It’s that time of year again–tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, in case you’ve been living under a rock–and if you’re still looking for inspiration about what to make for your sweetheart (or something to make to spoil yourself!), this mini strawberry rustic cake is simple and chock-full of sweet berries. A hint of almond extract brings out the natural sweetness of the berries, which tend to be wonderful this time of year. With billowing stabilized strawberry whipped cream oozing out between the soft, moist layers and no frosting on the sides, it’s not only charming, but that much easier to make than a proper, has-to-be-perfect iced layer cake. There’s something homespun about a rustic, or naked, cake, but cake in and of itself always feels special. To my mind, cake is the ultimate dessert. Hands down. Maybe that’s the Southerner in me; special occasions simply call for cake! I don’t think anyone could ever convince me otherwise, I am happy to say. …My husband doesn’t mind, either, that I have such strong feelings on this matter, as he is the chief beneficiary of my occasions-call-for-cake conviction!
This recipe makes enough for two 5-inch cake tins. Then, simply slice the layers in half to achieve more height and more places for the whipped cream–or don’t! Make it easier on yourself and keep the layers whole. You can’t go wrong, because either way you and your special someone (or BFF) get to enjoy a slice of strawberry cake. And everyone knows, the smaller (and more adorable) the cake, the bigger the slice you get to have!
Rustic Strawberry Sweetheart CakePrint This
- For the Cake:
- 1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour or cake flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, melted
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
- 1/2 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup pureed fresh strawberries
- For the Stabiized Strawberry Whipped Cream:
- 1 cup heavy cream, chilled
- 3 Tablespoons powdered sugar
- 2 Tablespoons fresh strawberry puree or strawberry jam
- 3 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
- 2 Tablespoons cold water
For the Cake:
Preheat the oven to 350° and grease two 5-inch cake tins with butter, lining the bottoms with rounds of parchment paper. In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the melted butter and sugar. Combine briskly before adding the eggs. Whip the eggs into the mixture until it has lightened in color and become fluffy. In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Alternately add the buttermilk and the flour, stirring to combine after each addition. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and the strawberry puree, stirring to combine. Distribute evenly between the cake tins, smoothing the tops, and bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean. Because of the strawberries, a toothpick will look more damp than it should, but as long as there is no batter clinging to the toothpick and the cakes don’t jiggle, they are done. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before turning out onto a cooling rack. Allow to cool completely before frosting between the layers with stabilized whipped cream. Decorate with halved strawberries!
For the Stabilized Whipped Cream:
In a glass or heat-proof mixing bowl, combine the cold water and gelatin. Allow the gelatin to fully bloom, absorbing the water, about ten minutes. Meanwhile, in the chilled bowl of a stand mixer, whisk the cream and powdered sugar on medium speed until it holds a soft peak but is not completely stiff. Set the whipped cream aside. Meanwhile, place the gelatin bowl over a small saucepan of gently simmering water. Stir the gelatin constantly until it has completely dissolved, about five minutes. Remove from the heat. By hand, fold 1/4-cup of the whipped cream into the liquid gelatin. Add that cream-gelatin mixture back into the rest of the whipped cream, gently whisking the cream constantly until it has all been added and incorporated. Do the same with the strawberry puree or preserves, whisking gently the whole time it’s being added to make sure it is evenly incorporated. Beat until the cream adds a soft peak and chill until ready to use to frost the cake.
If you don't have fresh strawberries on hand to puree, substitute seedless strawberry jam in both the cake and the stabilized whipped cream. If you feel either the cake batter or the stabilized whipped cream could stand to be a little more intensely pink-colored, feel free to add a drop or two of red food coloring to enhance the "strawberry" feel!