Recipes

Strawberry Chocolate Cake

April 16, 2015

RECIPE: Strawberry Chocolate Cake

Right after Christmas, begins the countdown to March. Why? Because someone thought it would be funny if my entire family was born in March. I, however, am the lone wolf. I was born in July. So you’re welcome family. In the past, I’d always spend days trying to find the right birthday card. This fabled card would contain the perfect amount of wit, humor and sass. If I didn’t stumble upon anything that made me smile, then I’d go for the next best thing. I don’t have any pregnant friends at the moment, but it’s always fun to send one of those to your brother on his birthday. I’m kooky like that. So even if you get the card, you still have to remember to send the card out in time. Sometimes March would just appear out of nowhere and my Dad’s birthday, a mere four days into the month, would arrive and no card had been sent. Then I’d have to plan on my Mom and brother’s birthdays. Their birthdays are one right after the other. And even though I’ve known them my entire life, you would think I would remember who’s is who’s. But I don’t always. It gets confusing. I’d say my Mom’s was first because she was first. But then I’d doubt myself and say my brother was first because he’s the younger one and what a great way to ruin a birthday by making your mother sit in pain as people stare at her in a gown, all sweaty, yelling at her to “Push!!” When I met Lance and he told me his birthday was the March 8, I knew right there that I’d more than likely be marrying the guy. It just made sense. Stupid March Birthdays.

Strawberry Chocolate Cake

Update: I still failed at cards this year. And phone calls. I got one card out. Although for the last birthday, I blame getting sick at the very end. Maybe one year I’ll get it all done perfectly. Maybe I should start planning now! You would think that for someone who loves making to-do lists and planning as much as me, I’d have my act together. But we all have our weaknesses. Maybe it’s my subconscious telling all those March birthdays to screw themselves and spread out and share some birthday love with the other eleven months in the year. I’ve only just figured out that it’s much easier to do cakes. Crazy right? I guess that’s just how my foodie brain works. Most of the Christmas gifts I give are usually food themed too. Interesting. I ended up making just two cakes this March. It’s hard to get everyone together. Or mail a cake.

Strawberry Chocolate Cake

Lance’s birthday was first. That was the one where I attempted to make the Coconut Disaster cake. Not a total disaster, but also not what I wanted. And I’m sure a bit of a letdown to Lance. I also know I’m much harder on myself. So when I knew I’d be heading home to my parents for my Mom’s birthday, I took the opportunity to redeem myself with another cake. This time, I stuck to what I knew would work. And of course it did (thank God!). Knowing that I was making a cake, I thought about what kind of cake I could do. I’d be able to get three birthday people at once. So something somewhat generic that everyone would love, but also something easy to decorate, but beautiful to look at. I ended up going with strawberries and chocolate. It’s Spring. The perfect time for that. And who doesn’t like those two ingredients? (Ok, my Uncle for one. He’s allergic to chocolate. That’s up there with being allergic to bacon. I don’t think I could go on.)

Chocolate Ganache poured over Strawberry Buttercream

You want to start with the cake first. For this particular cake, I wanted to soak it in strawberry syrup, so I knew I wanted to use a sponge cake. A cake that isn’t really all that tasty, but can take a good soaking and throw all that flavor back in your face. Ever since I learned how to make a Genoise in culinary school, it’s all I ever make for a sponge cake. It only take a few ingredients, most of which I usually have on hand, and isn’t all that much work if you’ve got a stand mixer. Seriously, you just throw everything in the mixer and do nothing for 20 minutes. So easy.

Freeze dried strawberries pulverized into dust

Strawberry syrup sounds much fancier and complicated than it actually is. Throw some strawberries into a pot of sugar and water, bring to a boil, turn it off and then you just let it soak for a day. If you’ve got a strawberry liqueur on hand, a drop of that wouldn’t hurt at all. If you end up with any extra syrup, the best thing to do is strain it and then leave it in your fridge. Use it for making cocktails. You’ll thank me later. I also like to make the syrup ahead of time. Often what I will do is make the syrup and then pop it into the fridge, strawberries and all, and let it sit for a couple days to help intensify the flavor.

Strawberry Buttercream

Then there’s the buttercream. Light, fluffy, amazing buttercream. It’s what dreams physically look like. Traditionally, there are three buttercreams: French, Italian and Swiss. There’s technically a fourth if you include American. But I don’t. I’ll explain at a later date. Let’s just focus on the real buttercream on hand. Swiss buttercream is where my heart lies. It’s airy and wispy, sweet and buttery and full of flavor. I have a base buttercream recipe I’ve come to love and so I always end up modifying that to get the desired outcome. This time I experimented (this time it worked) with some freeze dried strawberries. If you can find them, use them. I just crushed them up with the handle of a wooden spoon until dusty. It helps flavor and color the buttercream with effecting the texture.

Making chocolate ganache

Lastly is chocolate. Ganache, to be exact. There is no chocolate in the cake. Because the chocolate is ON the cake. The reason is two-fold. First, it just looks really great. Second, I’m just lazy when it comes to decorating a cake. But this was a birthday cake, so I added some fresh strawberries layered into the cake and some on top. A nice bright contrast with the dark brown coating.

