Do you need a small cake for a first birthday party or a small-scale celebration? This cake is the perfect size for four people. It’s also delicious! Tender, light, and full-flavored without using butter or oil. The cake layers are filled with a fresh strawberry filling and a rich cream cheese frosting for a perfectly balanced dessert.
Typically smash cakes are small cakes given to babies for the first birthday. I made two of these cakes for my friend’s twin sons for their first birthday and it was a huge hit! The birthday 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 first birthday tradition.
I decided to use a simple sponge cake instead of an oil or butter based cake for this recipe. I like the springy, tender texture and light vanilla flavor.
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.
If you are new to sponge cakes, 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 and at the ribbon stage before adding the dry ingredients. Test by allowing the batter to fall from the whisk back into the bowl in ribbons and watching to see that it stays visible for a few seconds before being fully reincorporated.
- 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”.
Feel free to make this cake in stages. The baked and cooled rounds can be wrapped in plastic wrap and foil and stored in the freezer for up to three months. You can also wrap and refrigerate the cake rounds for a week before frosting and serving. After assembling the cake, it can be wrapped and stored in the refrigerator for two days.
Mini Strawberry Smash Cake
Makes one 4-layer 5 inch cake
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (half if using table salt)
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 3 eggs at room temperature
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 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
- Green food coloring
- 1/2 pound strawberries
- 1 tablespoon sugar, if desired
Prepare: Heat oven to 350℉. Trace two 5×3 round pans on parchment paper and cut out circles. Spray the bottom of the pans with cooking spray. Set a parchment circle inside each pan and spray again. Set pans aside. Take frosting ingredients out of the refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature.
Whisk dry ingredients: Whisk flour, salt and baking powder in a small bowl and set aside.
Whip egg: Crack eggs into the bowl of a stand mixer and use the whisk attachment and whisk on medium 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. Test that the batter is ready by stopping the mixer and allow batter to drip off the whisk and in the mixer bowl. This is called the ribbon stage. The ribbon of batter should be visible on top of the batter for a couple of seconds before reabsorbing. If the ribbon of batter is immediately absorbed then whisk for another minute and test again.
Fold in dry ingredients: 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 fold in dry ingredients. 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.
Bake cakes: Scrape an even amount of batter into pans and bake. Keep the oven door closed until the cakes are golden brown, about 20-25 minutes. The cakes are baked when the center of the cake gently springs back when pressed.
Wash mixer bowl: While the cakes are baking, wash and dry stand mixer bowl to use for frosting.
Cool cakes: 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.
Make cream cheese frosting: Add cream cheese, butter, sugar, vanilla, and salt to the stand mixer and use the paddle attachment to mix on medium for 5 minutes or until thick, fluffy and easily spreadable.
Color frosting for leaves: Scoop 1 tablespoon of cream cheese frosting into a small bowl and add a few drops of green food coloring to achieve the desired green.
Make 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.
Assemble cake: 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 the second cake round and spread cream cheese frosting on the cut side. Lay cream cheese side down on top of strawberry filling. Spread strawberry filling on the top of the second round (the one that has cream cheese frosting spread on the other side) and continue layering until there are three layers of strawberry filling and cream cheese frosting. The top of the cake should be the non-cut side of the fourth round.
Frost the outside of the cake: 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 green frosting in the center of the cake and set the prettiest strawberry on top.
Serve: Serve or cover loosely in plastic 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.