30 July 2012

Eats: Strawberry cake with strawberry cream cheese icing (part 1)

Remember that beautiful cake hiding in the background from our anniversary dinner last week?

(Not that our anniversary was last week. Haha, no. That’s just how ridiculously behind I am in talking about stuff.)

See, Mr. P and I, we like our birthday cake. For the past several years, whenever one of us had a birthday, we carefully selected our cakes – he tends to pick ice cream, and I like cheesecake.

So it makes sense, I think, that we would decide to do something similar for our anniversary each June. Last year, of course, there was the Anniversary Cake of Wonderful Goodness from our wedding cake baker. But this year, I decided to start a tradition of making our own anniversary cake!

You may have noticed by the recipes I post here, however, that I’m not much of a baker. So the cake I/we chose – inspired by the cupcakes made by a friend for her daughter’s birthday party – ended up being by far the most complex cake I have ever made in my life so help me God. And just to add that special touch of crazy, I insisted on making it amidst the cleaning and planning for overnight guests to visit in the days before AND after our anniversary. Oh and we’d be leaving town for two weeks right after that!

Because of all that, it took me a hilariously long time to make this cake. And because the crazy continues with this new job, I don’t have time to tell you about this elaborate cake all at once, either. So you’re getting a multi-parter!

But let’s be clear here: this strawberry cake is worth it. There’s no red dye, no artifical strawberry flavoring. It’s all strawberries, baby! Two pounds, to be exact.

That’s what you need to make the strawberry puree, which flavors both the cake and the icing for this baby. Be sure to save a for a few for decoration, though! I just wrapped these pretty ones in a napkin in the fridge until I reached that step.

The rest all got diced up and added to a pan with two teaspoons of sugar. I let that sit for an hour as directed in the source...

Then I added 1/3-cup of water and started simmering!

After about twenty minutes, the berries were “very soft”. Some recipes say you can run this through a food processor and call the puree done, but this was our anniversary cake. It was going to be a labor of love. Emphasis on BOTH love and labor.

So, I took the difficult way out and strained the strawberry deliciousness, leaving only this grayish-white pulp (which was discarded).

(Don’t judge my rusty ancient strainer. It gets the job done. Judge my out-of-focus photo instead.)

I really wanted to get as much liquid out of the pulp as possible, knowing that I’d boil it down to a concentrated 3/4 cup. The more liquid to start with, the more flavor at the end!

But to concentrate the liquid: MORE SIMMERING.

Until it was down to 3/4 cup. Which took, like, an hour.

Either I wasn’t familiar enough with our gas stove yet (we’d only been here two weeks!), or I was too afraid to turn the heat up, or I am just an awful baker (probably that last one). But making this puree seriously took nearly THREE HOURS – an hour of letting the strawberries rest with the sugar, twenty minutes to simmer, thirty minutes to squish all the liquid out of the pulp, and another hour to boil the liquid down.

At the end of those three hours, did I have a cake? NO. I had a 3/4 cup of labor-intensive strawberry puree that I valued above most of my possessions.

Maybe you can tell that I started making this puree in daylight and, by the time it was done, I had the stove hood light on so I could see. SO LONG.

Fortunately, I started working on this far in advance of our anniversary, so I was able to just throw the puree into the fridge for a few days before it was time to make the cake. I feel like the source (and its source, too) don’t mention how long this takes (Elly actually says it’s a “snap” to make, which means we have very different skill levels and also different interpretations of “snap”).

It’s worth it in the end, though... I promise! I’ll tell you how I made a delicious cake and cream cheese icing with this liquid strawberry gold in the coming posts!


Miranda said...

I'm glad you loved your cake! Baking a cake from scratch is so worth it. Sorry the recipe I sent didn't work out.

Sarah said...

Miranda, I found this recipe, decided to instead email you for yours... then got impatient (because you couldn't write back within, you know, the next thirty seconds) so I went ahead with this one. The one you use is, thankfully, remarkably similar I think... which must be why they were both delicious! Consider yourself inspiration nonetheless :) (Also this way I don't have to give away your recipe secrets, haha!)

Miles said...

What a dedicated and committed wife you are! Wow. Cake mix is my friend but I am looking forward to Part 2.

Miranda said...

Lol this is true. I am pretty stingy with my recipes. :) The cake looks wonderful! A homemade strawberry cake is a little drawn out; a chocolate or yellow one is so much easier. Now that you have mastered the strawberry cake, you can do anything! :)