Baby Cakes

Right before the holiday craziness began, I baked a cake for a coworker’s baby shower. It seemed like a good reason to try out a layer cake recipe from Sky High. I baked this beauty late at night and cursed a lot while putting it together, but folks— this was amazingly delicious.

A strawberry butter cake, filled with a strawberry coulis and frosted with white chocolate cream cheese frosting. I probably don’t need to say any more, but I will. The cake layers were moist and tender. The strawberry coulis was perfectly complicated with the addition of things like vanilla bean, cinnamon and anise. The frosting, well, the frosting will become a regular part of my repertoire. The cake feels like summer to me and it was nice to be eating it on a day that felt far from summer here in Chicago. It was cold and wet and very, very winter.

This cake could be equally delicious for all sorts of celebrations and if Erikka wasn’t so far away I would be baking it for her on Tuesday (Happy Birthday!).

Strawberry Layer Cake (from Sky High by Alisa Huntsman and Peter Wynne)

Strawberry Butter Cake

  • 4 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 5 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups strawberry puree*
  • 8 egg whites
  • 2/3 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350° F. Butter three 8-inch square cake pans (or 9-inch round). Line bottoms with parchment and butter the parchment.

Put the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl. With an electric mixer on low speed, blend for 30 seconds. Add the butter and strawberry puree and mix to blend the ingredients. Raise the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes; the batter will resemble strawberry ice cream at this point (it does!).

In another large bowl, whisk the egg whites and milk to blend. Add the whites to the batter in 2 or 3 additions, scraping down the sides of the bowl well and mixing only to incorporate after each addition. Divide the batter among the 3 prepared pans.

Bake the cakes for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Allow the layers to cool in the pans for 10 to 15 minutes. Invert and turn out onto wire racks and peel off paper liners. Let stand until completely cool.

Strawberry Coulis

  • 1 1/2 cups strawberry puree*
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 star anise pod
  • 1 one-inch piece of vanilla bean, split lengthwise

In a heavy non-reactive saucepan combine the strawberry puree, sugar, cinnamon stick, and star anise. Use the tip of a knife to scrape the vanilla seeds into the pop; add the pod. Bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve sugar. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally , until the mixture has visibly thickened and reduced by about half to 3/4 cup. To check for thickness, place about a teaspoon on a chilled plate. Set in the freezer for a minute and then run your fingertip through the coulis; the track should remain. Remove from heat and discard the cinnamon stick, star anise and vanilla bean pod. Refrigerate the strawberry coulis in a covered container.

White-Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 1 pound cream cheese, chilled
  • 6 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted if lumpy
  • 6 ounces white chocolate, melted and cooled
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

With an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese with the confectioners sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Add the melted white chocolate and vanilla and blend in. Do not beat excessively at this point or the frosting will heat up and become too soft.


Turn the cooled cakes so they are top side up. If the layers are domed at all, carefully trip the top so that they are level. Because the trimmed surfaces will soak up too much coulis, invert the layers so the trimmed side is down. Spread 1/4 cup coulis thinly, but evenly over each layer right to the edge. Refrigerate the layers for about 1 hour to make them easier to handle.

Place on layer, coulis side facing up, on a cake board or serving plate. Top with about 2/3 cup of the frosting and spread it to the edge. Repeat with the next layer. Finally, add the third layer and frost the sides and top of cake with remaining frosting. Refrigerate the finished cake.

* To make strawberry puree for this recipe, us a food processor to puree 1 1/2 pounds of individually quick-frozen strawberries, thawed with their juices.

*** This is a big cake. It serves 12-16 people.

*** I found it tricky to frost on top of the coulis. I don’t know if I have a solution to this problem, but you may get frustrated. It is worth the frustration, but also worth figuring out an alternative method. One solution might be to frost the underside of each layer and then set it on top of the coulis…

16 comments to “Baby Cakes”

  1. Beautiful, love the pink!

  2. mmmmm. best cake ever. redux for happy returns from thailand/work engagement party?

  3. Wow, I’m impressed. Quite a cake!

  4. i’ve never thought of pairing star anise and strawberry.

    i curse all the time when assembling layer cakes, even when they come out well. i mean, i curse all the time anyway, but it’s *wose* if i happen to be assembling a layer cake.

  5. Okay, now I am so proud! I could have stumbled upon you out in foodie land and never known it was you!

  6. Looks wonderful. I have that book but have yet to try any of the recipes.

    Happy 2009!

  7. I am thinking of making this cake, but wondering if you found the star anise flavor to be very present or not. I’m not particularly fond of the flavor (esp. if it dominates), so I am wondering what you think about leaving it out?

  8. Hi Julie: It is pretty subtle, especially once a part of the finished cake. It wouldn’t be the worst thing to leave it out, but I also think it won’t be as good without it. Let me know how it goes!

  9. The cake was a big hit. the anise flavor was not overwhelming at all, so I’m glad I included it. The icing was insanely good, btw did you mix some of the coulis in to make it pink? Unfortunately, I screwed something up with the cake portion, they were flat and dense. I think I didn’t whip the egg whites enough (should they be whipped until peaks?)
    Despite my errors, the end result was a big hit at the baby shower!

  10. Hi there, I’m thinking of making this for a friend’s birthday. Julie asked how you colored your frosting. Did you add some coulis?

  11. I started off thinking I could do it with the coulis but ended up adding some red food coloring. I would just go with the food coloring because the coulis makes the frosting a little lumpy. Happy baking!

  12. Thanks for the clarification!

  13. Hi Tim,

    The cake looks gorgeous, there’s something about tall cakes looking more special.
    I would love to make this for my sister’s birthday lunch. I was wondering how much of this can I do in advance without requiring me to refrigerate the cake? My fridge is small

    I’ve only one round cake tin, and one large rectangular tin. Any advice?


  14. Hi Tian,
    You can definitely make the coulis and the icing a day or so in advance (let the icing come to room temp to make it spreadable again)– but they would need to be refrigerated. I don’t know how to solve the cake tin issue. If the rectangular tin is quite large, you could cut it in thirds and stack them. ?? Good luck!

  15. Just made this for a friend’s birthday brunch this Sunday. I ate some of the trimmings with a bit of the coulis and frosting and, oh my, this cake is pure heaven. Strawberry-licious!

  16. I made this yesterday – awesome! But you’re right — frosting over the coulis was definitely a challenge. So much so that I took a different approach with the second layer. I piped a cream cheese frosting border/dam along the perimeter of the cake then spread the coulis inside. Then I just placed the top layer over it. Much easier, neater, and less cursing!

What do you think?