for pans

2 cups (380 grams) firmly packed dark brown sugar

2/3 cup (135 grams) granulated sugar

4 large eggs, at room temperature

2 cups (475 ml) red wine (any variety—I used a blend)

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1 1/3 cups (115 grams) Dutch cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3/4 teaspoon salt

Fresh berries for garnish

Mint leaves for garnish

Powdered sugar, for dusting the garnish

Mascarpone Buttercream Filling (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease three 9” round cake pans with butter or non-hydrogenated shortening. Line each pan with a round of parchment paper and grease the paper. Dust bottom and sides of pan lightly with flour.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.

Cream the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Add the sugars and beat until light and fluffy, approximately 3 minutes. Add eggs and beat well, followed by the red wine and vanilla extract.

At this point the batter will look like a somewhat mottled mess, but don’t worry. Mix the flour mixture into the wet ingredients until mostly, but not quite combined. Remove the bowl from your electric mixer and continue to stir with a rubber spatula until fully combined.

Divide batter evenly among the three prepared pans and smooth the batter with a spatula. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of cakes comes out clean.

Cool the cakes on a rack for 10 minutes and then turn each cake out onto the rack to cool completely and remove parchment. Once cakes are cool, if the tops are domed, you can use a long serrated knife and cut horizontally to remove the dome. The cake scraps make for a nice snack while you prepare the frosting. If making ahead, you can wrap the cooled cakes in plastic and foil and freeze.

Mascarpone Buttercream Filling (From this Southern Living recipe)

1 pound powdered sugar

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Pinch of salt

8 oz. mascarpone cheese, room temperature

Beat sugar and butter on medium-high speed until thick and creamy, about 4-5 minutes. Beat in vanilla and salt. Add mascarpone and mix on low speed just until combined. Do not overmix or the mascarpone will start to break down and the frosting will become too thin.

To assemble, place a cake layer on a cake stand or platter and frost the top with 1/3 of the buttercream. I found this easiest do by fitting a disposable piping bag with a ½ inch plain piping tip and making a generous piped edge around the perimeter and then fill in the center and spread with an offset spatula for an even frosting thickness. Repeat with the other two layers. Swirl the frosting on the top layer to make it pretty.

Store cake in the fridge, removing about 30 minutes before serving. Right before serving, top with a pile of berries and place some around the sides of the cake too. Stick a few mint leaves in as well. Sift powdered sugar over the berries right before cutting the cake (it tends to eventually dissolve on the berries, so don’t do it until the last minute).

Cut into somewhat thin wedges and serve (with three layers, your pieces don’t need to be large). Makes about 16 servings.


Homemade Dairy Queen Ice-Cream Cake

Cut cake
The August birthdays at my office are my boss Laurie’s and mine. There used to be a couple more, but as people have left and been replaced, we’re the only two (and now the year is nicely rounded out with at least one birthday each month).

As the office birthday party coordinator, I asked Laurie what she’d like for the celebration. She suggested I decide. Oh, the pressure! I hate making that kind of decision—the other birthday people are supposed to decide. But in years past, Laurie has several times requested Dairy Queen Ice-Cream Cake, so with my new found no-churn ice-cream making ability, maybe I could make a homemade version? Yeah, that’s the ticket!

There were several copycat versions out there, and I ended up adapting one from Browned Eyed Baker, whose recipes I’ve had success with before. My ice-cream, hot fudge sauce and whipped cream frosting are all homemade, but I drew the line at making homemade Oreos. That’s like trying to make your own Coca-Cola—it’s can’t be done.
Fudge Jar

Vanilla Ice-Cream

Vanilla Ice-Cream

The recipe may seem putzy and you do have to make it over the course of a couple days, but the actual hands-on time isn’t that bad—less than an hour total, so as long as you plan ahead, it’s no big deal.

One thing that bears mentioning, especially since my blog usually contains recipes that lean more toward the healthy side, this isn’t a dessert you should have often. It’s delicious and exponentially better than the Dairy Queen version that contains some not so natural flavors and ingredients, but it’s very rich and high in saturated fat, and best reserved for truly special occasions—like office or kids (both the young and old variety) birthdays and other events that merit a huge splurge.

