strawberry

strawberry lemonade layer cake

And just like that, it was the end of August.

strawberry lemonade layer cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

I can’t believe it’s been so long since I posted, but I guess that’s just the kind of blogger I am now. The kind who can’t (and won’t) let go, but also can’t get their shit together enough to post more than once or twice a year.

strawberry lemonade layer cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

Looks like this is a two post year though, so I’m going to go ahead and give myself a nice little pat on the back.

strawberry lemonade layer cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

Anyway, one of my best friends in the whole wide world (who just happens to be my podcast co-host) just celebrated her birthday and I decided it was time to pull out the big guns. The big cake guns.

strawberry lemonade layer cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

Usually we just go to brunch, or to a nice dinner to celebrate our birthdays, but hers is at the end of August and I believe this is what the French call the “Dog days of Summer” so we decided a bbq was in order.

I decorated the back yard like an old school kid’s party with streamers and pennant bunting and the whole works. Even cute little party hats!

We grilled burgers, had potato salad, and a bartender friend of ours mixed an incredible citrusy spicy whiskey punch. In other words, we did it up right and proper.

strawberry lemonade layer cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

Since I’m telling you the whole story here, you’ve probably guessed by now that I also made a fancy pants birthday cake for her too. She loves all things lemon, so my first instinct was to go all out lemon on lemon on lemon. Then one night I was inspired and decided to throw some strawberries in the mix too, cuz why not? Since the party was going to be totally over the top, I figured the cake should be too, right?

I don’t usually go for frilly pink and girly decorations on my cakes, but if ever there was a time to go that direction, I figured this was it.

strawberry lemonade layer cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

Not only did this cake turn out to be a real show stopper, but it’s pretty damn tasty too!

All the elements totally come together in perfect pretty-in-pink, strawberry lemonade harmony. The homemade lemon curd is tart and sweet and super lemony. The frosting is rich and velvety with a gorgeous strawberry flavor (and color!), and the cake is delicate and fluffy and perfectly sweet without being too much. I hate it when a cake is super pretty and then just tastes like a cloying sugar bomb, you know?

strawberry lemonade layer cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

There’s only one small thing that I don’t think was as successful as I would have hoped. I adapted a lemon cake recipe I use all the time and added powdered freeze dried strawberries for a bright, fresh strawberry flavor without all the liquid of fresh berries that can sometimes make cakes dense and gummy. I decided to shoot for an ombre effect with the different layers of cake, so I added progressively more and more strawberry powder to each layer. I hoped there would be a beautiful gradient of different shades of pink when the cake was sliced, but looking back I realize I should have added a touch of food coloring too. The problem was that I’ve never used freeze dried strawberries in a cake like this before, and while the batter was a pretty pastel pink, it tuned a bit of a brownish hue when baked.

Womp womp. It tasted great so who cares.

Thankfully, you get to learn from my mistakes! I’d say that you should either A) skip the ombre gradient altogether and just add the strawberry powder to the batter all at once, B) leave it out entirely and just do lemon cake with strawberry icing, or, C) if you really want to go for the pink ombre effect, add a touch of red food coloring to the batters to make sure you keep that pretty pink color once the layers are baked.

strawberry lemonade layer cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

The recipe below is super lengthy and probably looks a bit daunting, but I’m including recipes for the cake, the lemon curd filling, the icing, and the yellow candy melt drip on top. Then I include tips on how to do the pink gradient in the cake layers, how to assemble the cake, and even decorating instructions! So yeah, this recipe is basically the War and Peace of cake recipes.

You can totally scale back the decorations, forget the ombre layers, skip the candy drip, and use store bought lemon curd if you want to simplify things a little. I certainly couldn’t blame you!

Either way, no matter how you slice it, this cake is sure to be a hit for the lemon lovers in your life!

strawberry lemonade layer cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

Strawberry Lemonade Layer Cake

  • Servings: 16 to 20-ish
  • Print
Lemon Curd:
Adapted from Life, Love, & Sugar
(You may also use store bought)

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (about 3-4 lemons)
4 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
2/3 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 egg yolks (reserve whites for icing)
6 tbsp unsalted butter

Combine all the ingredients in a double boiler (or in a non-reactive sauce pan with a heavy bottom). Heat over medium/low heat (or a light simmer in a double boiler). Whisk constantly until mixture thickens and reaches 170 degrees on a thermometer, or looks thick and pudding-like. Do not let it boil!
Strain curd through a fine mesh strainer into a heat proof bowl. Cover with plastic wrap pressed directly onto the the top of the curd to avoid a skin forming. Refrigerate until completely cold.
Any leftover curd is best when kept well covered and consumed within 1-2 weeks.

