Strawberry Smash Cake

Anyone feeling like smashing things? The dirty dinner dishes? Your child’s phone? Racial injustice? I have just the cake for you. The Smash Cake.

Typically smash cakes are small cakes given to babies for the first birthday. This trend must have started sometime in the last decade because my children were unfortunate enough to have cupcakes for the first birthday. My friend’s twin boys hit the jackpot. The birthday boys each had his very own cake to smash. It was glorious! I made a three-layer version of this cake for each of them plus a regular size cake for the parents. The boys smashed and ate and then smashed and ate some more. I’m still smiling at the pictures. I can totally see why this is a thing.

Maybe you need a mini cake to celebrate or a fun baking project to tackle but I implore you to make this cake! I can can go on and on about its good qualities. Its the perfect size for two and uses a mere half cup of flour for those of us finding flour hard to stock. The cake is tender and sturdy and being butter-less, it pairs perfectly with rich cream cheese frosting. Also, the cake holds up quite well without drying out. The strawberry filling is literally pureed strawberries which I love this time of year.

Overhead view of vanilla cake for two with a slice on a plate.

A sponge cake gets its structure from whipped eggs and sugar. A dash of flour, baking soda and salt is all that is needed to finish. Though easy to make, a sponge cake differs from most American-style butter cakes. Butter cakes start with creaming sugar with butter, adding eggs and then altering the addition of dry ingredients and milk. The finished butter cake is heftier and denser than the light and springy sponge cake.

There are many different ways to make a sponge cake. Some recipes add melted butter to the batter, some warm the eggs and sugar before whipping, others separate the eggs. I love this one because of its pure simplicity.

Slice of layered strawberry mini cake on a plate.

If you are new to sponge cakes (or cake baking in general), here are a few tips to ensure success. Knowing when the eggs are whipped sufficiently and when the cake is completely cooked are essential.

  • Pull eggs, butter and cream cheese out of the refrigerator an hour before starting so that they have a chance to warm to room temperature.
  • Clean mixer bowl and whisk with soap and water and dry thoroughly before starting. This will help the eggs whip properly.
  • Check that the batter is fully whipped by letting it drip from the whisk into the bowl. If the drips don’t immediately incorporate into the rest of the batter, then you know its ready to add the flour.
  • When baking, test for doneness by gently pressing on the top of the cake. Your finger should not leave an impression when done. The cake will feel slightly “springy”.

I hope this mini layer cake brings a smile to your face and joy to your heart.

Mini Strawberry Vanilla Smash Cake

Makes one 4- layer (or two 2- layer) 5 inch cakes

Adapted from Natasha’s Kitchen

Cake Ingredients:

  • 3 eggs at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (half if using table salt)
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder

Frosting Ingredients:

  • 8 tablespoons cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon matcha powder
  • Blue food coloring

Strawberry Filling:

  • 1/2 pound strawberries
  • 1 tablespoon sugar, if desired

Cake Directions:

Heat oven to 350 degrees (or 325 for convection). Spray two 5×3 round pans with cooking spray. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper and spray the parchment.

Tracing pans on parchment.

Whisk flour, salt and baking powder in a small bowl.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, use the whisk attachment and whisk on medium to combine the eggs for one minute. Turn the mixer to high and add in the sugar and vanilla extract. Continue for a minute and then stop and scrape the bowl with a flexible spatula. Return mixer to high and continue for 8 minutes. The mixture will be very thick and look like stiff whipped cream. Stop the mixer and test to see if the batter is ready. Drip batter off the whisk and in the mixer bowl, look to see if the impression is visible on top of the batter for a couple of seconds or if it’s completely absorbed. If completely absorbed then mix for another minute and test again.

Take bowl off mixer and sift 1/3 flour mixture over whipped eggs. The salt may not fit through the mesh so just pour on top. Use a flexible spatula and gently stir in flour. I like to fold from the bottom of the bowl to the top. Once combined, sift another 1/3 flour over bowl and fold in again. Finish off with the rest of the flour and do a final fold to make sure all the flour is combined. I found this to take longer than I thought so be patient. It may take as much as 15 folds each time. The flour tends to hide so make sure to work your way around the bowl.