Sliced

So how did it turn out? I would say pretty darn great. Lots of strawberry flavor, a light cake, a sweet but not overly filling frosting and deep, rich chocolate. Great with a glass of wine or a cup of coffee. And lastly, Happy Birthday!

Strawberry Chocolate Cake
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Sponge cake soaked with Strawberry Syrup and layered with buttercream topped off with dark chocolate ganache. Simple. Delicious.
Servings Prep Time
8 big slices 5 hours
Cook Time
1 hour
Servings Prep Time
8 big slices 5 hours
Cook Time
1 hour
Strawberry Chocolate Cake
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
You:
Rate this recipe!
Print Recipe
Sponge cake soaked with Strawberry Syrup and layered with buttercream topped off with dark chocolate ganache. Simple. Delicious.
Servings Prep Time
8 big slices 5 hours
Cook Time
1 hour
Servings Prep Time
8 big slices 5 hours
Cook Time
1 hour
Ingredients
Strawberry Syrup
Genoise (Sponge Cake)
Strawberry Buttercream
Dark Chocolate Ganache
Assembly/Finishing
Servings: big slices
Units:
Instructions
Strawberry Syrup
  1. Take a medium sized pot. Get all your ingredients for the syrup and put them in said pot. Give it a quick stir. Put it on your stove, crank up the heat and bring it all to a boil. Turn the heat off and let it cool.
Genoise (Sponge Cake)
  1. Preheat your oven to 350ºF.
  2. Take the bowl of a stand mixer and weigh in the eggs and sugar. Attach the whisk, put it all into position and turn the speed all the way up. Set a timer for 10 minutes.
  3. During those 10 minutes, weigh out the flour into a bowl and get a sieve or sifter handy. It's also a good time to get your trays set up.
  4. When your timer goes off, turn the speed of your mixer down to medium and set the timer for another 10 minutes.
  5. You now have 10 minutes to do something. Pay some bills, read an article, do some online shopping, pour yourself a glass of wine. The possibilities are nearly endless.
  6. Once your timer goes off again, stop the mixer. Take the bowl off and sift the flour over. With a spatula, quickly, but gently, fold the flour into the mixture trying not to deflate it. It will shrink in size a bit because it's impossible to not deflate it a little.
  7. Divide the batter as evenly as you can among three 7-inch cake rings/cake pans. If you're using rings, don't grease them. If you're using a cake pan that doesn't have a removable bottom, spray the bottom only, and put a circle of parchment there and then spray the top of the parchment only. You don't want to grease the sides so that the batter has something to crawl up and latch onto as it rises. If it's greased, it will have trouble and won't be as tall.
  8. Slide the battered trays into the oven and bake for about 25-30 minutes, rotating halfway through. You want the cakes to spring back when touched in the center and they will be a light golden brown. When in doubt, use the good ol toothpick method. If it comes out clean or with a couple crumbs on it, then the cake is done. I have a habit of setting the timer for 10 minutes, rotating, another 10, and then I check the cake in 5 minute intervals.
  9. Let the cakes cool for a bit in the pans and then remove and cool completely on a rack. If they aren't coming out with ease, run a thin spatula or paring knife around the inside between the cake and the vessel. This will help loosen it all up.
  10. You can make the cake well ahead of time. When they are cooled completely, wrap tightly in plastic and store in the freezer for up to a month. If you plan on using the next day or two, you can leave them wrapped out on the counter.
Strawberry Buttercream
  1. I find it best to start with having a few things at the ready: an instant thermometer, a spatula, the bowl of your stand mixer and whisk attachement.
  2. First up, you want to grab a small pot. In that pot, scale in your egg whites and sugar. Put it on your stove and turn the heat to medium low. Use the spatula to stir it constantly. If you need to step away just move the pot off the heat. Otherwise, keep moving the eggs and sugar around. As it becomes more fluid, take the temperature of the mixture. Once it reaches 160ºF, turn the heat off and pour it ino the mixer bowl. Scrape every last bit out.
  3. Attach the whisk and turn the speed up to high. It will be noisy. But it will be worth it in the end. Keep whisking it on high until it becomes thick and turns white. Touch the bottom of the bowl. If it feels hot, let it continue to mix. When it's only slightly warm, that's when you can start adding in your butter.
  4. With the mixer running on high, add in the butter. Not all of it at once, but a few chunks at a time. Let it mix in all the way before adding in the next batch.
  5. When you get near the end of adding in the butter, the buttercream will start to look curdled. This is fine. This is expected. Don't stop. Don't worry. Keep mixing. That means it's almost done. Ignore it. Do a shot. When you come back, you'll soon realize it was just a passing moment and that everything is fine and you freaked out for no reason at all.
  6. Once all the butter is incorporated, stop the mixer and scrape down the sides. Turn the mixer back on and whip it up again for about a minute.
  7. If you feel confident, you can go ahead and add everything else in with the mixer running. You can turn it down to low too. Or you can turn it off, add it all in and then turn the mixer on. Any way will work.
  8. Let it all mix and get fully combined. That's it. See how easy? The hard part will be to not snack on it all before you get to frosting your cake.
Dark Chocolate Ganache