……..

Strawberry Lemon Cake
makes three 8-inch layers

3 1/3 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
2 1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest (from about 3 to 4 lemons)
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup peanut oil or vegetable oil
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 lemon juice
3/4 cups (approximately) powdered freeze-dried strawberries (optional) *see note
pink or red food color (if desired)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Line the bottoms of three 8″ cake pans with parchment paper. No need to butter and flour the sides pans. **see note
In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, and salt until well combined.
In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, combine lemon zest and sugar and mix for 30 seconds or so. Add butter and cream with sugar on high for about 3 minutes, or until pale and fluffy. Reduce speed and add oil, then the eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating after each addition. Add vanilla until just combined.
Combine lemon juice and buttermilk in a small bowl or measuring cup.
Alternate adding flour mixture and buttermilk mixture, beginning and ending with flour (3 additions of flour and 2 of milk), fully incorporating after each addition.

At this point, if you’re using it, you can either add the strawberry powder all at once and mix just until combined, or if you want to, you can try to go for an ombre effect as follows:
Mix about 1/4 cup of the powdered strawberry into the batter and mix to combine. Pour out 1/3 of the batter into one of the prepared pans. Add another 1/4 cup of strawberry powder to the remaining batter, mix, and fill one more pan. Add remaining strawberry to remaining batter, mix again, and fill the the last pan.
For a nicer, brighter pink, you may want to add a few small drops of food color with each addition of strawberry, because the powder tends to brown a bit when baked.

Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.
If using bake-even strips, they will likely need a few additional minutes.

Transfer pans to a wire rack to cool for 30 minutes.
Invert cakes onto rack, peel off parchment, and let cool completely.
If the cakes domed in the oven, you’ll want to slice the very tops of the cakes off to make each layer completely flat and level for a more professional look. You can do this using a very sharp bread knife, or a cake leveler.
If you’re not assembling cakes right away, individually wrap each layer tightly in plastic wrap to prevent drying. Layers can be stored in the refrigerator for a day or two, or frozen (wrapped in plastic wrap first, then aluminum foil) for up to two weeks. You may want to consider brushing the layers with simple syrup if you’re freezing them.

Baker’s notes:
* I used 2x (1.2 oz) bags of freeze dried strawberries from the grocery store and pulverized them in the food processor, but you can also buy pre-powdered freeze dried fruit and skip the extra work. If you wanted to just go for a lemon flavor cake, you could leave this out.
** Not buttering or flouring your cake pans actually helps the cakes keep their shape better when cooling and helps prevent the outer edges of the cakes from overcooking. The parchment will allow the bottoms to release from the pans easily, but you will need to run a knife or a toothpick around the outside edge before turning out of the pans.

……..

Strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream Icing:
Adapted from “Layered” by Tessa Huff

1 1/4 cup fresh egg whites (not pasteurized egg whites)
2 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups (6 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature (cut into 1 tablespoon slices)
4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3/4 cups (approximately) powdered freeze-dried strawberries *see note

Place the egg whites, sugar, & salt in a very clean bowl of a stand mixer and whisk them together by hand to combine. Fill a medium saucepan with an inch or two of water and bring to a simmer over medium to medium-high heat. Place the mixer bowl over the saucepan to create a double boiler. Be sure that the bottom of the bowl doesn’t directly touch the water, and that the water doesn’t reach a full boil.
Heat the egg whites until they register 160F on a candy thermometer, whisking regularly to avoid cooking the whites. As soon as they’re at the correct temperature, carefully attach the mixer bowl to the stand mixer and add the whisk attachment.
Beat the egg whites on high speed for 8 to 10 minutes until they hold stiff peaks and the outside of the bowl is cooled to room temperature. Stop the mixer and swap the whisk attachment for the paddle.
On low speed, add the butter, a few tablespoons at a time, waiting for it to incorporate before adding more. Once all the butter is mixed in, add the vanilla extract and strawberry powder and mix in to incorporate. Turn the mixer up to medium-high and beat until the buttercream is smooth and silky, about 3 to 5 minutes.
If the mixture starts to look curdled, just keep beating. It’ll come together.
If the whites were still too warm when the butter was added and the buttercream is too thin and soupy, refrigerate the bowl in 10 or 15 minute bursts until it’s cool (but not cold) and beat again until smooth.

* Baker’s note: I used 2x (1.2 oz) bags of freeze dried strawberries from the grocery store and pulverized them in the food processor, but you can also buy pre-powdered freeze dried fruit and skip the extra work.

……..

