Fresh Strawberry Cake

One of the most popular Southern cakes that begins with a cake mix is a strawberry cake. If you travel much in the South and visit bakeries, diners, and homes, you will find this layer cake – bright pink and brimming of strawberry flavor.

It is a Sunday cake, a birthday cake, a celebration cake. And it gets that strawberry color and flavor both honestly and maybe not so. For in the cake and frosting there are mashed fresh berries as well as a package of strawberry gelatin.

Which took me down the path of creating a more natural strawberry cake with my Simply Yellow mix. Why add gelatin (which contains food coloring and artificial flavors), I wondered, to a mix that is decidedly natural, clean, pure? So I baked a strawberry cake with my mix and added only mashed ripe strawberries to the batter, no gelatin. It was a delicious cake – moist, lovely – but it did not resemble visually the strawberry cakes of memory. So I began adding just a little strawberry gelatin to see how little I could add to make the cake pink and still have a natural flavor. One tablespoon was about right, but you can be your own judge and omit the gelatin or add as much as you like.

This is an easy strawberry cake that uses my mix. It is perfect for spring parties but also summer picnics, fall birthdays, winter celebrations, and Valentine’s, too. Garnish this cake with sliced fresh strawberries all mounded in the center or with shavings of white and dark chocolate. However you garnish it, this cake will take you back in time and create new taste memories as well.

Who would dream this strawberry-packed cake begins with a mix? It is a perfect cake for spring parties and celebrations. And it is a perennial favorite for birthdays, whether baked in this cake or in 20 to 24 cupcakes. Garnish with sliced berries or shaved white and dark chocolate. The adding of gelatin is up to you – you only need a tablespoon for a pretty pink color, or let the fresh berries color the cake naturally.

Fresh Strawberry Cake
  • 1 package (18.25 ounces) Cake Mix Doctor Simply Yellow mix
  • 1 tablespoon powdered strawberry gelatin, if desired
  • 1 cup mashed fresh strawberries (2 cups fresh berries)
  • ⅔ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 4 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon mashed fresh strawberries, well drained (2 medium berries)
  • 3½ to 4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 7 to 8 whole strawberries, sliced
  1. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly mist or grease three 8-inch round cake pans and dust them with flour. Set the pans aside.
  2. Place the cake mix, gelatin (if desired), mashed strawberries, oil, and eggs in a large mixing bowl. Beat with an electric mixer on low speed until incorporated, 30 seconds. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat until the mixture lightens and is smooth, 1 minute longer, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Pour the batter into the prepared pans, smoothing the top with a rubber spatula, and place the pans in the oven. If three pans don’t fit on the center rack, place the third layer on the upper rack, watching to not overbake.
  3. Bake the cake until the top springs back when lightly pressed with a finger, 20 to 24 minutes. Remove the layers from the oven, let them cool in the pan 10 minutes, run a knife around the edges, gently shake the layers to loosen the cake, and invert them once, then again, onto wire racks to cool right-side up. Let the layers cool 30 minutes before frosting.
  4. For the frosting, place the cream cheese and butter in a medium-size bowl and beat with an electric mixer on low until combined, 30 seconds. Add the strawberries and sugar, a little at a time, beating on low speed, until the sugar is incorporated. Increase the mixer to medium and beat until the frosting is fluffy, 1 minute more.
  5. To assemble the cake, place one layer, right-side up, on a serving plate. Spread the top with ¾ cup frosting. Place a second layer, right-side up, on top of the first and spread with ¾ cup frosting. Place the third layer on top and frost the top and side of the cake with the remaining frosting, working with smooth, clean strokes. To make slicing easier, place the uncovered cake in the refrigerator until the frosting sets, 20 minutes.

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