  1. This is really something you don't want to make until your cake is all layered and buttercreamed and finished. However, you CAN make it ahead of time if you want. But you'll still have to microwave it slowly to melt it over heat it over a double boiler. So in the end, it's just as much work, if not more.
  2. Measure out your chocolate in a bowl.
  3. Weigh out the heavy cream into a small pot. Heat it on the stove over medium high heat.
  4. Heating heavy cream is an interesting process. It's not hard and depending on how much you're heating, it can take a while. But once it begins to get hot, it happens quickly. If you're not careful or watchful, it will quickly boil up and over the sides of your pot and you'll have a giant mess on your hands.
  5. When the heavy cream beings to bubble around the edges of the pot, it's ready. Pour it over the chocolate in the bowl. Let it sit for about a minute.
  6. With a spatula, slowly stir the cream and chocolate together until smooth.
Assembly/Finishing
  1. The first step is preparing your cake layers. You want them to all be even. Use a serrated knife to shave off any domed tops and get each layer as even as you can. It's possible you won't have to do anything. There is also no set rule that it has to be three layers. You can cut each cake in half to make a total of six. Just adjust the amounts of buttercream spread on top of each layer and add another layer of fresh strawberries.
  2. Whatever you plan on using to serve your cake on, grab it and line it with small pieces of parchment paper to cover the edges of the plate. These will catch any mess and you can pull out easily once complete. If you have one big piece, it will be much harder to take it all off in the end. Put one layer of cake on top of the parchment shielded plate.
  3. Remember that syrup? We're going to use it now. Grab a pastry brush and use it to brush the syrup on to your first cake layer. Soak it all over. It will take a lot more liquid than you think. If you see liquid soaking out of the bottom of the cake, then you've gone too far (or it's just right…depends on how you look at it). Otherwise, just keep going. When you press down lightly on the cake, you'll want a little liquid to come up to the surface.
  4. Scoop about 1/4 cup of buttercream on the take cake and spread it out evenly, going out to the sides of the cake. If the edges don't look amazing, don't worry. They are going to get covered up with more buttercream. But you want to be sure to go all the way out to the edge so you don't have any gaps in icing. That would be a real tragedy. A frostingless bite of cake. You might as well just eat a pie at that point.
  5. Place another cake layer on top and repeat the whole soaking process.
  6. Next, you are going to spread a very thin layer of buttercream over the cake layer. This is going to act as glue. All those sliced strawberries you have are going to get layered here. Make a mosaic out of them. It doesn't have to look perfect. But you want a nice even layer. Cut up pieces to fill in all the gaps.
  7. Place the last layer of cake on top and do that whole soaking thing one last time. Finish off with a 1/4 cup of the buttercream, smoothing it out evenly. If you notice that your cake is starting to look domed, that just means that the layer of buttercream you put on much earlier wasn't as even as you thought. You can still fix it, luckily. Just spread a little extra buttercream on the edge of the layer to make it thicker than what's in the middle.
  8. Next up you're going to spread the buttercream around the outside of the cake. Not a thick layer, but enough to coat the cake. Using an offset spatula will help greatly. Make sure it's fairly smooth and then put the cake in the fridge for at least an hour. You're going to use up the rest of the buttercream on the cake, but by putting the cake in the fridge, it will harden up the crumb coat and will make the final coating that much easier to go on. You can leave the buttercream for spreading out on the counter, just cover with plastic wrap so it doesn't get contaminated or eaten by random passerby.
  9. After an hour, take the cake out and then spread the rest of the buttercream onto the cake. A nice thick even layer of pink buttery deliciousness. Use the same techniques as before. Then put it in the fridge or if you've got room, the freezer. Let it chill for at least an hour in the fridge or 30 minutes in the freezer.
  10. When the time is about up, that's when you should make the chocolate ganache.
  11. Grab your cake from whatever cold hiding place you gave it. Pour the warm ganache into a liquid measuring up (or something with a pour spot). Slowly pour the ganache over the cake. Don't pour it in just one spot. Move around the edges and into the center. Use an offset spatula or the back of a spoon to help spread the ganache out to the edges. Let it drip down the sides.
  12. While the ganache is still soft, decorate the top of the cake with fresh strawberries. If you somehow how leftover buttercream, you can pipe that on top or even around the base of the cake.
  13. Remove the pieces of parchment and let the ganache fully set. The cake will store well in the fridge, but it's best at room temperature. So take it out at least an hour before you're ready to slice into it. Or just leave it out until your ready to eat it. But since you've got strawberries, don't put it in the freezer. When it thaws, the strawberries will get all sad and bleed out all their yummy juices and leave you with a big, soggy mess on your hands.
Recipe Notes

I like to make the syrup ahead of time. Make it at night when you're cooking dinner. Once it has come to a boil set it aside to cool. Once cool, I'll store it in a tupperware, strawberries too, and put it in the fridge until I'm ready to use it. With the strawberries sitting in the syrup, it will keep steeping.

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