Assemble cake:
Place the first cake layer on an 8″ cardboard cake round, serving plate, or cake stand. Using a cake round will make it easier to ice and decorate, especially if you have a revolving turntable for decorating (I use a lazy suzan, but you can also just spin your plate or cake stand while you work).

Fit a piping bag with a large star tip and fill with a two or three cups of the Strawberry Buttercream. Pipe a thick dam of icing around the outside of the cake to contain the curd filling. This will ensure that the filling stays in place and doesn’t squish out when the layers are stacked.

Place about 3/4 to 1 cup or so of the curd in the center of the cake and spread it smooth and even using an icing spatula. Add the next layer of cake, looking from directly over the top and from eye level at the cake to make sure each layer is directly one above the other, rotating the cake to be certain. Repeat the same procedure with the buttercream dam and another cup of the curd, then add the third and final layer of cake and check for straightness again. Reserve about a cup or so of icing in the piping bag for additional decorations later.

Using about a third or so of the remaining icing, crumb coat your cake. Starting with the top of the cake, spread the icing thin and work some of it down the sides of the cake to completely cover the whole thing in a thin, smooth, even coat of icing. This first layer of icing seals the cake and keeps crumbs from being visible in the outer layer of icing. It may seem like unnecessary trouble, but it really is worth it to get a smooth professional finish on the icing.

Place the cake in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes to an hour to help set the icing and firm up the cake.
Spread another layer of the remaining buttercream over the whole cake the same way you did the crumb coat. Start by smoothing the top and slowly working the icing down the sides to cover the cake completely. Try to get the icing as completely smooth as possible with straight sides and a flat, level top. I use a long offset icing spatula and an icing smoother.

You may have a little icing left over but I thought it was better to have a bit more than you need to use for decorations just in case.

……..

Decoration:
(optional)
rainbow sprinkles
multicolor dragees
lemon head candies (small)

Candy Drip: 
6 oz yellow candy melts (or white with a few drops of yellow candy color)
1 to 2 tablespoons heavy cream

If desired you can add sprinkles to the lower half of the cake. Carefully lift the cake up and place the cake board on a bowl or container that is slightly smaller than the width of the cake, and then place the bowl on a rimmed baking sheet to collect falling sprinkles. Using clean hands, grab small handfuls of sprinkles and decorations and gently press into the icing on the lower half of the cake.

Refrigerate the cake again for at least another 30 minutes to set and chill the icing before adding the yellow candy drip. Once the cake is chilled, make the candy drip by microwaving the candy melts in a heat safe bowl or measuring cup in 30 second bursts until melted. Stir in heavy cream, a few teaspoons at a time, just until the drip is thin enough to pour from a spoon in a thin even stream, but don’t add too much or the drips won’t stay put and will pour right off the cake. It’s better to need to keep adding a little more, because you can’t take it out if you thin the drip out too much.

Starting at the outer edge of the top of the cake, start adding one drip at a time, rotating the cake until you’ve gone all the way around. I used a small squeeze bottle for extra control, but you can use a spoon as well. Once you’ve added drips all the way around the cake, fill in the center and smooth with a small spatula. Return the cake to the fridge for another 20 to 30 minutes to set the drips before proceeding.

Finish by piping small swirls of icing around the top of the cake, and top each swirl with a lemon head candy.

Cake will keep well covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

If refrigerating, bring cake to room temperature at least two hours before serving.

strawberry rhubarb skillet cake

You guys. I have a confession to make.
I’m the world’s WORST blogger.

strawberry rhubarb skillet cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

It’s been sunny and warm for the past few days and I had to draaaag myself indoors to write this post. I’ve really wanted nothing more than to lay out in the yard after work and snuggle puppies and drink rosé.
Russell’s been visiting family in LA and I should be taking this opportunity to catch up on my writing, but once the sun goes down and the spring chill sets back in, I’d rather be watching reruns of the Walking Dead or RuPaul’s Drag Race with a pint of pistachio ice cream.

strawberry rhubarb skillet cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

In addition to laziness and springtime distractions, I’ve also fallen victim to springtime cravings. The arrival of warm weather and green leaves makes me crave fresh produce and bright spring berries like crazy. I mentioned last week that as much as I crave these foods, local production hasn’t caught up to my cravings just yet and so far the produce at the green markets leaves a bit to be desired.

strawberry rhubarb skillet cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

I’ve been trying to hold out, but the other day I caved. I’m really the worst.

Just awful.

strawberry rhubarb skillet cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

Wandering the aisles of the grocery store the other day I stumbled across a big bucket filled with rhubarb stalks. Conveniently located behind the rhubarb were stacks and stacks of organic strawberries fresh from the freight truck.