Scrape into pans and set in middle of oven. Shut door and don’t open again until the cakes are golden brown, about 20 minutes, check cakes. They are done once they gently spring back when pressed. Could take as long as 25 minutes. Remove pans from oven and let cool for 5 minutes. Run a small spatula down and around the sides of the pan to release cake. Turn out cake onto cooling rack and let cool completely, about an hour.

Cream Cheese Frosting:

Add all ingredients to the stand mixer and mix on medium for about 5 minutes or until thick, fluffy and easily spreadable. Scoop 1 tablespoon of frosting into a small bowl. In a separate bowl whisk matcha powder and one teaspoon of water until smooth. Whisk matcha into reserved frosting . Add a few drops of blue food coloring to achieve the desired green.

Strawberry Filling:

Look through strawberries and pick out the prettiest one and set aside. Hull the rest of the strawberries and cut large ones in half. Process in a food processor until the consistency of thick applesauce. Mix in a tablespoon of sugar to taste.

Cake Assembly:

Once the cakes are completely cool, use a bread knife to cut each cake into equal rounds. On a small plate or cake board, set one cake layer with the cut side up. Use a slotted spoon to spoon strawberry mixture to the edges. Take a second layer and spread cream cheese frosting on cut side. Lay cream cheese side down on top of strawberry filling. Continue by adding strawberry filling to the top of the second round and cream cheese to the bottom of a third round. Add strawberry filling to the cut side of the third round and cream cheese to the cut side of the fourth round. The top of the cake should be the bottom of the fourth round.

Get on eye level with the cake and adjust until straight and center it on the plate. Using an offset spatula, scoop frosting on the top and spread to the edges. Scrape off spatula to remove crumbs and continue adding frosting to the sides, scraping off crumbs as you go until the whole cake is coated to desired thickness.

Use a spoon to make a swoop of matcha frosting in the center of the cake. Set prettiest strawberry on top in the center of the matcha frosting.

Serve or cover loosely in saran wrap and refrigerate. Let cake come to room temperature before serving for best flavor and texture. Refrigerate leftovers in an air-tight container for up to 3 days.

Ice Cream Cake

Before having kids, I envisioned what motherhood would be like and to be honest, I thought it would be a constant party. Children scurrying through the kitchen while a pie cools on the counter. It was going to be so easy and FUN. I’m not exactly sure where I got this idea (our lying elders perhaps?) but needless to say, it has not quite lived up to the fantasy. Of course, I wasn’t all wrong, there is plenty of laughter, scurrying children and home baking going on – but not 100 percent of the time to be sure. So when it’s time to for a party, I like to go all out.

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Each year when February turns to March, I deem Birthday Season to have begun. It’s a whirlwind of seemingly constant parties. Three out of the four of us have birthdays in the span of one month. Cupcakes for the kid parties and cookies for each child’s class  and then the main event: the family party. Presents, birthday dinner, extended family, hopefully some decorations then, of course, CAKE!

As with all major life decisions, choosing ones birthday cake takes careful thought and consideration. Just Kidding!! Yet, birthdays do come around only once a year so its best to wish for the moon and back. This year we had light and fluffy strawberry cake with chocolate frosting for the 8 year old, creamy cheesecake for the husband and a homemade ice cream cake to celebrate the oldest turning 11.

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JP has a thing for ice cream so ice cream cake was a no brainer for this year’s birthday. All his dreams come true in one ginormous dessert. Ice cream, Oreos and whipped cream. Perfection. It takes a decent amount of rest time (especially if you make your own ice cream) but the pay off is totally worth it.

This is true for parenting as well. It takes patience and some work but, fingers crossed, it will pay off in the end. I know people say this all the time, but honestly I wouldn’t change a thing. I would marry the same man, have the same kids and make the same career choices. Yet, I would suggest to my younger self to take off the rose colored glasses and get ready to roll up her sleeves. There is lots of work involved but still plenty of reasons to throw a party.

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Ice Cream Cake

Without having actual cake in ice cream cake recipes, I find it a confusing term. Ice cream cake is actually a cookie crust with ice cream layered over it and covered in whipped cream. I don’t make the rules.