Cake made of ice-cream!

Cake made of ice-cream!

The adult “kids” at this birthday party loved the ice-cream cake and all proclaimed it wonderful and much better than the one from that franchised shop down the street. Yay—success! I know you’ll feel the same when you indulge. Enjoy!

B-Day Cake

B-Day Cake

Slice 'o cake

Slice ‘o cake

Homemade Dairy Queen Ice-Cream Cake

Overall recipe adapted from this copycat Homemade Dairy Queen Ice-Cream Cake on Brown-Eyed Baker; Hot Fudge Sauce is also from Brown-Eyed Baker. Ice-cream recipes adapted from this previous blog post and Sally’s Baking Addiction.

Chocolate ice-cream layer:
2 cups heavy cream

1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

Hot Fudge Sauce/Oreo Cookie layer:
2/3 cup heavy cream

½ cup light corn syrup

1/3 cup dark brown sugar

¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

¼ teaspoon sea salt

6 ounces bittersweet (NOT semi-sweet) chocolate, chopped, divided in half

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

24 Oreo cookies, crushed (place in large plastic zip lock bag and crush with a rolling pin)

Vanilla ice-cream layer:
2 cups heavy cream

1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Whipped cream frosting layer:
2 cups heavy cream

4 teaspoons sugar

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Optional: Sprinkles or other cake decorations

Lightly butter sides and bottom of a 10-inch spring-form pan. Place a circle of parchment paper on the bottom of the pan and lightly butter it. Set pan aside.

Chocolate ice-cream layer: Place bowl and whisk of your stand or hand mixer in the freezer for 15-30 minutes. Remove from freezer and add cream, sweetened condensed milk, vanilla and cocoa powder. Whisk on low until cocoa is mixed in (so powder won’t fly all over). Increase mixer speed to medium high and beat until good and thick, about 4-5 minutes. Pour ice-cream into prepared pan. Cover and freeze overnight.

Hot fudge sauce/Oreo layer: In a 2-quart saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the cream, syrup, brown sugar, cocoa powder, salt and half of the chocolate to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low or low (enough to maintain a low simmer), and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove from the heat and whisk in the remaining chocolate, the butter, and the vanilla extract, until smooth. Let cool for 20 to 30 minutes before using (it will thicken as it cools).

Mix crushed Oreos into the sauce until well combined. Spread over the chocolate ice-cream layer and return to freezer for a couple hours.

Vanilla ice-cream layer: Place bowl and whisk of your stand or hand mixer in the freezer for 15-30 minutes. Remove from freezer and add cream, sweetened condensed milk, and vanilla. Beat on medium high until good and thick, about 4-5 minutes. Pour ice-cream over fudge-Oreo layer. Cover and freeze overnight.

Before you prepare the frosting, unmold the cake. To release the cake from the pan, invert the cake onto a plate or cardboard round the same size and wrap a hot kitchen towel around the cake pan, keeping it there for 30 seconds, or until the cake loosens, unlatch pan release, and slide the pan off. Remove the bottom of pan and parchment. Top with a serving platter and turn the cake right side up. Return to the freezer for at about 30 minutes.

Whipped cream frosting: Place bowl and whisk of your stand or hand mixer in the freezer for 15-30 minutes. Remove from freezer and add cream, sugar, and vanilla. Beat on medium high until fairly stiff peaks form, about 3 minutes.

Reserving 2 cups of frosting; spread the remaining whipped cream on the top and sides of the cake, working quickly so that the ice cream doesn’t melt. (If the cake gets soft, just pop it back into the freezer for 5 or 10 minutes.) With the remaining frosting in a pastry bag with a Wilton #21 decorating tip, pipe a shell border around the top and bottom of the cake (my cake was pretty much the same size as the platter, so there was no room for a border around the bottom—next time I’ll use a larger platter). Decorate with sprinkles on top, if desired.

Return cake to freezer until ready to serve—should serve it within a day. Makes 12-14 servings.