I tried to resist, but their strawberry siren song was too much for me and I circled the produce section twice before finding them in my basket at the checkout line.

strawberry rhubarb skillet cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

Truth be told, I had no damned clue what I would do with my pre-season berries and rhubarb but I just HAD to have them. There aren’t many things in this world that I love more than a strawberry rhubarb pie, but a pie is so filling-centric that I know I need to wait for strawberry season proper to go that route.

In terms of flavor, nothing beats a berry that was ripened in the sun, in season, a few miles (or footsteps) from your home. These bright red little berries however, fresh off the truck from California, travelled a looooong way before finding their way onto the shelves at the Food Town in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. They were pretty durn good, especially after not tasting a fresh strawberry for months, but they tasted nowhere near as fresh and flavorful as they will in a few short weeks.

strawberry rhubarb skillet cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

Tart rhubarb and a healthy bit of sugar would help doctor up my lackluster berries, but in this case they would need to be more of an accent flavor and less of the main attraction. I needed to come up with a recipe that would elevate them and let them shine without expecting too much of them.

strawberry rhubarb skillet cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

It didn’t take me long to think of a rustic skillet cake I made last summer, with caramelized peaches and cornmeal. Perfect! I didn’t want to go the cornmeal route this time, but the basic idea was spot on. I’d cook the sliced berries with the rhubarb, a bit of butter, and some sugar; and then I’d pour them over a tender buttermilk cake baked in a big ol’ cast iron skillet.

strawberry rhubarb skillet cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

This cake is perfect.

In another week or two, when strawberries are actually in season here, this will definitely be happening again because then it’ll be even more perfect than it’s current state of perfection.

Topped with fresh barely sweetened whipped cream, it’s like a jammy little slice of strawberry shortcake.
Rustic and unfussy. Sweet and tart. Fluffy and tender. The cooked strawberry rhubarb is sweet and bright and jammy and fresh. The cake is just sweet enough and a tiny bit tart from the lemon and buttermilk. It’s buttery and light and moist and just…

perfect.

strawberry rhubarb skillet cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

Strawberry Rhubarb Skillet Cake

adapted from Joy the Baker

Strawberry Rhubarb filling:
1 cup sliced rhubarb (from about 3 stalks)
2 cups hulled and quartered strawberries
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons sugar
pinch of salt

Cake:
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
zest of one lemon
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 to 3 tablespoons turbinado sugar or coarse finishing sugar

Preheat oven to 350 and move a rack to the center position.

Combine strawberries, rhubarb, 2 tablespoons butter, 2 tablespoons sugar, and pinch of salt in an 11 or 12 inch skillet.* Place over a medium high flame and cook, stirring frequently, until fruit is soft and coming apart and juices have reduced to a thick syrup, about 10 to 15 minutes. Do not let juices burn.

Scrape strawberry rhubarb mixture into a bowl to cool and scrape skillet clean with a silicone spatula. It’s okay if a little residue remains.
Melt butter in skillet and pour out all but 1 tablespoon to cool. Coat skillet evenly with remaining tablespoon. Add lemon zest to cooling butter and stir to combine.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and sugar.  Set aside.
In a small bowl or large measuring cup, whisk together buttermilk, lemon juice, eggs, vanilla and butter.

Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the buttermilk mixture all at once.  Stir with a silicone spatula just until combined, scraping the sides of the bowl until there are no dry pockets of flour. Do not over mix.  Pour batter into the prepared skillet and spread (or shake) smooth.  Dot the batter with strawberry mixture as evenly as possible, and sprinkle generously with turbinado sugar.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick or cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.  Allow cake to cool for at least 30 minutes before serving. If desired, serve with a generous dollop of lightly sweetened whipped cream or a light dusting of powdered sugar.

Cake will last, removed from skillet and well wrapped in the refrigerator, for up to 3 days.