Feel free to use any two ice cream flavors you desire. I chose homemade vanilla ice cream and bought Haagan Daz chocolate to keep myself sane. I adapted Food Network’s recipe for Ice Cream Crunch Cake, with some help from Smitten Kitchen and Stella Parks to take it over the top. I will give you the breakdown of how I made mine, but just remember that you could make this all in one day if both flavors of ice cream were store bought. All the recipes and directions are below but here is a quick overview for ease.

  • 2 quarts vanilla ice cream (recipe below)
  • 1 quart chocolate ice cream (1 – 28 fl oz of Häagen-Dazs container)
  • 14 ounce package of original Oreos, divided (crust recipe and filling below)
  • 3 cups whipped cream (recipe below) for outside of the cake

4 days before serving, make the custard for the vanilla ice cream and make sure the bowl of your ice cream maker is frozen.

3 Days before serving, churn the chilled ice cream base in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer directions. Churn in two batches so as not to over fill the ice cream maker. Freeze in a freezer safe container over night.

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These are more pulverized than I would do next time. I think chunkier would be better.

2 days before serving, assemble the cake.

  1. First, make the Oreo crust, as well as crushing the Oreos for the cookie layer (see below).
  2. While crust is firming, remove vanilla ice cream from freezer to soften if needed to spread easily. Once the crust is firm, spread vanilla ice cream over Oreo crust and up sides of pan and freeze, about 30 minutes until firm.
  3. Take the store bought chocolate ice cream out of the freezer to soften. Once the vanilla layer is firm, spread chocolate ice cream over vanilla ice cream layer, forgoing the sides of the pan. Freeze for about 30 minutes, until firm.
  4. Spread crushed Oreos evenly over chocolate layer to form the cookie layer. Freeze for about 30 minutes, until firm.
  5. Once firm, top cookie layer with more vanilla ice cream. Work gently so as not to disrupt the cookie layer. Soft ice cream helps this step. Freeze again for 30 minutes, until firm.
  6. Make whipped cream while cake is in freezer. (recipe below)
  7. Run an offset spatula around the edges of the pan and unlatch the springform pan. Remove sides and set on a baking sheet or cutting board.
  8. Using an offset spatula, frost the outside of the cake with the whipped cream (recipe below). Refreeze until firm. I found it a bit trickier to get the cake in and out of the freezer without the sides of the pan so be careful!
  9. Scoop some whipped cream into a pastry bag with a star attachment and pipe decorations along top and bottom if desired. Place back in the freezer.
  10. Serve cake by cutting with a hot knife. Wrap leftovers in plastic wrap and foil or move to an airtight container. Mine was not pretty when I moved it and hardly resembled the original – but we ate it without complaint a week later.

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Vanilla Ice Cream

I used David Lebovitz’s recipe but used vanilla extract instead of the vanilla bean out of pure laziness. The recipe below is for a double batch. There will be a little left over after making this cake.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract (I use Madagascar)
  • 4 cups heavy cream
  • 10 egg yolks

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl pour the heavy cream and set a strainer on top of it.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk egg yolks.
  3. In medium saucepan stir milk, salt, sugar and vanilla extract and heat on medium-low. Stir occasionally and remove from heat when the mixture starts to steam and before simmering.
  4. While whisking egg yolks, slowly pour the warm milk mixture into the egg yolks. Once all the milk mixture has been whisked into the egg yolks, pour it all back into the saucepan.
  5. Cook the egg and milk mixture over low heat, stirring and scraping with a heatproof spatula continually, about 5 minutes. The custard will thicken slightly and coat the back of the spatula when done with the color of buttermilk and the thickness of cream.
  6. Pour custard into the strainer to remove any lumps and combine with the heavy cream. Taste and add more vanilla extract if needed.
  7. Cover and refrigerate over night.

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    Sides of pan removed and now can breathe easy

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    Covered in Whipped Cream – Pipe some decorations and call it DONE!

Crust

This recipe is slightly adapted from Smitten Kitchen.

  • 1/2 package original Oreos (7 ounces)
  • 2-3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/4 -1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions:

Process whole Oreos in a food processor until finely ground. Pour into a small bowl and mix in salt and butter, starting with the smaller amount listed and adjusting if needed to get the right consistency and seasoning. The mixture should hold together but not be so wet that its slick with butter. Press firmly and evenly into a 10 inch springform pan. Place in freezer until firm, about 20 minutes.