*If you don’t have a cast iron skillet you can cook the strawberries and melt the butter in any pan you have, and use an 11-inch round tart or quiche pan, or a 9×13-inch pan for the cake. The batter may spread more thin so you’ll need to keep a close eye on it in the oven.

boozey strawberry lemonade

The arrival of warm weather, and the ability to leave the windows and doors open, has a very distinct affect on my state of mind.

boozey strawberry lemonade | Brooklyn Homemaker

Primarily, it puts me in the mood for day drinking. If you’re unfamiliar with the idea of day drinking, it’s pretty simple. You drink (alcohol) during the day, preferably outdoors. Boom. I know. Can you think of anything more wonderful?
Day drinking is something that most people consider a weekend activity, but since I work in retail I’m usually working on Saturdays. When it’s bright and pleasant outside and the rest of Brooklyn is out eating brunch and laying on blankets at the park, I’m indoors selling picnic baskets and wine thermos’, and grill tongs. Don’t shed any tears for me just yet though, I do usually have Sundays off so if the weather is just as warm and sunny, I still get one day to join in the fun.

boozey strawberry lemonade | Brooklyn Homemaker

I was lucky enough a couple weekends ago, just before that last cold snap, when the weather was just nice enough to go out and spend some quality time in our back yard. We decided to make a day of it and called some friends over, fired up the grill, and cooked up some delicious lemon herb chicken thighs (which I told you about here). Of course, I also dove head-first into the task of crafting some seriously amazing spring-time cocktails. I thought hard about what would pair well with the spring-y weather and decided strawberries, lemonade, & vodka were the just the ticket.

boozey strawberry lemonade | Brooklyn Homemaker

Our good friends Karen and Mari of Crown Street Productions wanted to join in the fun too, so they came over to bask in the sunshine with us. Since I was whipping up some cocktails, they brought along their equipment to capture the moment. They’re so much fun to work with, and the best part is that they’re complete videography geniuses. I don’t know how they do it. I’m a total awkward weirdo in real life, and they somehow manage to make me appear charming and professional!
Check out this amazing video for a complete tutorial on how to make these delicious boozey strawberry lemonades. I hope you enjoy the video as much as the cocktails!

Did that make you thirsty or what?

If you want to make this for a crowd you could easily do it in large batches by tossing the strawberries into a blender or food processor. If you went this route, I don’t think adding the extra sugar to the strawberries would be necessary. If you like the idea of a big pitcher or punch bowl with some chunks of strawberries floating around, just pulse your blender until the berries are mashed but not pulverized. If you want to serve these from a drink dispenser with a spigot or pour spout though, you’ll need to completely puree them so that none of the chunky strawberries get stuck in the spout.

boozey strawberry lemonade | Brooklyn Homemaker

Normally I’m not a big vodka drinker, and prefer my tipple to have a bit more backbone. For this drink though, I thought that the neutral flavor (or lack thereof) of vodka would let the other ingredients be the stars of the show. To add an extra hint of citrusy goodness, I also added just a bit of orange liqueur. Any orange liqueur will do just fine, but I think the mix of bitter orange and cognac in Grand Marnier gives this cocktail the cojones that the vodka’s missing.

The combination of sweet tangy lemonade, ripe red strawberries, orange liqueur, and vodka is really phenomenal. There’s just enough alcohol to make you feel gooood without tasting too strong. Muddling the strawberries with a bit of sugar helps them to give off their juices and flavor the drink without turning to total mush. This way you get some little chunky bits of juicy fresh berries floating around in your drink, soaking up all the boozey goodness. All stirred together in a tall glass with plenty of ice, it tastes like you’re sipping on springtime.

boozey strawberry lemonade | Brooklyn Homemaker

You may have have noticed that I served these drinks in quilted mason jars. I know they’re really trendy right now, but before you roll your eyes, here’s the thing. Not only are they cute and homey, but they’re also made of really sturdy glass and they’re really affordable! You can take them outside for your next bbq because if they break they’re easily replaced, and they’re only about $2 each! The 12 oz quilted jars are tall and skinny so they also make great highball glasses in a pinch. Russell and I have a bunch of them because we used them as glassware at our wedding last summer!

No matter what you serve it in, this cocktail is perfect for sunny days spent with friends. Odds are that your friends will agree, so you should call them up and get to drinkin’!

boozey strawberry lemonade | Brooklyn Homemaker

Boozey Strawberry Lemonade

  • Servings: one 10 oz cocktail
  • Print
2-3 strawberries (depending on size)
1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/2 oz orange liqueur (such as Grand Marnier)
2 oz vodka
6 oz lemonade

Roughly chop your strawberries and place into a mixing glass or cocktail glass. Top with sugar and muddle until well mashed and juicy. Top with orange liqueur and vodka and stir. Add ice, top off with lemonade and stir again. Add a lemon slice as garnish, if desired.

Homemade Lemonade
makes about 6 1/2 cups of lemonade

3/4 cups of sugar
5 cups of water, divided
1 cup of lemon juice

In a small saucepan make a simple syrup by bringing sugar and 1 cup of water to a boil, stirring frequently. Once all sugar is dissolved, remove from heat and let cool. In a pitcher, combine remaining water, lemon juice, and cooled simple syrup; and stir until well mixed.