Cookie Layer

  • 1/2 package original Oreos (7 ounces)

Directions:

Place whole Oreos in the bowl of a food processor or a gallon size freezer bag. Pulse a couple of times in the food processor or crush in the freezer bag until the cookies are small chunks.

Whipped Cream Topping

I now only use Stella Parks Make-Ahead Whipped Cream recipe. It tastes great and allows for making ahead, which I love. The recipe is doubled below to frost the cake and have some left over. Can refrigerate in an airtight container for up to a week (though will want to re-whip a little before using).

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 4 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions:

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine all the ingredients. Using the whisk attachment, whip on medium-low to dissolve the sugar, about 1 minute. Then increase to medium-high and whip until thick and holds firm peaks, about 3 minutes.

Spiced Yeast Cake

 

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As the season begins to change from winter to spring, I find myself wanting it to hold off a little longer. I feel like I have unfinished business to attend to before those long stalks of rhubarb beckon me. Crocuses are starting to peak out from the ground and I know it won’t be long before the city bursts into bloom. Yet, I haven’t made that turkey minestrone soup yet or the pecan sandies like I intended. This spiced yeast cake has also been on my mind these last couple months.

Parenthood is the same way right?  I feel the steady tick of the clock and I wonder if I’m ready for this season to end. I just got my feet under me. Nevertheless, I see the signs and know that we are headed into a new phase. Did we accomplish enough? The little one can tie his shoes and read chapter books. The older one can manage his school work and swim. I see them building friendships and managing their emotions. I see the signs and know that ready or not, here we come.

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Buttered pan with almonds.

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This is the sponge before adding the rest of the cake ingredients.

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The cake is fully risen when it is 1/2 inch or so under the rim.

Spiced Yeast Cake

About a year ago I read an article about the long tradition of yeast cakes. Prior to 1843 when baking powder came around to give us our lift, yeast was used instead. I’m intrigued by the depth of a cake that uses yeast instead of baking powder or baking soda. This cake is a cross between cinnamon raisin bread and spiced coffee cake. It makes you want to slow down and curl up with a cup of tea. The recipe below is adapted from an old recipe for Election Cake, which is the American version of a yeast cake. If you are interested, read this article by Greg Patent to learn more about this old American tradition. I’d say we could all use a little cake right now, so go ahead and give this one a try and tell me what you think.

Ingredients
Sponge:
3 1/3 teaspoons instant dry yeast
1 1/2 cups milk
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
Cake:
1/3 cup sliced almonds
¼ cup raisins
¼ cup dried cranberries
¼ cup orange juice
1 3/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature and cubed
1 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Icing:
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon orange juice (or as much as needed to get desired consistency)

Instructions
Sponge:
Warm milk in a small saucepan over medium until the milk is warm (around 110 degrees). Pour into a large bowl. Whisk in the remaining sponge ingredients and using a hand mixer, mix for 2 minutes on a medium speed. The sponge will thicken up. Cover and set aside to rise for 30 minutes.
Cake:
In a small bowl combine orange juice, raisons and dried cranberries. Microwave for 45 seconds and set aside.
Generously butter a 10-inch bundt pan. Sprinkle almonds over pan and gently press into the pan in a single layer. Set aside.
In a medium bowl whisk flour, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Set aside.
Add butter and sugar to the bowl of your mixer and cream until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes). Reduce speed and incorporate eggs one at a time. Mix in vanilla extract. Add the sponge mixture and mix until well combined. Spoon in flour mixture in three additions. Mix on low after each addition to fully combine. The batter will be smooth and thick. Mix in dried fruit with their juices.
Using a spatula, distribute the batter evenly around pan and smooth top. Cover and let rise for a couple hours on a draft free counter. Resist the urge to rush this part. You can also stick this in the refrigerator and let it rise slowly over night and bake in the morning. The batter should fill about half the pan before rising.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Place oven rack in center of oven.
After the cake has risen, place pan on a baking sheet (in case of overflow) and bake 40 to 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the cakes comes out clean.
Remove from oven and let cool on a wire cooling rack for 30 minutes.  Remove from pan and let cool completely. Whisk together powdered sugar and orange juice in a small bowl and spoon over cooled cake. Serve at room temperature.